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Together, Unstoppable: Integrity and Krieg Team Up

Integrity Krieg

Collaborative records are a funny thing. Sometimes, as with Kriegs‘s 2015 LP with The Body, both bands combine their strengths — power electronics from The Body, blood-curdling screams from Krieg frontman Neill “Imperial” Jameson –- to produce an entirely original sound. But with the split LP from Krieg and Integrity, it seems to be an exercise in mutual fascination.Though Integrity are the champions of crunchy, palm-muted hardcore, they’ve always been more lyrically expansive than the rest of their Victory Records brethren, discussing genocide, matricide, and everything dastardly in between. On their first release on Relapse, Howling, For The Nightmare Shall Consume (2017), frontman Dwid continued to explore themes of satanism and the antichrist, all while sharpening their instrumentation with the help of new guitarist and Integrity superfan Dom Romeo. For Krieg’s part, Jameson has made his reverence for the hardcore gods known to the world through his column in Decibel magazine, naming Howling, For The Nightmare Shall Consume as his favorite record of 2017. In fact, in the same column, Dwid mentions the split 7”, a sign that this EP has long been in the works. And with Krieg’s frenetic song structure and deep, throaty scream, a combination with the kings of hardcore seem like a natural fit.

Integrity have built up a well-deserved reputation as the kings of American metalcore, solidified by Howling, For The Nightmare Shall Consume, but to dub their output as something as reductive as “metalcore” misses the point. Integrity aren’t here to give you the easy way out, some mindless howling over a circular riff. From the very beginning, the band throws you into the deep end with “Scorched Earth” — Romeo is back, and his fiery fretwork immediately goes toe-to-toe with Dwid’s militant screams, producing a back-and-forth that consistently seems to up the ante of sheer speed and intensity.

Though Romeo’s skills on the guitar add a new layer of melodic brightness to the band, “Flames of the Immortal” sees Integrity largely leaning into their hardcore roots. Echoing screams and a low bassline dominate the track, which slows to nearly a dirge that threatens to collapse under the slow barrage of Dwid’s voice before Romeo’s shiny, power metal riffs carry the track to its dramatic conclusion. Integrity has done covers in the past from across all genres — a Misfits cover on Closure, a tongue-in-cheek rendition of Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself” — which all lend some levity to their releases. On the split, the band not only covers themselves (in the form of a “Sons of Satan” cover from Hellion’s Vermapyre project), but also give their own brutal spin on G.I.S.M.’s “Document One.” As opposed to G.I.S.M.’s haunting, ghoulish hiss, Dwid barks “That’s the information!” like a martial order. G.I.S.M. was a band so ahead of their time in their combination of heavy metal and punk, and Integrity’s cover modernizes their insanely catchy hair-metal riffs while keeping the same incomprehensible, chaotic insanity that Sakevi Yokoyama brought to the original track. It’s clearly a bit out of their comfort zone, vocally, but Dwid’s attempt at a pitched whisper inspires goosebumps with its sinister hiss.

Krieg, similarly, only includes one original track on the record, the scorching, sludgy ripper “Circle of Guilt.” Low and gravely, Neill Jameson’s croak of a voice bursts into the track like a demon belch. In a genre categorized by callousness of its vocalists shredded screams, Jameson has stood out for his ability to harness both the throaty texture of his howl and the guttural depth that so often gets lost in the delivery. Rather than the pinched hiss of 1990s black metal outfits like Judas Iscariot or Nargaroth, his voice seems to echo and reverberate like crashing thunder, a quality he asserted as the vocalist of the ambient doom outfit March Into the Sea. Here, his hoarse growl provides a logical accompaniment to the scuzzy, discordant guitar progressions, which lend a woozy, hypnotic effect to “This Time I’ll Leave You To Drown,” a repurposed cut from the 2012 metal compilation New World Black Metal.

This warped aesthetic makes Krieg the perfect counterbalance for a split with a melodic punk outfit like Integrity: the imprecision of their chord compositions, their lazy time signatures — it reads almost like a “fuck you” after the precision and speed of Integrity’s towering riffs. Finishing out the record, the live cut of “The Sick Winds Stir The Cold Dawn” is an impressive display of Jameson’s uncanny tendency to vacillate between an ungodly wail and a more humanoid moan. It’s a conveniently dynamic side effect of his sloppiness as a performer: as he tells it, his low growl is a result of destroying his vocals while recording Krieg’s sophomore full length Rise of the Imperial Hordes. It’s a hauntingly human way to end a record that often feels like a war against man’s corporal limits.

— Arielle Gordon

The split released today on Relapse. Follow Integrity on Facebook here and Krieg here.

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