Peter Steele (né Petrus T. Ratajczyk), the singer and bassist for goth-metal band Type O Negative, has passed away, according to reports, after suffering heart failure, on Wednesday.

There was a fair amount of uncertainty when the news first broke on Wednesday, as fans wanted to believe that this was yet another publicity stunt, much like what the band did in 2005 (posted a tombstone with Steele’s name on their site, with the text “1962-2005”) to coincide with their signing to SPV/Steamhammer Records after years on Roadrunner Records.

However, mainstream media began to light up on Thursday, as everyone from MTV to CBS News and Type O Negative bandmates confirmed the news. The band’s manager Mike Renault sent an e-mail to CBS News, saying, “Peter passed away last night. As of now it appears to have been heart failure. That’s all the details we have right now.” While guitarist Kenny Hickey and drummer Johnny Kelly confirmed the news to MTV, keyboardist Josh Silver contacted Roadrunner’s blabbermouth.net, which subsequently posted a lengthy tribute to Steele.

As for SPV Records, they issued the following online statement: “It’s with great sadness that we give our condolences to the family and friends of Peter Steele… He died on April 14th, 2010. With his bands Carnivore and Type O Negative he achieved cult status and was loved by fans around the world. … The world has lost a charismatic frontman and a very talented person. Our condolences go to Peter’s family, friends and the members of his bands.”

Steele, a Brooklyn native, had an incredible stage presence, standing at a massive 6’7″ and singing in a trademark bass-baritone, and was always willing to crack jokes at his own expense in order to lighten the mood. That sense of humor was also prevalent in the band’s lyrics, which also had common themes of sex, romance, depression and death. The band’s last album, 2007’s Dead Again, was their seventh studio release.

Although a self-proclaimed atheist for most of his career, Steele revealed in 2007 that he had adopted Roman Catholicism, telling Decibel magazine, “There are no atheists in foxholes, they say, and I was a foxhole atheist for a long time. 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. I also can’t believe that people like Stalin and Hitler are gonna go to the same place as Mother Teresa.”

The fan forums on the band’s Web site were reopened early Wednesday and official statements from the band and Steele’s family are expected soon. Stay tuned to that site for any updates.

(CBS News, MTV.com, decibelmagazine.com)