At the end of 2003 this album topped my Album of the Year lists, which was really hard to believe given that when my friend borrowed me this album the first time, I had serious difficulties making it through it all. 75 minutes and 15 songs of heavy, cold music. That's quite a task for a newcomer of this kind of sound. Despite the difficult beginnings, at the end of the year and still today this album stands as one of the very few albums of this length that don't have a single filler moment. But brilliant highlights a plenty.
While Type O Negative is usually seen as a band practicing very dark and dry humour and caricaturally depressing themes, this album offers some very sincerely emotional songs, with a song each dedicated to Peter Steele's father and mother. Todd's Ship Gods reveals something about his upbringing with lines such as "I won't cry / Above all things boy, be a man" and "if you're gonna weep, keep it from sunshine, so no one sees" while Nettie should be quoted here in its entirety, such a beautiful homage it is to his mother. There is of course plenty of humour thrown in as well, such as in the slightly homophobic celebration of women I Like Goils, the story of a botched sex-change operation Angry Inch and How Could She? which depicts a sad one sided love affair with all the iconic women on TV of yesteryears.
Lyrics aside, music and production is where this album really shines. Lavished in great riffing throughout, the thing I particularly want to bring out is the use of Josh Silver's keyboards. Usually if I needed to assign a rating to keyboards in metal, I'd give it three as in good, but not essential. But here a vital part of the album's atmosphere is achieved with creative use of keyboards, sometimes blending with treated guitars so that one can't really tell where one ends and the other starts. Be it the pizzicato strings of the may I say stunning chorus of Less Than Zero, the echoing piano melodies of Anesthesia, the voices in the title track or, well, anything in Nettie, there's always the best possible choice of tone and feel for each part. One other particularly delighting thing in the production of the album is the panning of drums so that when listened to with headphones, one feels like sitting on the drum stool himself. As a drummer of sorts I really enjoy this type of mixing.
If I had my way I'd declare this one of the undisputed classics of any rock music, but it's quite seldom I hear anyone mention the album. Extremely recommended for anyone interested in atmospheric and dark metal music with a bit of tongue in cheek.
(Author's notes, April 15th 2010: I've been listening to this album for seven years and then a day after I review it I learn that all TON albums between Bloody Kisses and Dead Again (not including them) feature a drum machine. Caught me by surprise to say the least, but didn't make me appreciate this album any less. More if anything.
Then three days later Peter Steele passed away... May the big man rest in peace. Do they make caskets that size?)