By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Two themes run through the fourth Type O Negative album: love and death. Most of the time they are indistinguishable--"Love You to Death," "Die With Me"--giving October Rust a hypnotic continuity. Still, the New York band manages to reinvent itself by leaving behind most of the heavy metal trappings and exploring darker moods with an impassioned mix of hard riffing and gloomy keyboard melodies, managing to put a more human face beneath the make-up and mascara of Gothic rock. The juxtaposition of guitar dynamics and delicate, eerie melodies tracks perfectly the melancholy that follows exhilaration.
Moments glow brightly within Rust's dense, slablike presence. "My Girlfriend's Girlfriend" is as catchy as a Doors-Sisters of Mercy collaboration, and the spectral sounds of "Red Water" are as haunting as its theme of a Christmas dinner attended by ghosts. Singer Peter Steele sometimes comes across as Darth Vader whispering sweet nothings, but redeems himself with the vocal track on "Burnt Flowers Fallen"--the screaming plea of a jilted lover. Aside from a few minor flaws, October Rust communicates splendidly the morbid unease of its makers.
After the prefab histrionics of Alanis Morissette and the dubious kookiness of Tori Amos, Lisa Germano's fourth album continues a series of music-as-therapy sessions. Whereas her more successful peers act as if a pop sheen can cover emotional scars like expensive make-up, Germano once again bares all as she plunges into more personal stories of aching romantic despair. There are no theatrics here; just disturbing psychodrama.
The instrumentation is as stark as Germano standing naked under a bright light, every flaw and imperfection exposed, every damn scar. Clanky sounds--shoved way in the background so that every painful word rings clear--also paint a picture of utter loneliness and paranoia. The recordings of her cat between certain songs suggest this is the only living presence in her life. In song after song she lets her soul crumble until you feel as if you're reading her diary on the sly; she tells you that she is a "beautiful schizophrenic" and an "irritating sucker" with such resignation that you wonder if she can make it to the next album. Ultimately, her "love circus" is no circus at all but a long ride in a disturbing, dysfunctional not-at-all-funhouse.