» Blog Archive Review: Integrity Push Into The Black On 12th Release -
Evan Conway Hard Music, News, Reviews

integrity 2017  Integrity are a bit of an interesting band. While rooted in hardcore and early metalcore, the band has ceased to be pigeonholed to their roots and expanded into darker, sometimes experimental territories. At twelve albums into their career, the band still manages to surprise listeners, even when they claim to be familiar with their sound. So should you expect some curveballs on Howling, for the Nightmare Shall Consume? Yeah, that’s a safe bet.

Right off the bat, though, Integrity is going to surprise listeners. “Fallen to Destroy” sets up the album nicely with an intro, but it’s “Blood Sermon” that has the band take on a straightforward black metal approach with teasings of their typical sound sprinkled in, all before it dives out of the black metal and into classic Integrity riffs and a ferocious hardcore assault. This might be the one instance on the album where black metal makes an appearance, but it’s an interesting way to welcome the listeners and get the album going.

Integrity 4One might call Integrity a metalcore band, in which they balance metal and hardcore influences instead of doing breakdown after breakdown like the genre has become notorious for, but on Howling, Integrity seems to be leaning into the metal side of things far than usual. Not to say Integrity didn’t have metal moments in their career before, but they seem to be at the forefront this time around. “Die With Your Boots On” is practically a Motorhead song if you heard it in the background, and the middle tracks that approach or even excel past the 7 minute mark all have extensive guitar work and solos that give them more of a metal feeling overall. Essentially, if you like Integrity playing quick, to the point hardcore with no experimentation, then you’re clearly not the one to have been paying attention to where this band has been going.

Integrity 2So, bottom line, Howling isn’t a bad album. In fact, it’s entertaining and works as a whole piece that’s more than mindless breakdowns. It exists in a dark place, but not an unaccessible one, and has more depth to it than your typical metalcore band. In truth, Integrity are doing more on their twelfth release than many bands would even feel comfortable doing. It’s, dare I say, musical and not primitive in its songwriting.

Those songs I mentioned earlier, though? The longer ones? There’s about four here, while the rest sit around the 3 and 4 minute marks. At about 47 minutes, the album isn’t a long one, but with a little under half of the album spent in the middle, it does feel like little progress is made there, inclining that the tracklisting could have been structured better to split these up, or even have one as one of the bonus tracks. Integrity have done this before, but three in succession is new for them, and I for one was a bit overwhelmed by the large block of music dropped in the middle of this album.

Integrity 3With that said, there’s still some straightforward moments on the album that are just purely Integrity. “I Am the Spell” is about as traditional as you can get, whereas “Burning Beneath the Devil’s Cross” is a refreshing change of pace in the album’s final stretch. There’s plenty moments of pure aggression to be had, but then the experimentation comes back and catches you off guard. Not necessarily a complain, seeing as the entirety of “String up My Teeth” works as a song, but elements come into play that I would have never thought would make it into an Integrity song, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. I think I like it? I’m not sure? Whatever. It’ll surprise you when you hear it.

Howling doesn’t challenge the Integrity status quo, but anyone looking for straight downpicking and heavy breakdowns abound might be disappointed. Instead, get this, Integrity have some dignity and write music that isn’t brainless, continuing to push their boundaries as on their twelfth album. It’s not an easy task, but if it’s up to par with your taste, then there’s a lot of fun and discovery to be found in this dark and bleak take on hardcore Integrity have prepared.

Howling, for the Nightmare Shall Consume is out now. You can stream “Hymn for the Children of the Black Flame” below.

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