Ever since Type O Negative’s “Dead Again” in 2007, the members of Type O have spread their wings and tried to continue their accomplished careers with multiple other projects. While there was no certainty that “Dead Again” would be Type O’s swan song and no way to know about the eventual untimely death of Peter Steele, one can’t help but wonder if the members of the Brooklyn-based icon knew something we didn’t.
In the wake of Type O’s cessation, we have seen Johnny Kelly and the surviving members pop up in numerous places: we witnessed the founding and subsequent suspension of Seventh Void, a band that didn’t work out the way anyone wanted, member or fan alike. We saw Kelly sign on with other veterans to join Danzig for his most recent record and Sal Abruscato was circled by rumors about another Life of Agony reunion that never materialized (and probably never will.)
But through all of that, Abruscato and Kelly reunited along with Seventh Void alum Matt Brown to form A Pale Horse Named Death, who are now releasing their sophomore record “Lay My Soul to Waste.”
While it would probably seem lazy and perhaps wistfully nostalgic to sum up A Pale Horse Named Death by saying that the band and this album sound like Type O, that assessment rings fairly true. You remember when Rob Zombie first started making movies and the future of his musical career was in flux? The members of his band ended up forming Scum of the Earth and put out a handful of albums as a sort of ‘Rob Zombie Lite.’
The concept here is similar, but where Scum of the Earth never emerged from the shadow of Rob Zombie, A Pale Horse Named Death is both different enough from Type O and talented enough to stand on their own merit. This is Brooklyn sludge metal at its dingy finest, and the best overall injection into the heart of the subgenre since, to bring it full circle, Zombie’s “Sinister Urge.”
From the opening grind of “Shallow Grave,” we hear the kind of overdriven, mushy guitar soup that has eluded us as fans since “Life is Killing Me.” A Pale Horse Named Death excels at dropping fat riffs that spill over the edges and make a celebrated mockery of metal’s more snobbishly technical other half.
The second half of the band’s sound comes in the form of layered, harmonized vocals. For songs like “Growing Old” and “DMSLT,” Kelly and Brown turn into a full-on Staley/Cantrell tribute, not only wielding the power of harmony but embracing it to the point that it emphasizes either an idea or an emotion.
“Lay My Soul to Waste” is also an incredibly honest record. There are no nebulous metaphors of clever wordplay, just simple lyrics and relatable themes, like trust, revenge and death. Whether words of caution or of introspection, A Pale Horse Named Death presents ideas cleanly and understandably. Lest we start to think that simple words can’t convey larger ideas, we are presented with “Dead of Winter,” a song that is remarkably earnest and emotionally stirring in its humility.
Much like Type O, A Pale Horse Named Death has some selections that grow too long in the tooth. “Day of the Storm” and especially “Cold Dark Mourning” are both tunes that languish over seven minutes and could have been served in five. This is especially poignant in light of the fact that “Lay My Soul to Waste” has very little in the way of guitar solos or pace-changing breakdowns. You can get away with that in four minutes, but it’s tough to present seven minutes of the same thing.
Whether it’s the gritty hailstorm of “Devil Came With a Smile” or the easy hook of “Killer by Night,” “Lay My Soul to Waste” is an album of excellent sludge metal like we don’t get to hear often anymore. It’s a refreshing album of honesty that proves you can succeed without otherworldly virtuosity or a gimmicky flair. It does the heart good to hear Type O vets making great music again, and make no mistake, “Lay My Soul to Waste” is great.