Should have been. Could have been. This has been the tale of Integrity since the release of their debut. On each successive album they display a wealth of potent ideas but somehow they never reach the jaw-dropping heights that they could if their potential was fully realised. None more exemplify this problem than Integrity’s sophomore effort, Systems Overload
seems based on solid groundwork, a more hardcore-orientated approach to the blackened metalcore sound they pioneered on Those Who Fear Tomorrow
and at first it seems the lightning of inspiration has struck twice, perhaps even harder than before. “Incarnate 365” is a triumphant statement of destruction, three massive NYHC-esque breakdowns with screeching Slayer-influenced solos, demonic vocals and powerful sampling. It emphasises everything that is great about Integrity and stands as one of the best songs they’ve ever put to disc.
Shame the rest of the album doesn’t stand up as well.
While there are touches of brilliance throughout, ninety percent of the time the songs bring to the fore the problems that were glimpsed upon Those Who Fear Tomorrow
; unfocused songwriting with overreliance on derivative conventions for substance. Such is the case here as Systems relies far too heavily on fast-paced d-beat sections and chaotic soloing to carry the weight of the songwriting. Many a time a riffs starts to run out of steam due to constant repetition, a rush of d-beat drumming cuts in to take up the slack or a solo is used to enhance the dying riffs. As unoriginal as this maybe it would have been tolerable if these elements had been well executed but they aren’t. The d-beat sections are flat and lifeless and the soloing, while great, feels like yet another excuse for the band’s lack of imagination. However perhaps the greatest fault lies with the production. Thanks to a “quick fix” by Victory Records, the music is lost in a smog of reverb and effectively neutered because of it. It’s a sad finishing touch to a ruined vision. It could have been, should have been so much more but thanks to a lack of inventiveness and a lot of greed what remains is a hollow husk of unfulfilled greatness.