Drugs, Depression, Death: Inside Type O Negative's "F**king Bleak" 'World Coming Down' | Revolver

Drugs, Depression, Death: Inside Type O Negative's "F**king Bleak" 'World Coming Down'

Kenny Hickey and Johnny Kelly reflect on Drab Four's coke-and-pain-fueled fifth album
Type O negative world coming down era 1600x900, Stephanie Cabral
Type o Negative
photograph by Stephanie Cabral

By 1999, Type O Negative were in rough shape. In the generic and callous phrasing of the music industry, their most recent album, 1996's October Rust, had "underperformed at retail." They would not become the stadium stars that many expected.

"There was a disappointment of not realizing the dream after October Rust," Kenny Hickey says. "Around this time, the whole Napster shit happened. Before that, people were still throwing stupid amounts of money around. We were part of the last generation of bands that could get millions of dollars in publishing advances for a record. That ended with October Rust. It was becoming harder for bands like us. I think that disappointment, that despondency, really comes off in [our following album] World Coming Down."

Meanwhile, Peter Steele and Hickey were in the throes of drug addiction. "Cocaine came on the bus around the time of October Rust," the guitarist says. "That was a really bad turn. Peter tried it, and he was hooked. I was hooked. That took us down the ladder fast."

When I met Steele at the Bel Age Hotel in West Hollywood to interview him for Decibel magazine in January of 2007, he expressed deep regret about his cocaine use. "I was never really into drugs, but I started to use cocaine when I was about 35," he said. "I'm 45 now, so that's pretty embarrassing. I should've known better, but I get offered things from time to time and people think because, you know, my line of work, that it's dangerous for me to be out there touring. But listen, I have 10 phone numbers memorized that, when I'm home, I can get coke in 10 fuckin' minutes. When I'm on tour, I don't know who the fuck I'm buying from, and you know, I don't wanna chase this white devil for the rest of my life."

As if that weren't bad enough, the singer was mourning a death in the family. "Peter's father passed away while we were on tour with Pantera," Johnny Kelly recalls. "That was during Bloody Kisses, but — not to get all therapist on you — he never really dealt with it. It's like he didn't want to face it."

Steele's demeanor was changing. "Something took a turn, and drugs were definitely the steering wheel," Hickey says. "During Bloody Kisses and October Rust, Peter was addicted to supplements. After that, it was drugs. He put down the weights and stopped working out. He spiraled into darkness and depression. I think he gave up, to a large degree. That's part of why that album is so despondent."

Released September 21st, 1999, World Coming Down is easily the most depressing Type O album. Gone were the sexy goth tunes and pagan flourishes of October Rust. The only humorous moment was the intro, "Skip It," which was the unmistakable sound of a CD skipping. World Coming Down was all about depression and addiction. "October Rust is more like wish fulfillment, creating a fantasy," Hickey observes. "World Coming Down is the exact opposite. It's reality."

As it turns out, Hickey was one of the catalysts behind the album's abrupt turn into stark realism. "I wanted Peter to stop with the wolf moons and howling bullshit," he offers. "So much shit had happened to us. I was suffering from addiction, too. I mean, we hit the wall in so many ways. I wanted him to go more like Slow, Deep and Hard, where there was humor involved, but it was gritty and real. And he did make a concentrated effort to do that. It was an honest record. Problem was, at the time, he was completely suicidal."

"That record is just fucking bleak," Monte Conner says of World Coming Down. "And the cover shows the Brooklyn Bridge with the World Trade Center in the background. 9/11 hadn't happened yet, but it was right around the corner. When you look at it today, it's even bleaker than when it came out."

"World Coming Down is one of the most depressing, low albums I have ever heard," Josh Silver said when I interviewed him in 2011 for the liner notes of the None More Negative box set. "And that's why I love it. Peter was really getting into some deep, treacherous feelings. He's talking about the agony of drug addiction and the pain of losing family members. It just rips your guts out to hear it because it was true. He was really coming from the heart."

You can hear the pain on album opener "White Slavery," a grueling and majestic doom-dirge that opens with the sound of someone snorting a line. "I remember there were some discussions about maybe changing some lyrics to make it a little bit more ambiguous," Kelly says. "But when those discussions came up, it started becoming a fight where Peter would be personally insulted. The next day, after the dust settled, he would say, 'I thought about what you said, and I came up with an idea.' And the idea was usually, 'Kenny, you're going to sing that part.'"

"That happened all the time," Hickey concurs. Hence, the guitarist's co-lead vocal appearance on "All Hallows Eve." It was a trend that would continue for the next several years. "Why do you think I sing [on] 'Life Is Killing Me'? It's because I complained about the chorus. I thought it was not strong enough. It was not his best melody. I thought he should rewrite it. So he made me sing it."

"That's when Kenny told me to shut up about the lyrics," Kelly says with a laugh. "'You've got to stop saying shit to him, because every time you say something, I have to sing it.'"

In typical Type O fashion, the album's two most glaring lyrical bummers, "Everyone Dies" and "Everyone I Love Is Dead," were released as singles. Both tracks referenced the deaths of Steele's family members, including his father. "Peter had problems performing on the record because it hit home so much," Silver told me in 2011. "It made him very upset to sing some of those songs, even though he wrote them. But to me, that's great art."

Of course, Steele managed to summon up some jokes about it after the fact. In an interview with Metal Edge, he said he should've called the album Poor Me. ("He should've called every album Poor Me after that one," Hickey says with a laugh.)

In the end, Kelly cites World Coming Down as his favorite Type O album. Hickey says it's his second favorite, after Slow, Deep and Hard. "It's so heavy and real, but it's hard for me to listen to because all of it was so prophetic in the end," the guitarist says. "The whole album comes true."