The twisted genius of the late, great Pete Steele is now synonymous with the tragi–romantic Gothicism of Type O Negative. However, many Type O fans are oblivious to the fact Pete was once a hardcore hero, in one of the leading bands in the New York crossover scene in the mid to late 80s.
On first listen, this is pretty raw stuff, for its day. It's a relentless pounding of percussive New York style thrash, reminiscent of Nuclear Assault and SOD, with a leaden guitar sound, double kick drum barrages, Agnostic Front style shout along choruses, and Pete's surprisingly clearly enunciated voice over it all.
Lyrically, the album is as testosterone laden and muscle headed as the music. The subject matter runs through male chauvinism, post–nuclear society where the law of the jungle rules, war, motorcycle gangs, um, war, and er… Armageddon. Much of Type O's material deals with messed up relationships. Perhaps there are a few clues as to where the inspiration for such things came from: "I detect the scent of prey by/ her menstruation/ you have been chosen the main course/ congratulations" or the delightful "Testosterone mates with adrenaline/ bearing a son of insane aggression/ women will never know or understand the power men feel to kill with their hands".
It all sounds rather bleak and sexist, and perhaps it is, but there's something that sets Carnivore apart from thrash metal bands of the time. There are melodies, musical nuances, and subtleties not immediately noticeable up first inspection. An example: In the middle of the pounding track "Male Supremacy" there is an acoustic break in the music, and suddenly Pete Steele's voice comes back in, not as a hardcore shout, but as the theatrical bass singing voice so recognisable on Type O Negative albums. It's inspirational stuff!
There are hidden melodies and hook lines throughout the album. Many of the tracks could have been heads–down, charge–for–the–finish–line type songs which fly past unnoticed, but instead the listener is drawn in to shout–along choruses and unexpected melodies. You'll find yourself chanting "Armageddon" to the chorus of the track of the same name.
Many 80s thrash and crossover bands never reached the heights Carnivore attained on just their debut, but this remains a little known treasure, when it should have been remembered as a classic, mentioned in the same breath as Nuclear Assault, Exodus, and Testament.