There are plenty of larger than life characters in metal but there will never be another Peter Steele – the statuesque bassist more widely known for his fronting of gothic/metal miserabilists Type O Negative. While Steele will be remembered for the dirge like gothic romance of Type O, Steele’s previous band Carnivore gained recognition and has become prefixed by “legendary” and “cult” with their proto-thrash and pioneering crossover sound.
Carnivore was formed in Brooklyn, New York in 1983 by Peter Steele following the break up of his previous band Fallout. Joining bassist/vocalist Steele (credited as Petrus T. Steele or Lord Petrus) was Keith Alexander on guitar and Louis Beateaux on drums with this debut album being released in 1985. While the band was influenced by the hardcore scene – which was vibrant in New York – Carnivore also drew influences from metal stalwarts Black Sabbath and Judas Priest and with a look that could rival Manowar and as “thermo-nuclear warriors” with apocalyptic lyrical themes, Carnivore was cutting a contradictory but unique furrow that has stood the test of time.
Revisiting an album nearly 40 years after its creation can throw up all manner of emotions. Sure enough, Carnivore’s image look is questionable but that was the whole point, it was a band acting as an exaggeration of themselves and lyrically, the band were not playing by any rules other than their own and they were out to offend. Typically, there can be an apologetic viewpoint on the past in comparison to today’s values but there is little point with Carnivore because Peter Steele was the master of outrage. As he stated in what would be one of his last interviews that Carnivore was misunderstood and that “the whole point of Carnivore is that sometimes you have to upset people. ” This may seem counterproductive and it would be all too easy to see Carnivore as playing for laughs – Peter Steele’s self deprecating humour is as legendary as the man’s music but this is a band that knew what they were doing, were deadly serious and with no expectations of success because they were out to offend. Art is art and anyone not liking it could take a hike.
This debut album remains an explosive listen and throughout the album the drums – especially on the weirdly progressive World War III and IV – are just spectacular. The production is without gloss – it could be considered primitive but the songs work within its confines and the remaster spit and polish is balanced adding an organic sheen without taking anything away from the overall tone. Carnivore is something of a rager but it is not short of surprises such as the Latin rhythms and cowbell on the chorus of God Is Dead. Steele is unrecognisable vocally but the mid-section of Male Supremacy is pure Type O Negative and a taste of what was to come. This edition adds some extras in the guise of three demos with the chaotic hardcore of U.S.A. For U.S.A. leading the charge.
Keith Alexander left the band in 1986 and was replaced by Marc Piovanetti. Carnivore did release one more album in 1987 before breaking up and Steele formed Type O Negative in 1989. However, the band reunited several times over the 1990s and 2000s before Peter Steele’s untimely death in 2010. Drummer Louis Beateaux and Marc Piovanetti resurrected Carnivore as Carnivore A.D. in 2017.
Carnivore is one of those albums that no metal collection should really be without; a glance back at a pioneering sound and including one of metal’s complex but endearing characters. For anyone with an original copy, this edition is still worth having for the bonus demo tunes and the extensive liner notes based on an interview with Louis Beateaux giving this new version of the album the full works and well worth sinking the teeth into.