Peter Steele, the driving force behind the Brooklyn-based goth/metal quartet Type O Negative, passed away Wednesday evening from heart failure. He was 48.
Known for his vampiric good looks, morbid sense of humor and rich baritone, the Type O Negative frontman was the author of such metal classics as "Christian Woman;" "Black No. 1;" "My Girlfriend's Girlfriend;" and the recent "September Sun."
Born in 1962, Steele played in a number of hardcore bands around his native Brooklyn before starting Carnivore, a controversial thrash band whose overt sarcasm and nihilistic views were the genesis for his most enduring and successful project, Type O Negative.
With childhood friends Sal Abruscato (later replaced by Johnny Kelly), Josh Silver and Kenny Hickey, Steele formed Type O Negative and signed to RoadRunner Records. With Steele as the principal songwriter, the band was influenced by groups such as Black Sabbath and The Doors as well as many punk, post-punk and new wave bands. His lyrics were often intensely personal, dealing with love, loss and addiction; yet he infused his writing with great wit and self-deprecating, dark humor which endeared him to his fans.
Their first release, "Slow, Deep And Hard" (1991, RoadRunner) was notable for both its long dirges and thrash breaks, and dark, humorous lyrics. Yet it was the landmark follow-up, "Bloody Kisses" (1993, RoadRunner) that broke the group worldwide. Steeped in goth imagery and experimenting with more complicated song structures, Type O scored minor hits with "Christian Woman," "Black No. 1" and the slowed-down Seals & Crofts cover of "Summer Breeze."
Capitalizing on Steele's good looks, the band received mainstream video airplay on MTV around the world, later earning the band and its label its' first Gold Record.
In 1996 the band returned with the commercial "October Rust" and Steele gained notoriety for his landmark layout in Playgirl. A full-fledged sex-symbol, Steele and the group pressed on touring heavily, enjoying the fruits of their labor; but excesses of the road and personal loss led to 1999's "World Coming Down" - an album laden with Steele's sadness and depression. Songs with titles such as "Everyone I Love Is Dead" and "Everything Dies" failed to connect at radio; yet the band continued to tour before going on hiatus. A hits collection would tide fans over until 2003 when the band released "Life Is Killing Me."
In spite of the overwhelmingly positive reviews, Type O was dropped from its' label and moved to the German-based SPV and returned in 2007 with "Dead Again." Though their radio and commercial success never reached the pinnacle of the early 1990s, Type O enjoyed a considerable worldwide fanbase, especially in Europe, and toured successfully through 2009.
When reached for comment, Monte Conner, Senior VP A&R at Roadrunner Records offered, "Peter Steele was an integral thread in the fabric of Roadrunner Records, having been with us from 1985 to 2005. Type O Negative kicked down doors for Roadrunner with 'Bloody Kisses' giving us our first Gold record in November 1995 and our first success at commercial radio with 'Christian Woman.' To this day, artistically it is one of the defining records on this label as well as a universally regarded classic in the heavy metal, hard rock and goth rock genres. I will always treasure my memories of working with a true artist like Peter Steele, and fondly remember the respect he showed me and others here as well as his deadpan, black sense of humor. While the music world suffers a huge loss with Peter's passing, his legacy will surely endure."
The group's publicity firm, Maple Jam Music Group, released the following statement today: It is with great sadness that we inform you that Type O Negative frontman and bassist, Peter Steele passed away last night of what appears to be heart failure. "Ironically Peter had been enjoying a long period of sobriety and improved health and was imminently due to begin recording new music with bandmates Josh Silver, Kenny Hickey and Johnny Kelly for a follow up to "Dead Again" released in 2007," says longtime band manager, Mike Renault. The official cause of death has yet to be determined pending autopsy results. The funeral services will be private and memorial services will be announced at a future date. Band and family statements will be posted on the bands website www.typeonegative.net shortly.