I've always admired Dwid Hellion's laser-focused vision when it comes to everything he's done with Integrity. At this point, Integrity has transcended the whole "metallic hardcore band" thing and created its own cosmos. This is a band/project/mission that exists by its own rules.
Simply put, Integrity is peerless.
Howling, For the Nightmare Will Consume is Integrity ninth studio album, and after listening to it for the past month or so, I will say that it unquestionably is the band’s most fully realized sonic statement. In new guitarist/songwriter Dom Romeo (Pulling Teeth, Ilsa), Dwid has found the perfect accomplice. The collaboration is a potent one, with Dom’s metal-driven riffing and melancholic solo runs proving to be a fertile landscape for Dwid’s corrosive vocal performances and apocalyptic lyrical point of view to travel through.
“Fallen to Destroy” opens the album with an effects-soaked spoken-word passage from Dwid set on top of a symphony of funereal guitars. The procession then kicks into high speed with “Blood Sermon,” a black metal meets crust meets trad metal assault that never lets up. Dom’s whammy bar theatrics are teased here, but it’s the layered and harmony parts he wields throughout the track that let you know you’re in for something special.
“Hymn for the Children of the Black Flame” keeps the frenetic pace going with more dive bomb madness from Dom, and breakneck drumming from Joshua Brettell. Dave Lombardo comes to mind when hearing what Joshua does on this one, especially during the ride cymbal part during the guitar solo section. He’s worked with Dom in the past, so it’s little surprise that the two musicians lock in so well.
Elsewhere on the album, songs like "I Am the Spell" and "Burning Beneath the Devil's Cross" stay true to Integrity's hardcore origins. The tracks that send Howling, For the Nightmare Shall Consume over the edge are the longer ones that build a mood out of Dwid and Dom's respective contributions. "Serpent of the Crossroads" is the first of these epic cuts on the record. The song opens with a sparse guitar intro that brings to mind something the Scorpions would have done during the Uli Jon Roth era of the group, the harder riffing and Dwid enter the fray, taking things back into Integrity Land. It's a journey that the song's longer length lends itself effortlessly to.
"Unholy Salvation of Sabbatai Zevi" is lead by the whirling sounds of church organs, which then gives way to one of the most doom-laden tracks of Integrity's discography to date. "7 Rees Mews" is also a slow-burner, with an ominous vocal performance from Dwid, snaking along to a bed of swirling guitar during the verses, and bursts of chaotic rumble in other sections.
The debaters will debate, but one thing is for certain here, Howling, For the Nightmare Shall Consume hearkens back to a time in music when albums were meant to be digested as one complete thought. This is an album that will bear fruit for many more years to come.
- Relapse Records (Vinyl, CD, mp3, cassette)