Peter Steele, the driving force behind the Brooklyn-based goth/metal quartet Type O Negative, died Wednesday of apparent heart failure. He was 48.
Known for his vampiric good looks, morbid sense of humor and rich baritone, the singer/bassist 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 Record. Influenced by groups such as Black Sabbath and The Doors as well as many punk, post-punk and new wave bands, Steele wrote lyrics that 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.
The band's first release, "Slow, Deep And Hard" (1991) was notable for both its long dirges and thrash breaks, and dark, humorous lyrics. Yet it was the landmark follow-up, "Bloody Kisses" (1993) 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."
In 1996, the band returned with the commercial "October Rust" and Steele gained notoriety for his landmark layout in Playgirl. Steele and the group toured 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 positive reviews, Type O was dropped from its label, 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 fan base, especially in Europe, and toured successfully through 2009.