Review Summary: The original metalcore album that was born out of confusion, insanity, and Cleveland street life. Since its 1991 release, nothing has rivaled Integrity's For Those Who Fear Tomorrow in originality or intensity. FTWFT's effects are both violent and hallu
Integrity's For Those Who Fear Tomorrow is a hardcore juggernaut that has lurked in infamy for over 15 years. Recorded in 1991, For Those Who Fear Tomorrow is often credited as on of the first true "metalcore" albums. While hardcore crossover bands like the Cro Mags and Corrosion of Conformity had existed before Integrity, few were prepared for the world Integrity brought to life with their debut album. FTWFT's razor sharp metallic edges, driving hardcore verses, and gloomy breakdowns set a stage for one of hardcore's most messianic and charismatic front men: Dwid Hellion.
Set to FTWFT’s eerie and violent sonic landscape, singer Dwid is in a world that he seemed to have been born for. Dwid’s vocals are monochromatic and utterly psychotic, a wholly unique approach that for all its theoretic incorrectness comes across completely and totally animalistic. Somehow, Dwid’s bizarre vocal delivery works perfectly on FTWFT and the ugly terrain that his lyrics tackle extrapolates the hardcore rulebook at every turn.
People have to keep in mind that part of what made IFTWFT so incendiary at the time of its 1991 released is that Integrity were, for the most part, participating in a scene that was made up of clean-cut, “posi-youth” hardcore kids. The jock-like trends in the hardcore scene were in full effect at that time and much of hardcore’s lyrical content was infused with hokey “us against them’ messages that were often delivered with gang-chorus mentality and rarely resonated with any kind of true introspection. This was music for suburban white boys who wanted a uniform to wear, to be unified in shouting along with a battle call. Integrity arrived, tattooed and impossibly dark in both sound and ideology, and offered something that was significantly darker and infused with a chaos that was more true to life than the “Break Down The Walls” mentality of the music scene which bore them.
FTWFT’s opens with 28 seconds of ambience, which would become a staple in Dwid’s career (releasing noise/ambient records under the Psywarefare throughout the 90s), and from even this brief introduction the listener is informed that this is no run-of-the-mill NYC hardcore offering. Then comes Dwid’s unforgettable growl as he shouts “Micha!” and the albums title track, and first proper song, begins. “Micha: For Those Who Fear Tomorrow” is as important as any other song in 1990s hardcore. It signifies the arrival of a new vision and single handedly paves the way for every “metalcore” act, from Earth Crisis to Hatebreed to Killswitch Engage, that would follow.
And for all those bands that would follow, few of them approached the sinister, totally vicious delivery of FTWFT’s opening song. With its sludgy, wiry bass and unusually crisp drumming the song announces Integrity’s arrival. By the time guitarist Aaron Melnick enters at 0:13, the listener is already gasping for air amidst a sound that is as punishing as anything since Slayer’s 1996 Reign In Blood. And then, there’s the lyrics:
I’m gonna take you down
When I want in and out
Nothing can save your misery
Don’t know shit about me, you think you do?
You don’t know anything
Sink to the bottom of all hell breaking loose
That dance floors filled with straightedge, politically minded hardcore youth sang these lyrics along with Dwid (and they did) still seems almost preposterous. One has to understand the dogmatic and almost fascistic tendencies of the hardcore scene in the late 80s and early 90s. There was, in fact, a general aversion to “heavy metal culture” and the hedonistic, escapist trappings of the heavy metal world. Integrity actually embodied many of metal’s excesses and extremities, both in sound and presentation. This is part of what makes the FTWFT story so irresistible. In truth, Integrity’s music was simply good enough to prevail and its fusion of horror, hardcore, metal, and street-level prophecy outshined any other hardcore record released at that time. The kids might not have been truly conscious of the kind of dark verse they were singing along with and Dwid, often performing with a maniacal smile, might have relished this insidious crowd control.
Dwid’s lyrical content offers a unique vision. It’s something like a combination of Arthur Rimbaud and Cleveland street trash; and there’s something to do with evil in there as well, almost satanic. On FTWFT, there are tales of apocalypse, death, homicidal truckers, revenge, and Christ-like violence. At its most terrifying, it’s hard to interpret what FTWFT is actually purveying, but we somehow know that it’s attune with the dark side, the underbelly.
None of this would have been effective without guitarist Aaron Melnick, whose tenure in the band effectively marks the classic and best period of Integrity. Integrity’s material subsequent to Aaron’s departure ranges from horrible to pretty darn good, but there is a magic that is never recaptured. Melnick is part Kerry King, part Kirk Hammet, part Misfits, and part Porcell. There is no mistaking that Melnick, at the time of FTWFT, borrowed heavily from the thrash metal songbook, particularly when it came to his solos. Yet, Melinick’s proficiency as a player succeeds and set against FTWFT’s bleak, harrowing backdrop, the gratuitous soloing takes on a hypnotic and almost neurotic quality: pushing the music further over the edge. Integrity’s problems, both inter-personal and with the world at large, would go on to become the stuff of legend but, for the moment, they seemed sharply focused on the purpose of making FTWFT a masterpiece.
Drummer Tony Pines (Chubby Fresh) who would enter/exit the band numerous times over the next 15 years is fantastically tight and methodical, as are the remaining two members: Micha Melnick (bass) and Chris Smith (guitar). Perhaps the final stroke of luck that helped FTWFT aspire to greatness is its astounding production. For its time, this record holds up better than most metal records that were backed by major label budgets. Courtesy of the Mars Recording Compound in Cleveland (where Integrity would go on to record most of the material), FTWFT’s mix is ungodly tight and the guitars cut with a jagged precision that calls to mind, well, a knife. Engineer Bill Korecky had the good sense to use hallucinatory effects on some of Dwid’s more subdued, haunting moments and this furthered that paranormal delivery. Few records from this era stand up this well, sonically speaking, and after recently being issued as a “Deluxe 15th Anniversary Edition” FTWFT is still very capable of bearing its fangs and taking on anything in its path.
Integrity would go on to record numerous records for the hardcore powerhouse Victory Records. Several of these records, particularly Systems Overloaded (which I actually prefer), approach FTWFT’s impact, but none would resonate the way Integrity’s first album did. In fact, the album has been issued in close to 10 different editions and formats. It has never received proper distribution or promotion, but it has survived: a truly bastardized child of hardcore, metal, and a darkness of the soul.
After four great albums, guitarist Aaron Melnick left Integrity after the tour for 1997’s Season’s in the Size of Days. Dwid would continue recording and touring under the Integrity moniker, occasionally venturing into more experimental territory with the music. In 2003, Dwid once again resurrected Integrity and was poised for a true comeback with the backing of the Deathwish, Inc. record label. True to the band’s tumultuous history, the tour for the album was halted by violence and paranoia and Dwid again went subterranean, moving to Belgium and existing as an almost mythological figure. Several compilations and live albums have been recently issued and interest in the band remains feverishly cult-like. In 2006, Dwid released a darkly gothic, experimental album under the name Roses Never Fade.