The Blackest Curse

Written by: AP on 20/09/2010 18:57:36

Descending clockwise down the pentagram of hardcore discoveries, we are now at the third spike, which I have decided to dedicate to one of the oldest, and most influential bands in the genre. And just as the previous three bands, Integrity have a special relationship to the allmighty Converge - however, in this case the relationship is inverse, at least to some extent. The band surfaced two years prior to Converge, and listening to what their music sounds like today, it would be foolish to discount the chance that Integrity were, in fact, one of the bands that can be held accountable for the formation of Converge. The irony is that Converge have since become an icon not just to the genre of hardcore, but to music as a whole, whereas Integrity have preferred to remain an exclusive underground taste, and are now actually signed with Jacob Bannon's Deathwish Inc. label.

This latest outing, "The Blackest Curse" maintains the fierce spirit of old school hardcore that has persisted in Integrity's music for the past two decades, which is to say that those adverse to muddy production, heavily downtuned guitars and general truism should stop reading here. Musically it may not be obvious, but Integrity are actually quite a unique proposition in hardcore circles, dealing in themes like religion, mental illness and the supernatural and occult - topics which are typically explored by death, black and thrash metal bands. And indeed, musical influences from each of the three corners of extreme metal are clearly audible here in the Slayer style speed and Floyd Rosage of "Through the Shadows of Forever" and "Simulacra"; in the chugging heaviness of "Process of Illumination" and "The Last Great Seance"; in the abundant use of dissonant, ominous melodies and tremolo riffs; and in the general dissent towards modern production techniques - true to the teachings of Varg Vikernes, who once stated that his band then, the infamous Mayhem, used cheap computer microphones for recording vocals to achieve the worst possible sound (the numerous shootings, stabbings and beatings attributed to Integrity's name need not be discussed, but are worth mentioning in this context). As such, despite the vast divide between hardcore and black metal, it isn't impossible to detect a faint similarity between Integrity and both Darkthrone and Mayhem.

There are straight-up hardcore pieces on offer too in "Learn to Love the Lie" and "Secret Schadenfreude" - which represent the accessible end of Integrity's spectrum - but once these highballers have been swept aside, the second half of the album exposes two brilliant progressive pieces in "Before the VVorld VVas Young" and "Invocation of the Eternally Coiling Serpent" - both of which sound exceptionally similar to Celtic Frost! How often does one get to say that about a hardcore album? Then again, such unfaltering dedication to remaining a cult underground band comes at a cost: the album is extremely difficult to digest despite its many rewards and has a tendency to become a little self-indulgent in its gait. But if truly old school, uncompromising hardcore sounds like an intriguing prospect, "The Blackest Curse" is as good as they come, and as such a highly recommended release for fans of such grime.

Download: Simulacra, Learn to Love the Lie, Before the VVorld VVas Young, Invocation of the Eternally Coiling Serpent
For the fans of: Converge, Pulling Teeth, Ringworm
Listen: Myspace

Release date 31.05.2010
Deathwish Inc.

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