Integrity - Beyond the Realm of the VVitch [7-inch] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Beyond the Realm of the VVitch [7-inch] (2014)


Quite impressively, Integrity's "7th Revelation: Beyond the Realm of the VVitch" (yes, the band writes their "w's" like Visigoths and it is totally cool) showcases what was great about the band in their classic lineup, what is great about them now, and just how far out they are on a single side of a seven-inch. Recorded to commemorate the remixed re-release of 1995's Systems Overload and the band's recent 1995 era reunion in Baltmore, the track finds the band utilizing their core strengths while going in new directions.

With guitarist Aaron Melnick, bassist Leon Melnick, and drummer Mark Konopka back in the band for the first time for about two decades, rumbling, massive stoner-ish grooves are the order of the day, as they were on Systems Overload. The Melnicks take heavy cues from Black Sabbath and the subsequent 80's stoner worship bands and keep their riffs so low and heavy, that they are as much experimentations in thick texture as they are notes. Konopka hits with a trudging, heavy hand, but unlike a lot of heavy music that lags, Konopka strikes so hard that the despite the song's slow tempo, it feels forceful.

But, just as it seems like the track will be purely "classic" period worship, Melnick drops in a blues-influenced solo that progresses and becomes more metallic throughout the tune's duration, at times riffing off power metal, and at others, Clapton. Integrity as full fledged heavy metallers was suggested on early tracks like "Armenian Persecution," but the band never quite made the leap to full on classic Judas Priest slicing. When vocalist Dwid Hellion resurrected Integrity as basically a duo, with youngster Robert Orr handling all the instruments, the band made the leap to full on head banging. But, whereas Orr is a kind of technical finger picker, working out complex, chord jumping solos. Melnick is from an older school and it shows.

Feeling the music more than scripting it, he seems to let his guitar pull him along as he floats across the fretboard. A combination of the heavy and the soulful, Melnick's guitar work, if extracted, could even fit on classic Rolling Stones, Leon Russel, or Led Zeppelin records. The result is a merging of the thick chunk of earlier Integrity with the open ended daring of their newer recordings.

And of course, Hellion, the band's only constant, is even further out there, exploring occult ideas even more amorphous and intangible than a mere few years ago. If any other vocalist penned a tune about witches or astral projection, it would come off as being jacked from Dungeons and Dragons. But, because Hellion howls with such conviction, focusing on the number seven (and sort of suggesting the ancient belief that merely saying a magical number or word can cause effects), it comes off not as an escapist fantasy, but as a dude that really knows what awaits in the black abyss. His findings are scary, but not half as scary as he is when he spits out his arcane knowledge. The track is as much a history lesson as it is an exploration.