It’s been seven years since we lost a dear member of the Drab Four, Mr. Peter Steele. Petrus Thomas Ratajczyk, along with his band, Type O Negative, would go on to single-handedly author Gothic Metal as we know it. Peter lost his life to an aortic aneurysm on April 14th, 2010. He was 48.
One of the ‘Four Dicks From Brooklyn’, Mr. Steel was a 6′-8″, muscular, looming presence. No stranger to such vices as addiction, bipolar disorder, paranoia, and depression, he would help write some of the most profound music in metal. A known victim of stage fright, Peter would even medicate with alcohol before and during shows. He wouldn’t let himself be totally defined as such, though:
“I’ve always been a very depressed person, but that’s only one side of me, you know. It makes me feel better when I can express by depression, my anger, my frustration through music. Sonic therapy.” –Peter Steele, GetMetal interview.
That same music would become the exact antidote to the same problems experienced by millions of fans.
Peter was a kind soul, as well. He was often candid about his insecurities and tactfully used humor throughout his art. Interview after interview, Steele would open himself up. He would take you from laughter, to sobriety, and back to laughter in a matter of words. He made us think. In his autobiography Iron Man, Tony Iommi even described Peter as ‘big, tall, and very, very nice guy.’
Humble to the point of almost reclusiveness, Peter even dropped off the radar for an extended period in 2005. This would stem all kinds of rumors surrounding his death, but as we would later find out, Peter was seeking treatment for his struggles after a family intervention. He loved a good joke, many of which would surface surrounding his death. I can’t help but think he is still laughing.
Death was always a bittersweet theme in Type O lyrics. Just try listening to, ‘Everything Dies’ without getting a lump in your throat. Their songs were beautiful, provoking, and lyrically masterful. In fact, it was death that prompted Peter to seek what an afterlife could actually mean. Born Catholic, in the later years of his life, Peter rekindled his faith in Roman Catholicism,
‘But after going through a midlife crisis and having many things change very quickly, it made me realize my mortality. And when you start to think about death, you start to think about what’s after it. And then you start hoping there is a God. For me, it’s a frightening thought to go nowhere.’
Peter had a handful of regrets about his demons, but it is my personal belief that he found peace. I listened to an interview once, where he described how he would frequently engage his priest about answers to all types of ‘religious’ questions. I can hear that thick, raggedy accent prying answers from that priest, and it makes me smile.
In a statement that still gives me goosebumps, his fellow bandmate and brother in music, Johnny Kelly, stated,
“Even if there is somebody who could take his place it wouldn’t matter. We don’t have any interest in continuing. It’s impossible – it hasn’t even come up in any kind of discussion. When Peter died, Type O Negative died with him.”
I can do no justice to the life and career (lest we forget Fallout and the gritty Carnivore) of Peter Steele, other than to say he has been a huge influence to myself and countless others. He would join us when we were sad, as well as needed a good laugh. He would help us celebrate love, mourn a breakup, and identify with us in anger when we were pissed.
Thank you, Peter Steele. Rest well. May there always be Halloween in Heaven, brother.
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