Recorded throughout 1992 but never released officially outside of splits and singles until 2012, Integrity’s Kingdom of Heaven EP showcases the band at their dirtiest, sludgiest yet at times their most brilliant and refined. Unfortunately, it was released for rather dark (or maybe optimistic, depending on how you look at it) reasons: to celebrate the life and career of their original drummer, David Araca, who sadly passed away from a brain aneurism in 1994.
Clocking in at just under 15 minutes (or 12 if you don’t have the version with the Negative Approach cover as a closer), the band manages to squeeze a surprising amount of versatility into these four songs. Starting with some quiet clean dissonance being washed up by a downtuned sludgy guitar, you can tell from the beginning that Integrity means aren’t sticking to the exact formula of their monumental debut album, Those Who Fear Tomorrow. And while they might rely on groove and slower riffing for many sections of this release, they are still quite keen on entering a fast-paced d-beat punk section, often to knock it down with a fierce guitar solo which often conjoins into a heavy, low-fretted riff fest.
Then there’s Eighteen. A rather strange track for integrity at this time, but in my opinion one of their best. Featuring some of the earliest Dwid cleans over a softly strummed clean guitar chord, the song is a melodic and atmospheric track that grows into something huge. The song quickly takes a turn for the heavy with one of Integrity’s trademarked subtly smooth guitar solos. Before you know it, the chords are bending, the snare is rushing and Dwid is shrieking loud and shrill as if he is a product of the Devil himself.
The production also adds quite a bit of girth to the EP’s already huge sounding songs. The secret here is low end, and guitarist Aaron “A2” Melnick seems to hold the key. The distortion tone he exhibits here is dense, thick, and very monolithic. The lo-fi sounding production certainly aids this, giving the tone a certain razor sharp edge that would make it sound more like a pendulous axe than a small scimitar or some other type of sword.
Medieval weaponry references aside, the production on this is not quite perfect. Sure, the guitar tone is awesome, but what about the other members? Well, for the most part everyone is quite audible, apart from the bass. The bass tracks are pretty inaudible and often seem to be buried under the mammoth guitar tone. Which is a shame, because some of the moments on the debut are as amazing as they are because of the bass keeping it all together. Oh well. At least the drums sound pretty good - you can tell he was really pounding away at them as if his life depended on it. And Dwid’s vocals are perfectly placed in the mix: loud, up close and personal.
All in all, this is some Integrity’s best work, and the last recorded with the debut line-up. While I can’t quite recommend it to everyone do to its abrasiveness and rough production, it is certainly a must-hear for Integrity fans.