There was the dawn of the 1990’s, still rattling from the roar of American hardcore punk and heavy metal that had both taken seed in the previous decade and whose delineating lines had by this point almost completely faded. There was a burgeoning American underground music scene beginning to flourish in the wake of these new musical and cultural forms. There was catharsis and camaraderie found in rambunctious, deafening celebrations of youth, there were dreams of widening audiences and open arms.
And then there was the darkness. There was Integrity.
First emerging as a metallic hardcore outfit with a serious violent streak from the punk underground in 1988, Integrity soon began to evolve into something very different. You could feel the pull towards darkness on the band’s first release, the In Contrast of Sin 7″ EP released by Victory Records while the label was still in its infancy. The record was stained with a sinister sound and style that was rooted in classic hardcore but had this undeniable metallic crunch and a seething rage that felt like the music could completely spin out of control at any moment. Much of this black energy was coalesced in the strange, strained roar of front man and founding member Dwid, whose vocals were some of the most distinctive in heavy music. This first burst was soon followed by Integrity’s debut album, 1991’s Those Who Fear Tomorrow, and it was here where Integrity’s sound fully came together, a fearsome first major work that combined Dwid’s preoccupations with apocalyptic themes and the occult with a brutal mixture of speedy hardcore punk, ragged thrash metal and subtle industrial influences all permeated with a seriously sinister atmosphere. The album stood out with song titles that look like they could have been lifted off of a European thrash metal album, the Hieronymus Bosch album art (replaced by Francis Bacon’s Painting
(1946) on some versions), the punishing, stripped down hardcore riffs and screaming guitar work courtesy of Aaron Melnick (who was a crucial component of Integrity’s brutal early sound), the dark, violent energy threading through the fourteen songs, it all came together for something uniquely vicious.
From there, Integrity seemed to willfully obscure itself, even as underground hardcore and metal was growing more popular than ever. Revealing esoteric influences that ranged from the psychotic metal-tinged punk of Idaho’s Septic Death and Japanese maniacs G.I.S.M., the seminal industrial noise of NON, the nightmarish artwork of British painter Francis Bacon, and the apocalyptic philosophies of the Process Church and other end time cults, Integrity had little in common with most of what was going on at the time. Their sometimes heady subject matter delved into religion, the occult and human atrocities, and became focused into a kind of artistic ideology that christened “Holy Terror”, a term that would become almost synonymous with their savage metallic attack and terminally grim outlook. The rest of the decade saw the band evolving and experimenting with each new album, touring through the US and Europe multiple times, as well as weathering a constant flux in the band’s lineup with Dwid remaining the one constant in Integrity. Their 1995 follow-up Systems Overload was incendiary, a gasoline-soaked assault of eschatological fury and metallic hardcore delivered at skull-caving levels of aggression and sonic abuse. Dwid’s investigations into Gnosticism and apocalyptic religious imagery bled heavily into the crushing, tightly focused power of 1996’s Humanity Is The Devil and the ambitious multi-faceted dread of 1997’s Seasons In The Size Of Days, and a steady run of split 7″s paired Integrity up with everyone from metalcore bands Hatebreed and Mayday, to electronic and noise outfits like Psywarfare and Lockweld, even sharing a disc with The Kids Of Widney High.
After more lineup overhauls towards the turn of the century, Integrity released the hardcore-influenced death metal chug of Integrity 2000 and the experimental “Closure”, then slipped into hiatus for a brief period of time. Returning in 2003 with the ferocious To Die For EP and a rejuvenated lineup, they kicked off a new burst of activity that led to more performances in the US as well as a short run through Japan, and the release of a DVD collection of videos and live performances released on Dwid’s own imprint. The second half of the oughts saw more festival performances, more touring of Europe, more negativity. It wouldn’t be until 2010 that Integrity would finally release their new album The Blackest Curse, their first full length of new blackened hardcore and end time visions in almost a decade. Sounding as bleak and unloving as ever, this was no comeback album, it was a scorched blast of blackened hardcore laced with unsettling electronic undertones that reveled in the ashfall of our slow-motion apocalypse. And in 2011, twenty years after their groundbreaking debut album, Integrity issued the Detonate Worlds Plague 12″ on Dwid’s Holy Terror imprint, a return to the blazing hardcore metal punk of Systems Overload delivered with a psychotic rawness that still manages to lace their sound with experimental textures and hallucinatory noisescapes. Twenty years later, Integrity continues to intimidate and incite, still howling at the doomsday clock, still staring at the maelstrom.