Whether we like them or not, genre tags are important. Of course, there are those who cling to them a little too fiercely, but, ultimately, labels can be pivotal in helping to translate the amorphous mass that is heavy metal. We all have our favorites, but often the most impressive are those artists unafraid to eschew such obvious restrictions – rocking out with their proverbial cocks, well and truly out. One such entity, Cleveland metallic hardcore veterans, Integrity, are so inclined, and never more so than on ninth studio album Howling, For the Nightmare Shall Consume. If you’ve followed the band’s thirty year career at all, you may think you have an idea of what you’re in for; but Howling demonstrates a disregard for convention as flagrant as my indifference for sentence length. Experimentation, as the word suggests, can be unpredictable, with success often hinging on a creator’s restraint – I’m pleased to report that, while corrosive, Integrity‘s newest is also resolutely restorative.

Founding member and infamous vocalist, Dwid Hellion, has breathed new life into the band with one fell swoop – namely the recruiting of guitarist, Domenic Romeo (Pulling Teeth). After a pseudo-instrumental intro, the first full track, “Blood Sermon” wastes absolutely no time announcing its arrival with screaming leads and Hellion’s distinct hoarse vocals. Immediately recognizable are the black metal tropes on display; incessant blasting and stark tremolo riffs tear across the canvas for a brutal introduction. This is the first, but far from last, foray into a collection of hardcore-bedecked metal songs that allow more than a lilt to affect their ever changing accents. While “Hymn For the Children of the Black Flame” rockets by as a concise but ravenous beating, it’s “Die With Your Boots On” that really rattles the bones. Not to be confused with the Iron Maiden track, this might be the record’s most overtly metallic moment, channelling Motorhead with traditional leads, stomping verse riffs and a scream-along chorus that’s most definitely a contender for my Song ‘O the Year. If you can hear this and sit perfectly still, then you and I, my friend, are not of the same blood.

The first true departure takes the form of “Serpent of the Crossroads,” slithering on its belly with a multitude of slow to mid-paced riffs. Much of the record, to Hellion’s credit, is designed to showcase the exceptional musicianship of Romeo, but this track in particular is a platter of complex leads and frivolous soloing that even veers towards the neoclassical come the halfway mark. “7 Reece Mews” further pushes the boat out with a verse that dabbles in dark country and finds Hellion echoing Nick Cave and trying out his own effective brand of murder balladry, before the song assumes an alt-rock lead that wouldn’t be entirely out of place on a Manic Street Preachers record. While interesting in its delivery, the song does over-run somewhat and, back-to-back with “Unholy Salvation of Sabbatei Zevi” – another piece that overstays its welcome despite featuring a great My Dying Bride riff – the middle of Howling begins to form something of a vacuum, regardless of its quality.

Much of the album is an endorsement of Dwid Hellion’s ability as a leader. Although his rasped vocals are, at this point, legendary, his overwhelming vision for the band and ability to take a step back so that Romeo’s lead work might galvanize an otherwise potentially homogeneous release, is to be commended. And there are plenty of risks to be taken – though much of Howling‘s latter half resumes its genre-specific ruckus, penultimate song “String Up My Teeth” marks the clearest side-step with hard rock motifs and a chorus layered with powerful female backing vocals. The payoffs are profound.

I have a contentious relationship with hardcore. Previous excursions into that bare-knuckle den have often resulted in ambivalence – sacrilege, considering the genre’s unapologetic reputation. Howling, For the Nightmare Shall Consume represents, for me and hopefully you, a truly satisfying venture into a sound that has never quite managed to leave me that contented shade of bloody that I so masochistically desire. Integrity, ever true to their name, have flown their flag for the better part of three decades and upheld the intrinsic no-compromise attitude by abjectly refusing to be confined by self-imposed genre stipulations. In doing so, we are rewarded with a record that exemplifies its creators whilst never shying away from artistic growth, and it comes highly recommended.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps
Label: Relapse Records
Websites: integrity.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/integrity.ht
Releases Worldwide: July 14th, 2017

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  • HeavyMetalHamster

    You had me at Manic Street Preachers.

    • Ferrous Beuller

      That’s because you clearly have fine taste. Do not, however – if at all you were – expect a MSP sound-alike; just a nuance in a song. This here is fighting music.

      • HeavyMetalHamster

        That’s good enough for me.
        I’ve heard the buzzsaw flanged and plated guitar tone of The Holy Bible pop up on metal albums for years since that opus, and it’s always piqued my interest to see just how influential MSP have actually been to these artist’s.
        Anyhow….I’m always a sucker when they (or Katatonia ) get name dropped.

  • Slam Grandpa

    I would have preferred if this got a 4 (since this is honestly my fave Hardcore album of this year so far) but 3.5 is a good score as well

  • Eli Valcik

    I fucking dig this album, pre-ordered it on bandcamp as soon as it was announced. You forgot to mention the building leveling break down during the song “I am the Spell” in your fantastic review. Thus has ROTM written all over it. 4.0/5.0, stop channeling your inner Steely(3.5)D Ferrous.

    • Slam Grandpa

      My bro, you like Hardcore right? You check out the new EP Converge released today? Apparently the dudes are also releasing an album sometime later this year. I’m gonna enjoy this Integrity album until I have multiple eargasms from the new Converge album lol

      • ashcindersmoke

        Holy crap thanks for the heads up

      • Eli Valcik

        Yeah I dabble in hardcore from time to time. I just checked Converge out, Eve was a jam it kinda reminded me of Tarum Shud from Destroyer 666’s newest album. But what has me pumped is the new Pyrrhon, usually Extreme Post-Metal isn’t my thing but the sampler track is just waaaaay too dirty to pass up.

        • Slam Grandpa

          Wow, you’ve just introduced me to Pyrrhon, I’ve heard of em before but never checked em out, yet seeing your hype about their new album spiked my curiosity so I checked one of the tracks on the new album and it sounds like my s**t. Thanks man, gonna check out the rest of their albums before their new album comes out in August

    • Necrocustard

      Totally agree with you. Some of this record is frankly ridiculous. The rest is only awesome.

    • Ferrous Beuller

      I can’t help it, it’s in my contract.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    This is fucking cool as shit. I’m hearing some VHOLisms in parts too.

    • Ferrous Beuller

      “A verse”.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        I kinda see what you mean

  • Nukenado

    Saw Trivium’s announcement of a new album (yes, I liked Trivium once. I have no metal cred anyways, so whatever)

    I’m hoping that with Ihsahn’s tutelage, Heafy can get his shit together and release a good metalcore(?) album. Preferably with some innovations that don’t include arena rock, and more riffs.

    I still like myself a fusion of metal and hardcore, but for some reason it seems like “metalcore” is not the way to go…

    I guess I’ll keep myself company with bands like Integrity, Protest the Hero and Sylosis in the meantime.

    • ToddRob64

      Seconded for Sylosis, criminally underrated band

      • Drew Music

        Oh my God, are they ever… How Empyreal isn’t a staple in every metal head’s diet is beyond me. JMP’s Hollowed-out Planetoid is also top notch, though for some reason I prefer his work when part of Sylosis.

        • Ferrous Beuller

          I love Sylosis. Quality will always out regardless of genre labels. I’ve seen them twice, both as support for the band I’d actually paid to see and each time they were infinitely superior.

          • Drew Music

            I love when that happens. I had a similar experience with Soilwork back in my cranky metal lad days, they opened for Devildriver, Lamb of God and Killswitch (whose siren duet lured me there in the first place) by tearing that place a new one. I was already well versed with them by that point, and my ever shifting interests have seen them revisited less and less with each new album, but man did I gain respect for their abilities and live performance. Strid has to have the strongest neck in the world, his headbanging fucked my vision up.

          • Nukenado

            One of the best reasons to go see a big band tour are the supporting acts. It’s kind of like a “listen to this band and similar, smaller artists” thing. You can find some great bands this way.

          • Drew Music

            Absolutely. Any time I can afford to see a show featuring at least one band that I like or at least respect, I go. The live environment is probably my favorite setting to discover new music in.

          • ToddRob64

            Same thing happened at the only Metal festival we had over here in OZ. They were relegated to a “stage” that the year previously was an area with a hot dog stand in it. Needless to say there wasn’t much room, but about 2 songs in the whole area was packed and people had to walk back and around the stage to get past.

          • Nukenado

            “Quality will always out regardless of genre labels.”
            Fuck yeah. Harakiri for the Sky is amazing post-black, Igorrr is good… EDM(?), and Ex Deo is good symphonic metal, beauty & the beast, and cheese metal all at the same time.
            And there’s so much more good non-metal out there, even with stuff like pop-punk (I will defend Anti-Flag and Sum 41 to my grave).

            I’m still waiting for a good crunkcore song though.
            That would be a modern day miracle.

          • Alex Benedict

            I had almost the exact same experience, except i cant say that they blew away lamb of god. but sylosis was my favorite band at the time and only around 10% of the crowd showed up for their tragically short 20 minute opening set. I met the rhythm guitarist and one of their roadies too, they came up to me cause i was wearing a sylosis shirt

  • Danny

    Hardcore + Manic Street + My Dying Bride = Danny is gonna check out

  • drug_genosh

    throughout my 20 years of listening to this shit we call music, ive somehow never got around to listening to integrity and I feel like a turd for not giving them a fair shake-wheres a good place to start?

    • Dudeguy Jones

      Truly, if you want to get the experience, then you start with the first album, Those Who Fear Tomorrow. Its classic for many reasons. I would then work my way to Humanity Is The Devil, which is instantly a bit more metal. Lots of people love Systems Overload and Seasons the Size of Days as well, so be sure to check em. Not familiar with newer stuff, but I guess its a good time to get reacquainted!

      Did you ever listen to Starkweather? Thats another very early metallic hardcore band thats really good and kind of still around.

  • IamDBR

    Never gave them a fair shot but goddamn, this fucking owns!!!

  • junkyhead

    These guys are awesome. Loving their most recent offerings like The Blackest Curse and that compilation that they put out Thee DestroyORR. Absolutely incredible band.