Metalcore wasn’t always the poppy, hair-flipping, Jonas Brothers-ass affair that it turned into during the early to mid 2000s. Metal and punk have always had an interesting dynamic and when the two cross over it has almost always resulted in compelling music. Black Flag showed their love for Black Sabbath on My War and the first thrash records of the early 80s are seriously indebted to hardcore punk and crust punk. In the 1990s, metalcore was one of the many punk-metal amalgams thriving. It combined the sludgy, downtuned, groovy metal of the day with the politics, angst, and breakdowns of hardcore punk. One of the originators of this fusion, Integrity, gained their popularity off their highly influential debut album, Those Who Fear Tomorrow, a thundering record that still holds up today. Unlike many of the bands in that early metalcore scene, Integrity hasn’t gone away since their legendary early release. On the contrary, the band is still firmly plugged into the current metal-punk world and makes some of the most interesting metalcore available. Their newest album, Howling, for the Nightmare Shall Consume, continues their long streak of successes.
Integrity showcases some of their most melodic and most metal-based material on this album, especially in the first half. The opening introduction and successive opening track sounds like High on Fire imitating a Swedish melodic black metal band. This speed trip continues and doesn’t let up at all. “I Am The Spell” reeks of Slayer and “Die With Your Boots On”, though not a Maiden cover, certainly has a few Smith/Murray moments. There is but one breakdown in the first five tracks. Everything else is full-speed-ahead, fist-pumping metal. Dwid’s vocals are as rough as ever and the riffs are wonderful. Integrity shows off how much fun they can and then things get weird.
“Serpents of The Crossroads” is an emotional track with a slower burn. The original energy and momentum of the record is halted and the successive tracks follow this pattern. “Unholy Salvation of Sabbatei Zevi” sounds like Converge jammed with Pallbearer. “7 Reece Mews”, one of the best tracks on the album, begins with rattling chains and a Sabbathian single guitar stinger. A monologue about revelations and the end of time spoken in a southern drawl slithers through the tracks fulfilling the band’s promise of “manifestation of pentecostal nightmares and religious depravities”. This track packs so much eerie atmosphere, well-timed emotionally climaxes, and triumph all with the flavor of southern religious fervor. It sounds like it could be the real second season of True Detective that we deserve.
The album is rounded out by another toe-tapper, a mid-paced chugfest with some amazing back-up vocals like something out of Rocky Horror Picture Show, and a doomier closer that finishes strong. Integrity has really stepped up the metal side of the sound on Howling, for the Nightmare Shall Consume, a move that will please old time fans and help to gain new ones. With more classic heavy metal and doom metal influences, this is also one of their longest records to date at around 48 minutes. This record is a downright masterpiece. It has all the aggression and energy a metalcore album needs but never skimps on the melody. The riffs and solos are great as always and the production allows all the colors of the guitars and bass to be fully understood. The compositions find the perfect balance in atmosphere and substance creating a vivid sound world of evil demons and armageddon. Integrity seem hell-bent on always getting better and continuing their evolution. Check this thing out. It is worth your time.