How many people copped a copy of the book Burning Fight cause you love 90s hardcore? I definitely did. To my chagrin, Integrity was featured for a lousy three pages. In a book about the oral history of 1990s hardcore, Integrity, a band that during the 1990s the mere mention of their name would evoke controversy and incite a reaction. This is the band that waged a personal war with Tony Brummel & Victory Records (back when the name Victory Records meant something). This is the band that started a war with those guys from Boston. This is the band that started a war with those other guys from NYC. I should qualify that much of the war-waging was perpetrated by two people: vocalist Dwid Hellion and drummer Chubby Fresh.
Integrity is the best 'metalcore' band of all time. I say metalcore in quote marks because Integrity doesn't sound like how people understand metalcore in today's terms. Integrity picked up where Sheer Terror left off. They're a hardcore band in every sense save for their aesthetic, lyrical content, and guitar work. Integrity over the years has had the privilege of seeing some of the best American guitar players in hardcore history. Starting with Aaron "A2" Melnick, Frank "3 Gun" (figure out how he got that nickname) Novinec, Chris Smith, and Mike Jochum. On bass all they ever needed was Leon "Micha" Melnick. Combined with Dwid's apocalyptic lyrics & feral vocals, Integrity had a package that very few bands of the 1990s had. The other bands that could hang with Integrity all happened to be from Cleveland too and featured members that had been in Integrity or were friends with Integrity. Bands like Ringworm, In Cold Blood, One Life Crew, and Bowel. Another band that would become close to Integrity and shared their philosophy was a little band from Bridgeport, CT called Hatebreed.
Integrity wasn't just about the music. It was danger and it was fear personified. They were a band who sought out the fights. They were a band that wanted everything on their terms in no uncertain terms. There was a point where being a die hard (excuse the pun) Integrity fan meant you had a certain appetite for violence and sketchiness. That was before the Holy Terror movement became a movement. After Holy Terror, it turned into a bunch of suburban kids who liked Charles Manson & Aleister Crowley for no real reason other than Dwid put on for them. Living in Texas and in close proximity to Houston, I came to understand a few things about Integrity. First, Houston was a city that took everything I just described about the love of violence & sketchiness espoused by Integrity and made that their scene's identity. Being close to that, I saw first hand what Integrity could condition people to become. I had a friend who was a big Integrity fan and he wanted to get an Integrity skull tattoo. Big deal, right? He gave it to himself. On his kneecap. He said it was the only real way. That's the kind of cult conditioning I'm talking about Integrity instilling.
Integrity's discography is great. Earlier I talked about how Gauze has six great albums to their name and not many hardcore bands can say that. Integrity has four important albums. One of the most frustrating discussions is "what is the best Integrity album?" I personally ride with Systems Overload. Included on this link are Those Who Fear Tomorrow, Humanity Is The Devil, Seasons In The Size Of Days, To Die For, Systems Overload (the recent Rob Orr / A2 remixed version; it sounds better), and Integrity's live album Palm Sunday which features some great banter from Dwid.
Enjoy and understand Integrity. I mean really understand Integrity. The last few years I feel like something has gotten lost about what Integrity is. Integrity isn't quasi-swazis, Chuck Manson, and obscure 70s cults. Integrity is picking a fight for no good reason, making a bad decision, and causing chaos just to see what happens.