For nearly thirty years, Dwid Hellion (in real life bearing the much less fearsome name of Jack McLimans), has been at the forefront of the Crossover genre, combining Metal and Hardcore Punk with ferocious intensity with Columbus, Ohio crew, Integrity.
Formed in 1988, the band have gone through some extensive line-up changes over the years, with only Hellion remaining as the sole original member. For their twelfth album (depending on whether you count some of the band’s lengthier EP’s as full length releases), Howling, For the Nightmare Shall Consume (Relapse), the band currently operate as a three-piece unit, the other members being guitarist Domenic Romeo, and drummer Joshua Brettell.
A concept album describing the last days of Armageddon, Howling… features all the trademark Integrity abrasiveness, but also explores the band’s more experimental, progressive leanings. ‘Serpent of the Crossroads’, ‘Unholy Salvation of Sabbatai Zevi’, and ‘7 Reece Mews’ (relating to the studio address of British figurative artist Francis Bacon) are three ambitious, consecutively placed, seven minute songs, and this trio of doom-laden dirges may prove a little too problematic for some long-term listeners.
However, even with those bold, but very likely divisive, tracks, it’s still the quite brilliant ‘String Up My Teeth’, with its gospel style female backing vocals, which will probably cause the most confusion, as listeners reach for the CD just to make sure there hasn’t been some sort of bizarre mix-up in the pressing.
So, with female vocals, church organs, smooth bluesy solos, and even a sitar, it’s quite clear that this isn’t the same Integrity of twenty-five or so years ago. But don’t panic. The album still gnashes its broken teeth in all the right places while trying its best to kick yours out. Hellion’s familiar aggressive ear-splitting roar, and lightning fast bursts of speed are all impact splattered across tracks such as ‘Hymn For the Children of the Black Flame’, ‘Burning Beneath the Devil’s Cross’, opener ‘Fallen to Destroy/Blood Sermon’, and ‘I Am the Spell’. There’s a Motorhead meets Iron Maiden vibe for the Lemmy inspired ‘Die With Your Boots On’, before the doom returns for the album’s funereal title track.
Different, brave, and demanding, but Integrity are definitely still living up to their name.