Integrity - live in Philadelphia (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


live in Philadelphia (2019)

live show

If there’s one thing that can define Integrity, it’s their aversion to being defined. If you look back through the band’s three decade history, whatever the genre most closely associated with the band was heading in a certain trend, Integrity would shoot out at the other direction. Certainly, that’s an artistic decision. But also, it’s a tactical strike. If there are eight really good d-beat bands and one polka band at a show, everyone will remember the polka band.

So, it was quite refreshing to see the band’s latest incarnation and stratagem in play at Decibel Beer & metal pre-fest in Philadelphia on April 13, 2019. The band’s last full length, Howling, for the Nightmare Shall Consume (their best LP ever?) found the band, for lack of a better term, going all in on the metal side of things and cranking out four sides of thundering, crushing, twisting heavy metal. So, one would think, “Oh, Integrity is headlining day one of the metal fest, I’ll bet they play all their metal stuff!” Nope.

Instead, just as all the other acts where focusing on long, windy tracks and complex solos, Integrity manifested in their punk form and smashed through an hour long set of short, hot tunes. As usual, the band opened the show with an especially ripping and punch take on “vocal test.” But then, for the duration of the show, the band kept things hard, mean, and to the point. “Judgment Day,” with its famous breakdown second half, was sped up into a hard punk smasher. “Sons of Satan,” formerly a Vermapyre track, appeared as a double time ripping, which, not to lean too heavily on the band’s explicit references, did approach the speed and somewhat random word juxtaposition of GISM.

Vocalist and band mastermind Dwid Hellion isn’t known for being verbose on stage, but more than any other show, he seemed to want to waste no time. I don’t believe he said a single thing to the audience, opting, instead, to pack as many edged numbers into the set. As glass-and-tar as ever, Hellion walked that fine line between angry screed and war party chest pounding. These lyrics might be about the futility of existence and cosmic snakes reveling in mankind’s endless misery, but everyone seemed to be having a good time, as energized by Hellion’s hardcore punk delivery, which certainly stood out against the oft, perhaps more reserved, metal way of singing. That is, emotion and loose, raw power always beats technicality every day of the week, and Friday just happened to be a day of the week.

A few of the massive metal numbers did make the list, but even those were given the white hot fire treatment. Howling’s centerpiece, “I am the Spell” was locked in about halfway through the set. But, whereas on earlier tours, guitarist Dom Romeo would take time to really bend those sour notes, here, he was in full assault mode, slashing forward, making a statement about the connection of punk and metal and hardcore- it’s all aggressive music, is what he seemed to say with his speed riffage, and to that end, needle-point definitions somehow rob this kind of music of its magic.

Bassist Francis Kano of Devil Master has been supporting the band live for about two years now, and he gives the band some real low end strike on stage, all while looking like he just got off tour with Nazareth. The same too can be said for drummer Sean Garwood who was pushing the tempo the entire night and guitarist Justin Etham who provided some rapid strikes, giving Romeo a pulsating base upon which to lay his coiling thrash designs.

The show ended with two of the band’s bigger classics, “Jagged Visions of my True Destiny,” and the mosh pitter of all mosh pits, “Micha: Those Who Fear Tomorrow.” Really, despite the fact that the band blasted through nearly 20 tracks, the show seemed over just as soon as it began, which is a good thing.

One would thing that following the success of Howling, the band would be on a victory lap, repeating the (excellent) set list that followed the album’s release date. Not so. They band is already moving forward and warping into something new. You can accuse Integrity of being weird. You can accuse them of being vague. You can even accuse them of being contrarian. But you certainly can’t ever accuse them of being stale. I’d say that’s about as punk as it gets, but they’d probably reprimand me for putting them in a box.