This group hasn't enjoyed success to the degree of bands like HATEBREED and CONVERGE, but without INTEGRITY's material, it's arguable that those bands wouldn't have, without INTEGRITY's foundational material. Members of INTEGRITY, Cleveland-based bruisers, are indeed trailblazers in the realm of metallic hardcore. Sure, acts like D.R.I. and S.O.D. predated INTEGRITY, but the more bombastic and searing elements of modern metal and hardcore hybrid acts were rooted in the music of INTEGRITY and RINGWORM. With the band's twelfth studio album, "Howling, for the Nightmare Shall Consume", it proves that the band is as relevant, potent and fresh sounding as ever.
It isn't difficult to argue that frontman and sole-original member Dwid Hellion is INTEGRITY. His confrontational and combative personality bleeds through every aspect of the group's new release. Having tackled concept albums since the unit's early days, the band on this album once again sews together a tale of the last days of. Dwid culled inspiration from the eighties heavy metal that was the focal point of the Satanic-Panic era on both a music and conceptual level. Whether mocking the Pentecostal paranoia or echoing the age-old fears of an impending doom, or perhaps both, Dwid and his cohorts adequately capture the essence of hellish atmosphere and chaos. His gut-wrenching screams unravel his stories as though he was a deranged prophet spitting his last words.
The bleak prophecies begin, fittingly, with shades of second-wave black metal on tracks like "Fallen to Destroy" and follow-up "Blood Sermon". That's before "Hymn for the Children of the Black Flame" kicks in with brutish hardcore violence serving to remind listeners of the band's original soul. Meanwhile, "Serpent of the Crossroads" punishes with a menacing slow crawl and plenty of widdly-widdly guitar noodling, along with harmonies reminiscent of early eighties Bay area thrash.
Visions of humanity's final days do indeed come to mind with songs like "Unholy Salvation of Sabbatai Zevi", a track starting with a haunting organ riff cascading toward an ocean of melancholy that's punctuated with dashes of Middle Eastern sounding guitar parts. The song feels monotonous at points. It could have benefited from a couple of minutes being shaved off, but it makes its point regardless. INTEGRITY has never had the infectious choruses or extremely memorable aspects of a band like HATEBREED, explaining why that band broke into the mainstream, but the power of its music is undeniable and continues to be relevant. Simply put, INTEGRITY is one of the most vitriolic hardcore bands of all time, and "Howling, for the Nightmare Shall Consume" is yet another notch in the group's belt.