Few acts can truly be called pioneers but US act Integrity deserve that accolade for spearheading a movement of hardcore that surpassed the parameters of the genre that flourished during the late 70s and 80s by manipulating the genre into something far more complex yet equally terrifying though I didn’t hear anything by the band until 1995 when I was given a tape of their “Humanity Is The Devil” album from 1995 by a 15 year old student in one of my science lessons to listen to and was suitably impressed. At the helm of the band has been Dwid Hellion since their formation in 1988 backed up by a stable line up since approximately 2014 though it has been four years since the short and downright nasty “Suicide Black Snake” album came out.

This twelfth album sees the direction shift somewhat, adopting a conceptualised approach on the concluding days of Armageddon, a topic that has been done many times in extreme music but what Integrity does with the topic is shift the focus through writhing musicianship that not only sees potent instrumentation but also some of the most vitriolic vocals you’ll ever hear but also a sombre melancholy on the longer tracks. The opening gentle melody that starts on “Fallen To Destroy / Blood Sermon” has a portentous aura with its whispering like vocal emanations linked to lead guitar work before the song literally explodes with a borderline blast beat and truly pernicious throat scraping vocal barrage. Those within the post hardcore vein will love the way this album swerves from gentle sequences into outright aural violence as the first four songs pour sonic scorn straight into the cranium like molten acid as “Hymn For The Children Of The Black Flame” with its berating hardcore malice that continues into “I Am The Spell” and “Die With Your Boots On” (no it isn’t a Maiden cover).

After the scathing and wrathful opening salvo things change with “Serpent Of The Crossroads” which clocks near the seven minute barrier and sees the mood drop into that melancholy but maintaining the harsh vocal delivery as the post hardcore guise manifests nicely here making the song ambitious tinkering with an experimental vision. The lead break is exceptional and whether the band agrees it has a southern rock flavour with lingering notes, as the song momentarily intensifies with the lead becoming slightly menacing before it returns to what one can only say is an awesome lead guitar break, a facet that is colossal on this album from start to finish.

“Unholy Salvation Of Sabbatai Zevi” is also ambitious and long, beginning with a church like keyboard intro piece that relents for the guitar riff to build up the tune as the song adopts a sludge like drum beat and bass riff. The song is moody and despondent even as the vocals snarl in waves of dejected malice but backed up by layers of guitar work that make the song complex linking neatly into “7 Reece Mews” which begins with a serene guitar melody and gentle beat. Again the pace is slow and for some reason it had me thinking of a ravaged dusty desert under a blazing hot sun, not quite Armageddon I know, as the harshly whispered vocals give way to the much harder shouted vocals. The guitar filters in sublimely with a wonderful hook allowing the song to expand gloriously with some deft lead work that is extremely emotive and is a superb song.

Things return to familiar territory for “Burning Beneath The Devil’s Cross” by smashing its bass riff across your face in true hardcore fashion and is extremely catchy and in some respects quite simplistic relatively speaking. This album is about ambition but also remaining true to the bands values and it does that throughout but it will also test the bands fan base with the songs I’ve mentioned earlier and with the title track which has a slow but catchy opening riff, tuneful with sorrowful inclination. The song also has a female vocal backing which was a surprise but it works to add another textural layer to an already formidable album which will certainly raise a few questions amongst the bands established fan base which is exactly what music should do.

(9/10 Martin Harris)