Though oft overlooked among their contemporaries in the '90s hardcore scene, Cleveland's Integrity have carefully crafted one of the greatest lasting legacies of any band to come out of the genre. If you're part of the modern hardcore movement, name-drop Integrity as an influence and you'll earn some major street cred.
In the meantime, the band once signed to Victory Records is now a part of Baltimore's A389 Recordings and is distributing a series of reissues of all their classic music for a new generation to hear.
It's no secret that many of Integrity's releases are extremely difficult to obtain, especially the various singles and split releases that were mostly only sold at shows in the '90s. It's long been a case of “you had to be there” with this band. That's all changing with front man and sole original member Dwid Hellion's renewed focus on the band's earlier work.
Perhaps the biggest draw of the new versions of these classic albums is that they are completely remixed and remastered by Dwid himself. Integrity were a product of their time, which meant that many of their releases were nigh unlistenable owing to their poor sound quality. That may contribute to their longstanding popularity, given punk's commitment to DIY ethics, but Dwid has long been unhappy with that.
“The remixed versions have breathed some new life into the recordings,” he says. “We have been lucky to work with some great producers who have been able to reveal some new texture to those albums. For me, I always set out to make records that I would like to listen to, that were not available at that time.”
Now, for the first time, fans can hear the vision that Dwid had in mind when Integrity first recorded classic records like Systems Overload and Humanity Is the Devil. The latter is among the more recent reissues, along with a new compilation of rare tracks titled Den of Iniquity and a new edition of the band's seminal live record, Palm Sunday.
Despite his own comfort with his band's earlier work, Dwid has backed off from some of his youthful statements on Palm Sunday. In particular, when asked about the violence in the crowd that he talks about throughout the live album, he told me that he was referring more to the dancing in the crowd, and “it was simply inspirational stage banter to get the crowd worked up.”
Dwid still goes by the surname “Hellion,” but he's mellowed out a lot in the past 25 years. More recent records such as Suicide Black Snake have contained slower, yet no less heavy, material that features more intricate songwriting. This Dwid chalks up to "a desire for us to write longer, epic songs.”
Part of that mellowing-out process has meant that the band's relentless live touring schedule has calmed down significantly. “We play an occasional one-off show each year,” Dwid remarked. “Life has gotten far too complicated to allow touring.”
Also, fans shouldn't get their hopes up that the Systems Overload lineup of the band, which performed for A389's tenth anniversary as a record label, will ever play again. According to Dwid, this was yet another one-off, and was probably the only opportunity for that lineup to play together again.
For now, we'll have to be content with the reissues. Humanity is the Devil, pared down to its original track list and lacking the Victory Records inclusions of tracks by Dwid's side project Psywarfare and other rarities, sounds fantastic in its new form and showcases the band at the peak of its powers in the '90s.
Their 1997 release, Seasons In the Size of Days, is next on Dwid's agenda. The band is also together writing new material, but neither of these projects has a release date on the horizon. In the meantime, enjoy these classics either in a new light or for the very first time as Integrity once again make a name for themselves in the hardcore community.
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