Integrity - Howling For The Nightmare Shall Consume album review
Hardcore heroes deliver a masterpiece
When punk rock and heavy metal collide, the results are so variable that it’s no wonder that opinion is wildly divided on what ‘hardcore’ actually means. But if one band encapsulates that simple act of cross-pollination while simultaneously sounding utterly unique and creatively untamed, it’s Dwid Hellion’s Integrity. Say what you like about the band’s glowering figurehead – he genuinely, famously doesn’t care – but it’s hard to think of anyone else making music with this much tension and flesh-flaying edge. Where other hardcore bands avoid venturing too far into metal territory, Integrity have long harnessed metal’s precision and dramatic power. Here, the supposed dividing line is lost in a blur of sheer, unforgiving heaviness. Fading in like a vicious stealth hangover, Fallen To Destroy’s spiralling melodeath harmonies morph into the hellish punk panic of Blood Sermon and on, through the genuinely startling fury of Hymn For The Children Of The Black Flame and I Am The Spell’s maelstrom of disquiet. But as Howling… reaches its midpoint, things start to become vastly more terrifying. Serpent Of The Crossroads and Unholy Salvation Of Sabbatai Zevi are monstrous slabs of freakishly devastating post-metal; 7 Reece Mews is a murky yet mesmerising metal waltz – pointedly gothic in the true sense of the word, devoid of hope or harmony, and yet subtly theatrical and mischievous too, as if Dwid is urging mankind towards annihilation while channelling Bowie’s ghost. Burning Beneath The Devil’s Cross returns to that more familiar barrage of breakneck belligerence, but even the hardcore textbook has been souped up and surgically – or perhaps spiritually – enhanced, while String Up My Teeth is pure macabre rock abandon, all scything Samhain riffs, This Corrosion-style backing vocals and guitar solos straight from the Steve Stevens handbook, Dwid’s shredded larynx keeping everything the wrong side of Hell’s gates. In less capable hands, all of this could have ended up as ‘Armageddon: The Hardcore Musical’. Instead, Integrity have delivered one of the most astonishing demonstrations of heavy music’s colossal power you may ever hear.