Integrity - live in Reading (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


live in Reading (2017)

live show

There’s a reason that Integrity usually opens their shows with “Vocal Test.” First off, it’s a killer track. Composed of little more than a charging riff and vocalist Dwid Hellion howling a lyric-less battle cry, the track is, without doubt, an iconic call to arms. That being said, one often feels that there’s more to the track- that is, sure, the music is killer, but it seems that Hellion is changing the listener on an abstract plane. The tune certainly has an emotion behind it, but that emotion is unclear. Hellion seems to demand that the audience construct from the song what he or she will- there’s scant room for other interpretation.

Which is why it was so fitting for Integrity to open their September 23, 2017 show at Reading’s Tsunami Fest with the song. Integrity is on a high right now, having just released their stellar album, Howling, for the Nightmare Shall Consume. With its solos-upon-solos and Pink Floyd-as-Slayer approach, the album was a daring gambit that worked and the band brought this strategy to their live show post-album release.

Howling featured a sort of time/dimension travel theme, and the band followed in that mindset, zapping around their discography. Instead of a greatest hits set, we were treated to a pointed set list that seemed to hit on lyrical and sonic concepts specifically. An except from “Suicide Black Snake” was given a particularly fractured treatment, reminiscent of those gnarly, gnarly Eve Libertine poems on Crass albums. Older classic “Kingdom of Heaven” had a slow, crushing build from its spooky twilight intro through its freight train smash. “Jagged Visions of my True Destiny” was pushed to its full, epic potential with sweeping, almost power metal solos before plummeting into its operatic climax. All of these songs don’t so much seek to state a “truth” as they do open up a box of questions.

Perhaps most importantly, a good number of new tunes got a work out and boy do they burn live. The Lemmy-ish “Die with your Boots On” absolute slammed along. Hellion’s glass-and-tar growl is as lacerating as it ever was, and one could tell he was delighted in spewing out this call-to-action. Likewise, “I am the spell” has multiple twist and turns and Hellion rode them for maximum, bombastic effect. Hellion might be a yeller, but there are as many shades in that texture as there is in any other format.

Of course, the mega-hits were given their proper due. Recent Integ co-chair Dom Romeo was a frikkin riff-meister. That famously lumbering roll of “Systems Overload” was extra riotous (as you could tell by the crowd literally climbing on top of each other to get to the mic). “Micha” and “Incarnate” stormed along with extra energy and you have to give credit to guitarist Tony Hare, bassist Doug Williams, and drummer Josh Brettell for really giving these classics some teeth. Integrity has had any number of incarnations over the past five years and each have had their merits. That being said, the newest version of the band feels fully formed and combustible at once. This is what punk, metal, and punk-metal should sound like.

Daringly, the set ended with a punchy, but curt version of “To Die For.” No big outro. No drawn out “we love you all” spiel. No “We’ve got a few songs left.” No encore. Just- “To Die For” – WHAM –concert over. In fact, the handbrake ending was so sharp some of the crowd was confused by the sudden slam from 100mph to zero. (I was too, honestly). That’s good. Integrity has made it a habit of subverting expectations, and, alternative, not considering expectations at all. Good art generates critical thinking and this set, with its twists, turns, biting riffs, and lyrical content, left the crowd with a lot to think about.