Integrity – Suicide Black Snake

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Label: Magic Bulet / A389

There’s few bands in hardcore that can conjure up the aura that Integrity do. Since their formation 25 years ago, they have come to define the Holy Terror genre of music, both in sound and attitude. This isn’t good-time hardcore. There’s nothing fashionable about this, and it will never be part of some corporate sponsored tour package. And that’s to say nothing of the mindset behind this music, which is left intentionally vague and hidden beyond the most obvious points. Sure, there’s plenty of negative hardcore bands these days, releasing songs of misanthropy and hatred, but few come close to the feeling that Integrity inspire. This is dark, unwelcoming music; and on this release, it’s also quite excellent.

Since beginning to collaborate with multi-instrumentalist Rob Orr, Dwid Hellion’s band have seemingly taken on a new lease of (anti)life. As on previous release The Blackest Curse, the music here is, generally, fast and aggressive, propelled along with hardcore rhythms and structures that are bolstered by guitar work that, in large part, wouldn’t be out of place on a (good) Slayer or classic metal record. I Know Where Everyone Lives demonstrates this beautifully, opening with some superb guitar heroics before Dwid’s unmistakable barks launch the song along. The mid-point of the raging +Orrchidia features guitar melodies and soloing that early Iron Maiden would surely have been proud of, and after an opening 40 seconds of noise, Detonate VVorlds Plague showcases some overridden guitar heavily reminiscent of Slayer at their best.

There’s also slower moments that pace the album well, such as the opening to There Is A Sign, or the relatively mid-paced Into The Light which displays some of the best soloing and melodies on the album. Meanwhile, There Ain’t No Living In Life showcases a different side to the band, with some haunting clean guitar over whispered vocals that give way harmonica and electric guitar. It’s like the blues were carried to their most desperate, hateful conclusion. The inclusion of the harmonica is initially a surprise, but it succeeds both musically and in conjuring up the desolate images that is surely the band’s aim. It’s thrilling, but in an even darker, more haunting way to the rest of the album. Special mention must also go to album closer Lucifer Before The Day Doth Go; the combination of Dwid’s vocals and the guitar melodies as the song reaches its crescendo is hair-raising.

At 27 minutes, it’s a relatively short album, but that in no way detracts from its quality – were it much longer then it would become draining and exhausting in a way that’s not intended or enjoyable. And that’s perhaps what stands out on this release. There’s no mistaking that, like previous releases by Integrity, this album is full of hate and attitude. But whereas other releases bristled and made the listener work harder for some of their thrills, this one is full of immediate gratification that hasn’t worn off after dozens of listens. Of course, there will be those who complain that Dwid’s vocals are lacking in refinement, and that some of these songs would benefit from him doing more than bellowing over the majority of them, but I disagree with any such ideas – his vocal style is integral to the style of the band. Based on this release, it’s hard to argue that there’s anything that should change.

Rating: 8.5/10

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