Anticipation was high as Integrity took the stage of the Ottobar in Baltimore. Because band founder Dwid Hellion lives in a remote cabin in Holland, the group rarely play US shows, so their headlining set at A389 Record's Ninth Anniversary Bash was that much more significant on January 18, 2013.
Integrity in 2013 is a much different band than their original formation from the late 80s. Although the band has had a fairly stable lineup over the last few years, they played versions of their classics which were raw and reverent. Interestingly, while Integrity's latest work features technical instrumentation and multiple movements, the set itself was mostly drawn from their hardest hitting jams from the first half of their existence.
It would seem Hellion is particularly proud of his latest work, considering the amount of care that goes into the band's consistent stream of singles over the past three years. However, because most people at the show had never seen Integrity before due to their rare US presence, the band played their most well-known jams in lieu of the more complex, modern stuff. The choice was suitable because usually when you first see a band, you sort of want to see them cut through their biggest jams.
The modern takes on the older songs were respectful of the source material without being too referential. While the older Integrity recordings are polished, particularly for hardcore, live the band were energetic and gruff. The band smashed out thick, heavy riff after thick heavy riff while Hellion growled over top. The performance was just tight enough to give the music its original snap, but just loose enough for the band to have unrestrained exposition.
Still, the band did slip in some of the newer stuff which showed off new-ish guitarist Robert Orr's skill in technical metal. The contrast between the primal heaviness of Integrity's earlier work and Orr's refined, European style picking made both poles that much more distanced, creating an interesting dissonance rarely heard in any type of music. Integrity seem to be moving at full speed these days with over a dozen releases in the past three years, so hopefully we'll get more US shows which allow the band to truly delve into their newest, weird songs while saving a little room for their classic, late 80s smash.
-I'm not usually a mosher these days, but when the band broke into "Micha" you know I had to get down.
-It's been a while since I've been hit with some truly pungent "punk funk" but… whew… you could chew on the air in that place!
-Call me small minded, but I just don't care about bands that label themselves "Vegan Straight Edge Hardcore." Basing your entire discography around what you can and cannot order at Sizzler seems limiting to me.
-Congrats to A389 for making it this far. They're a great label that puts great care into the presentation of their releases. If you're a newbie, I'd suggest starting with this record.