Review Summary: Integrity are merely continuing the evolution of their sound, all the while retaining that trademark seething style of metallic hardcore from which they are so well known for.
Since 1988, Integrity have been at the forefront of hardcore-punk and metal, meshing the two sounds together in a fury of killer riffs, wailing solos, and the shouts and screams of lead vocalist and founding member Dwid Hellion – who also happens to be the only consistent member of the band throughout their twenty-five year career. With lyrical themes based around religion, the supernatural, individualism, and on more recent releases, the occult – Dwid continues to re-invent the bands sound, and their tenth full-length album Suicide Black Snake sees them delving more into cult depths.
With this shift in tone, the music switches between moments of fast-paced aggressiveness to more slow-burning/mellower pieces that are more akin to the low-tempo tracks heard on their previous album The Blackest Curse. However, lifelong fans and those new to the band need not worry, as Integrity are merely continuing the evolution of their sound, all the while retaining that trademark seething style of metallic hardcore from which they are so well known for.
With a few crashes of the cymbal opening up the album – which soon leads into a build up of chords being rung out over a kick drum pattern – the title track “Suicide Black Snake” is not an “in your face” opener that goes for the quick kill; instead it focuses on a steady pace of down-tuned riffs and chugs, coupled with a rhythmic pattern of drum hits that slowly entice you, keeping you hooked as if caught in an hypnotic haze.
But the sheer driving force in this song are the vocals; those patented deep bellows of Dwid echo over the instruments, creating an eerie and overall haunting atmosphere which hit the hardest – and in doing so, also setting the tone firmly in place for the remainder of the album. Even after the whispered and raspy lines of “Suicide Black Snake” repeat until slowly fading out, the initial tone doesn’t let up as the melodic opening of “I Know Where Everyone Lives” bridges the two tracks together as one morose sounding tune.
Now, don’t be to quick to judge this album as a downgrade in terms of speed and angst, as the core of this album is golden-age era Integrity, taking you all the way back to the days of Humanity Is The Devil, to the even more recent To Die For. This is where the “in your face” tracks come into play – and as with any Integrity album, these are the lifeblood and staple of the band. Out of the four tracks, with the longest one being a little over the two-minute mark, they pick up the pace without risking the albums bleak tone. “Beasts As Gods” is a galloping force of double bass with a pretty wicked solo firmly planted near the songs end. “There Is A Sign” is a juggernaut of a track; it does a fine job of balancing between its sheer heaviness and a middle section that is rooted more in thrash and hardcore/punk-rock. The two-hit combo of “+Orrchida” and “All Is None” will leave you battered; each track separately are short bursts of speed and rage, but combined, they pack a hefty punch.
Shortly after the pummeling left behind by the previous tracks, the album does offer up a nice instrumental track – aside from a few whispered vocals that make an appearance at the beginning and end. But for the most part, “There Ain’t No Living In Life” is a relaxing piece of music that features a lone guitar taking up the first two minutes, slowly working its way up until the harmonica comes in and the music takes a bluesy approach. At this point the rest of the band explodes into a melodic jam, complete with lots of feedback and distortion, and a solo that carries over the rest of the song before returning back to the lone strums of the guitar.
The remainder of the album’s three tracks follow suit, except for the B-Side sounding “Into The Night”, which is sort of an oddball when taken into account of the albums overall context. However, the album’s closer “Lucifer Before The Day Doth Go” shifts the tone back into gear, focusing on more of a mid to low-tempo pace, similar to that of the opening track. It’s as grandiose as Integrity can be without being over the top, and brings the album to a fitting close.
Dwid and co. have once again refined their roles as being one of the top tier bands in the metallic hardcore scene with the release of Suicide Black Snake. It is easy to see why so many bands today do their best to emulate them, but there is only one Integrity – and their sound is so embedded into our core that we can’t help but enjoy every outing from this band of deviants. Even though the production on this album seems clearer and more robust, given the nature of the albums theme and tone, it manages to retain a layer of grit to it. Overall, their tenth full-length album is as heavy, foreboding, and raw as any diehard hoped it would be, and even with its changes in pace, the album maintains a steady flow. While I wouldn’t recommend Suicide Black Snake as a starting point to begin listening to Integrity, it does put the band back on track for those who have been with them since the early days, and might have felt their last few releases were lacking. Rest assured, Integrity are back with a vengeance and this album confirms it.