Ringworm is a blessed band. Blessed with talent that not many hardcore bands have been able to possess. Blessed with larger than life personalities whose names are held up by the foundation of legend. Blessed for being in the Dark Empire Clevo scene. It goes on and on. For every blessing in life, there's always an albatross and the albatross in Ringworm's life can be described in one word: Integrity. Through no fault of Ringworm's (or Integrity's, for that matter), as time has gone on and the history of hardcore is being written (and rewritten), Ringworm has been overlooked as just some band that played Integrity's style of hardcore. Here's what you need to realize about Ringworm: they were not a band chasing Integrity trying to keep up nor were they just some band. They were Integrity's equals and, in some instances, better. That's why it borders on offensive when modern hardcore kids talk about Ringworm as just another "Holy Terror" band, as if they are some disciple of Integrity's, on the same footing as a Pale Creation. The modern discussion about Ringworm's place in history sorely lacks perspective.
For as much as Integrity held up their sketchy business like a trophy for audiences to 'ohh' & 'ahh' over, Ringworm went about their business quietly. If Integrity is the loudmouth at the bar who tells you they will beat you up if you mess with them, Ringworm is the quiet guy sitting at the corner of the bar with a knife stashed in his jacket sleeve waiting for an excuse to put it in your neck. Integrity is the flashy, sexy choice between the two, no argument there. What Integrity has in the way of urban legend, Ringworm has in spades with mythology. Their vocalist Human Furnace won't explain how he got the nickname. People who know the story won't repeat it. Frank "3Gun" Novinec (formerly of Terror, now Hatebreed) was guitarist for the band in their prime. 3Gun's nickname has its own story. It goes that in the 1990s, when all of Cleveland was odds at with much of the Northeast, 3Gun was playing a show somewhere in upstate New York in a town with a heavy crew presence. The crew had a problem with Cleveland and was preparing to make something of it. 3Gun, alerted to the threat, saw some of the crew's members and lifted his shirt to reveal three handguns tucked into his waistband. He simply asked "do we have a problem here?" causing the crew to immediately back off. The story personifies Ringworm. Armed to the tooth, ready and willing to fight, but not prepared to do a song and dance about it. It is easy to see then why people gravitated toward Integrity because of their boastful nature, but it doesn't make it less egregious that so many people overlook the institution that is Ringworm.
The Promise & Birth Is Pain are hardcore classics. The Promise is, in my opinion, the best metal influenced Cleveland hardcore album. It has so much going on in it and it doesn't let up. The Promise's guitar work shines from the moment the album opens by the sample declaring "there is no god" into "Numb / Blind To Faith". 3Gun's guitar work is that rare kind where it becomes a force unto itself speaking like a second vocalist. It is almost like 3Gun is conscious of the stoppage in Human Furnace's vocals and seizes the opportunity to take over. Human Furnace's vocals have a tinge of anxiety in them. Not anxious like "I'm nervous that I'm recording right now" but in the way that there is a sense of grave clairvoyance to his lyrics. For as strong as the guitar work is on The Promise, Chris Dora's drum work on Birth Is Pain is equally exceptional. From the minute the album starts, Chris Dora's drums attack. When you hear bands like Connecticut's Palehorse, who are heavily influenced by the Cleveland sound, and the remarkable drumming jumps out at you, know that you are hearing something influenced by Chris Dora.
Ringworm is still gigging today (they're actually playing Dallas tonight). While the lineup has had some changes, some things are still the same. Human Furnace is still the imposing force he has always been. The music is still talented as it is dynamic. Above all else, their work ethic has never declined. They still release albums (great ones, which is saying something) and they still tour relentlessly. Ringworm is important because they are important. Some bands demand value and credence because of how long they've been around despite sometimes being unremarkable. Others demand respect because of their locale. Ringworm do neither. They just write good music and let that do their talking for them.
Included is The Promise & Birth Is Pain.