Integrity - “Howling, For The Nightmare Shall Consume”
You can stream the album in full on Youtube
There’s not much to say about Integrity that hasn’t been said countless times before. Arguably the first ever metalcore band, their first three releases, For Those Who Fear Tomorrow, Systems Overload, and Humanity is the Devil, are some of the most important and influential records within the context of heavy music as a whole. Soon after the Humanity, however, lead vocalist and Holy Terror icon Dwid Hellion decided to get weird and didn’t really care what anybody else thought about it. In the time since, the band has seen its share of ups and downs: Seasons in the Size of Days couldn’t follow the mastery of the first three records and since then, only 2003’s To Die For has been able to somewhat stand shoulder to shoulder with the band’s early material. The less said about Integrity 2000, the better. This brings us to 2017, where Dwid and co. have decided to give us yet another Integrity album, Howling, For The Nightmare Shall Consume. Impressed with the pre-release tracks, namely “I Am the Spell,” I was eager to finally listen to a new Integrity record. Needless to say, I was not disappointed.
Opening tracks “Fallen to Destroy” and “Blood Sermon” employ the epic, lead-driven sound that has become synonymous with the band throughout their existence. The latter contains a distinctly black metal tinge to it, which feeds directly into the apocalyptic nature of the record. Dwid’s vocals are as powerful and monstrous as ever, and tracks such as “Burning Beneath the Devil’s Cross” and “Hymn for the Children of the Black Flame” are direct throwbacks to the band’s early material.
So far, so good, right? Well, through much of the mid-section of the record, the band decides to take influences from a variety of genres, and for the most part this move manages to pay off. “Die With Your Boots On” (which is not an Iron Maiden cover, by the way), pays homage to the NWOBHM movement of the early 1980’s, with soaring guitar melodies that would be right at home on something like Judas Priest’s Screaming for Vengeance. The same can be said for “Serpent of the Crossroads,” which evokes Sad Wings of Destiny. The first half of “7 Reece Mews” is distinctly Western, while “String up my Teeth” sounds like 80’s hair metal mixed with hardcore - yes, you read that right. Much of this influence can be attributed to the addition of Domenic Romeo, formerly of Baltimore crossover band Pulling Teeth, on lead guitar: from the thrashy “Hymn…” to the slow-burning sound of “Unholy Salvation of Sabbatai Zevi,” his influence is certainly familiar to fans of his old band.
Unfortunately, the album drags a little. Tracks 6-8 are all past the 6:30 mark in length, bringing the album to a bit of screeching halt, which might turn some listeners off. The middle child of these three tracks, “Unholy Salvation…,” isn’t really anything to write home about either. In addition, the only breakdown on the entire record is at the very end of the aforementioned “I Am the Spell.” To some, this might not be a big deal, but this is the band that wrote “March of the Damned,” so it’s slightly disappointing.
Otherwise, Howling is remarkable. Dwid and co. have managed to put together a record that is equal parts homage to their heyday and a tribute to genres otherwise foreign to the realm of hardcore. Arguably their best since Humanity is the Devil, this record is definitely worth a listen for any fan of heavy music, whether hardcore, metal, or anything in between.
- Cesar G.