Ranking Integrity’s Albums
In honor of Dwid Hellion’s 50th Birthday we’ve ranked the legendary clevo-hardcore deathbringers catalog
Cleveland, Ohio’s brand of apocalyptic hardcore would be nothing without Integrity, in fact the entire scene would be nothing without them. The crushing band fronted by the mystical Dwid Hellion has been churning out their brand of devastation into the heavy music landscape for over 30 years now and Dwid shows no signs of pulling the train breaks anytime soon. They’ve remained well admired and imitated across the scene and this serves as testament to their individuality and creativity within a scene that often holds a lot of similar sounding bands in reverence.
Integrity also just so happens to be one of my favorite bands of all time. I often tire myself out listening to their records constantly only to return to the same routine months later. There’s such a diverse sound that the band seems to try to elevate with each and every release. It’s a surefire thing that no Integrity album is going to leave you disappointed.
So, in honor of Dwid Hellion’s 50th birthday let’s rank all 10 albums of his legendary band:
It’s hard for me to rank any Integrity album as the “worst” because to me there is no bad Integrity album. Each album they have released displays skillful musicianship and undeniable energy and ferocity. On 2001’s Closure however there’s signs that the hinges on the wheel started to fall off. Dwid Hellion seemed to be succumbing to some personal turmoil during this time, of course this is all hearsay so we will never truly know, and it translates into a lack of focus for this album. The mixing on this album is pretty fuzzy and drones out some of the instruments and while I think that was a personal choice considering Dwid’s love of lo-fi music it affects the albums bite. Without a doubt however, there are still plenty of entertaining moments on this album such as “Bloodlust,” “The Troublesome Dilemma of Fornication” and the cover of the Misfits “Hybrid Moments.”
9. The Blackest Curse
Surprisingly this was the album that got me into Integrity and since then I haven’t looked back. Despite the special place it holds in my heart for introducing me to this legendary band I can admit it’s one of their weaker efforts. No doubt it was a thick sounding album and dished out plenty of that good ol’ Integrity havoc unto my ears but it just sounds a bit tired at this point. This was their first album in seven years and the band just sounds a little rusty despite boasting the strong lineup which included guitarist Rob Orr. The songs on here just have a hard time standing out to me, it’s one of the bands least diverse sounding albums.
8. Suicide Black Snake
Suicide Black Snake is definitely where Integrity found their footing once again after a lengthy hiatus and here the experimentation is some of the bands most extensive. This album sounds like the band is trying to expand the hardcore sound beyond its confines and it works out into one of the most dynamic albums they created. It also boasts some of Rob Orr’s finest guitar work ever on an Integ album, the solo on “+Orrchida” makes me weep every time. I do realize though that I listen to this album probably the least in their repertoire but nonetheless it’s still one that I seem to like more and more with each listen.
7. Integrity 2000
The Integrity 2000 years were a strange point in Dwid Hellion’s life. After the dissolution of the classic lineup featuring the Melnick brothers and Frank Novinec, Integrity’s future seemed bleak and no one seemed to think this more than Dwid himself. His obsession with the coming millennium seemed to inspire him however and he crafted Integrity 2000, one of the heaviest and darkest albums in the bands catalog. Enlisting the help of Mushroomhead guitarist and drummer Craig and Steve Felton, the album picks up in a riffier direction than their previous album Seasons In The Size of Days and despite many fans dismissal of the album it’s honestly one of my favorites. The albums during this time, 1999–2001, seemed more like a peak into Dwid Hellion’s psyche that over the years has become less blatant but more skillful.
6. Howling, For The Nightmare Shall Consume
This album in my opinion set the next chapter in Integrity’s storied carrier off, it’s what’s brought them to the point they are at now and I can’t help but be proud. This was probably the biggest release they’ve had in recent memory and not only that but it’s definitely their most ambitious. Sending their sound further into the metal realm than their hardcore roots the band still finds ways to express their desolate viewpoint across the pounding chaos. More so than any metal band ever could. There’s many diverse sounds here from the blackened “7 Reece Mews” to the battle charging sounds of “String Up My Teeth” or “Die With Your Boots On” the former being elevated by the usage of the female backup vocalizations. It’s a spectacular album in their catalog and it has us all salivating for more from the champions of the apocalypse.
5. Seasons In The Size of Days
This is the last album featuring the classic lineup of the Melnick brothers and by god did they go out with a giant bang. The darkest sounding album of their career, it truly felt like we were being lead through the whirlwinds of the apocalypse, as though the four horsemen were following us throughout the affair. Integrity’s sound on Seasons is that of a maniacal blackened hardcore band hoping to prepare us for death or battle, it’s a fucking huge sound. Elevated by the drumming of Chris Dora, creating a rhythm section that could collapse mountains, Seasons In The Size of Days remains one of Integrity’s most brilliant expressions of hardcore.
4. To Die For
This album is a favorite of many fans and for good reason, it kicks so much ass. It’s also got some of Integrity’s best artworks and we have Jacob Bannon to thank for that as well as his label Deathwish for resurrecting Integrity out of its own ashes. This album tows the line of hardcore punk and metal so well and makes it all sound so heavy and undeniably infectious. Hearing songs like “Taste My Pain” live is as crushing as it is on the album, I wish they played these songs more. While it is able to get in some experimentation the band loves it is fairly brief as the album only just clocks in at 22 minutes, the bands shortest which is my only complaint.
3. Humanity Is The Devil
Probably one of Integrity’s most recognizable albums, thanks in part to Pushead’s famous cover art. This album also contains Integrity’s two most iconic songs, the opening “Vocal Test” followed by “Hollow” which lead into one after the other so damn well it’s become a mainstay in their live performances. I’m not sure if this is considered an EP or not but I’m including it with their albums because the content of the 8 songs stands tall alongside the bands extended discography. There’s not a single dud on this album, even the 34 minute long title track is at least memorable for being so goddamn weird and confusing that Integrity’s later albums ended with tracks like it.
2. Those Who Fear Tomorrow
Probably one of metalcore’s crowning achievements in the 90s. Sometimes bands just get it so right on the first try and Integrity without a doubt got it right when this was released in 1993. Dwid’s voice for some reason sounds so much deeper and chaotic than on following releases, like a possessed soul guiding you through the many realms of hell. The guitar work of Aaron Melnick and Chris Smith works in so many different ways on this album, from the slow riffage on “Those Who Fear Tomorrow” and “Harder They Fall” to the blasts on “Darkness” and “Judgement Day.” Every instrument sounds crisp on this album too, a rarity for an Integrity album which tends to escape into a wall of sound. This album is exciting from beginning to end and remains one of Integrity’s finest declarations of war upon the hardcore scene.
- Systems Overload
It was hard to pick which one was my favorite but I had to go with Systems Overload. Containing what are quite possibly some of the best songs in the bands back catalog: “Incarnate 365,” “Armenian Persecution,” “Grace Of The Unholy” and “Systems Overload” this album is one of the most pulse pounding and all around badass hardcore albums ever made. The screaming guitar solos found throughout the album became a trademark sound for Integrity, showing proudly the Randy Uchida of G.I.S.M. influence on the band. This album also sounded like Integrity had found their sound. Whereas Those Who Fear Tomorrow fit squarely into the 90s metalcore sound, this one brought that somewhat lo-fi blackened edge to the band and it made their following albums explode. A perfect hardcore listen from front to back.
With that we end this list. Happy Birthday to Dwid Hellion and thank you for all the amazing music over the years! All the beast.