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Wagner, Jeff
Soul On Fire-The Life And Music Of Peter Steele (Book Review)
March 2015
Released: 2015, FYI Press
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: JP

There are many unique and interesting personalities in the world of Metal however there but a few that are so well known respected that they stand above the rest. These icons do things their own way and are often discredited and misunderstood but they are visionaries with loyal followings that border on fanaticism. These are people like Blackie Lawless, Yngwie Malmsteen, Joey DeMaio and of course Peter Steele of Type O Negative.

SOUL ON FIRE is the first biography of Peter Steele and it is monumental and timely work. Jeff Wagner, former Editor of Metal Maniacs and author of MEAN DEVIATION has written what is sure to be one of the most interesting Metal biographies of 2015 and it is only March!

Sub-titled ‘The Life And Music Of Peter Steele’, this book published by the good people at FYI Press has all the look and feel of a Type O Negative project. From the eye-catching, simple but effective cover art, the font, layout, design and typesetting are all very well done. It is evident that enormous effort was put into the actual creation of this 307 page book. There are many graphics and a pile of full colour pictures, printed on glossy plates in the middle of the book. Many of these are from the Steele estate/family and have not been seen before.

As expected the book is a chronological retelling of the life of Peter Steele. It is much more than a Type O Negative biography, that book has yet to be written, but I expect that Wagner would be the man for a companion volume one day. The book documents in the life of Peter in almost painstaking detail, his personal habits, his ex-girlfriends, his old cars, his apartment, his job, no stone is left unturned. Although a few people declined to participate there were many, many people close to Peter who did contribute an enormous amount. The book follows his life from essentially day one to the fall-out after his of his death. The book ends with a quick visit to a memorial garden for Peter and ends as it begins, in a nice, quiet, green part of New York.

Despite Wagners easy, free-flowing and engaging prose, SOUL ON FIRE is not what I would classify as ‘light’ or ‘easy’ read. It is a portrait of a troubled man and I appreciate that Wagner did not just talk about Type O Negative and was not afraid to discuss painful truths about Steele. However, it is not all doom and gloom and Wagner avoids focusing on the retelling of negative rumours which seem to constantly surround Peter. He makes every effort to bring to light the truth behind Steele’s alleged racism (completely untrue) and the cause of his untimely death, which contrary to popular belief, had nothing to do with drug abuse.

It is evident from reading SOUL ON FIRE that Peter could be the text-book definition of delicate genius, gentle giant and tortured soul all in one. To a random observer who did not understand or appreciate the grandeur of his music, art and career might look at the bold, cold facts and think he was a disturbed man. He probably was on many levels but often the greatest and most enduring art stems from the minds of disturbed people. Wagner has captured all of these components of the enigmatic giant of a man and scripted, not just a simplistic tribute of a fan but a realistic and in-depth portrait of one of the most unique and iconic front-men in music.

Next review: » Wagner, Jeremy - The Armageddon Chord (Book Review)
Previous review: » Wagner, Jeff - Mean Deviation: Four Decades Of Progressive Metal (Book Review)

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