"Smoke â??em if you got â??em," frontman Dwid Hellion announced to the audience at the Baltimore A389 Bash on January 18, 2014. Integrity then broke into what is probably the first full live rendition of "Armenian Persecution" off the classic Systems Overload album. That one moment exemplified what makes Integrity soar so far above (or in their minds, craw so far below) their contemporaries.
Integrity often bases their sound in thick, smashing hardcore, sometimes tearing along with the rage of the Misfits on Earth A.D. and sometimes crunching out riffs as massive as the ones on Sabbath's Volume IV. But, while other heavier bands have worked with those tools, few (or none) do it with the sense of daring, zest, and sly humor that these ministers of the dark arts can. "Armenian Persecution" exemplified the skill and style of this band. The tune opened with an extended, blues influenced solo which could even fit on some Rolling Stones or Zeppelin records, before snapping down into a monstrous, thick, loud riff with Hellion's wonderfully shredded voice screaming out lyrics like, "Set on fire like a human torch/ Some were nailed to the floor!"
It gets even wilder when you realize that Hellion is documenting a tragic historical event. But, despite all that darkness, Hellion still has time to slip in the self-winking "smoke â??em" comment heard at so many decadent 70's rock concerts, showing an appreciation and playful jabbing at those classic performances.
But, what really made this show monumental was it was the first time in about 20 years Integrity's classic lineup from Systems Overload had played together live. Hellion's distanced and frankly bizarre personality often makes him the star of the band, but, when the massive riffs of Aaron Melnick were brought back to life, ripping through early mosh classic like "Micha" and "Rebirth," the reason why this band is so treasured in the cult circles was clear- every member of early Integrity made it what it was- Hellion was an essential part of the band's mindset, but the Melnick brothers were an essential part of the early sound, all which made the band so unique.
Later on in the evening, new Integrity guitarist and wunderkind Robert Orr came out and jammed with the band creating a massive three guitar lineup. The results were as huge as you'd expect them to be. When the group launched into the lumbering "Systems Overload," the entire room shook.
The classic Integrity lineup was advertised as a one-time thing, and maybe, that's not so bad. Modern Integrity is creating their darkest tunes to date, and the A389 bash showed the classic version of the band in a certain later day prime. For a band as dark as Integrity, to freeze the classic lineup in this image is fitting.
Also, who knew that Dwid Hellion was hilarious?