Integrity & Krieg
A Review By: Matthew MacDermant
Integrity and Krieg, pioneers and trailblazers of metal, together for a split. This is incredible, if altogether apocalyptic news. Respectively leading the way in disturbing, haunting, raucous, and chaotic sounds in their own right, this collaboration is a stroke of evil genius.
Integrity, formed in Cleveland back in ‘88, splicing the harshest currents of hardcore punk, metal, thrash, and noise together with a thorough sense of misanthropy and despair over the state of the human condition. Through Integrity, metal and hardcore got married, paving the way for countless bands that followed in their wake. So much of what we know today as hard music, from post-hardcore to screamo to metalcore, owes a debt, at least in part, to Integrity. As Albert Mudrian of Decibel points out, “They’re one of the watershed artists” for heavy music genres. Frontman Dwid Hellion is infamous for staying ahead of the curve and putting out one punishing hit after another. Integrity “opened the door,” and that’s a door that just can’t be closed. The madness cannot be put back into the containment from whence it was conjured.
The central focus of this group has always been the disturbing, the strange, the violent, the misunderstood. Moreover, Integrity as a band is about anything but the integrity of human beings and the entire human primate experiment upon the planet. It is just the opposite. Hellion contends that, “Humanity is a disease and a virus that moves at great speed to destroy not only itself, but everything around it.” It is not the job of Hellion or anyone in Integrity to right this sinking ship. No, the band, it’s off-kilter menacing melodies, it’s unrelenting lyrical force, are merely a reflection of this state of things. Integrity is merely a passive observer of all that keeps us up at night, as individuals and as a species. The music is dark, raw, angry, and weird, just like human kind. Yet, through music, one can perhaps experience a small amount of catharsis, momentary freedom from fleshborn imprisonment that infects every man, woman, and child. This temporary repreve is Integrity’s gift to us all.
Krieg (German for War) calls Philadelphia home and has been making cuts since 1995. While also leading the way, Krieg is a wholly different sound. They are primarily Black Metal, with interludes of sludgy melodic riffs to both break up and compliment the harsh vocals so essential to the genre content. Krieg really sets the mood to a low melancholy and conjures forth so much that lays dormant in the human psyche.
Frontman Neill Imperial focuses the music on a despondent vision of morbid nihilism. The Krieg sound is an expression of darkness and despair because it mirrors Imperial’s inner world. Breakdowns, nightmares, headaches, and a constant struggle for inner control highlight the inspiration of Krieg’s music. From this world of inner pain comes a beautiful ugliness, stylized by harsh vocals, gothic melodies, and an oscillation between heavy and sludgy riffs. It is hard and disturbingly awesome, yes, but also a strong juxtaposition to Integrity. This is a very good thing, because it executes so well on the split, without feeling contrived.
While there is overlap, Integrity and Krieg are quite different musically. The two master rendezvous in the darkness, in the depths of the human condition. However, the way this shared experience is expressed diverges considerably. This makes for a very interesting collaboration. As listeners we get glimpses of the many sides of violence which dwells within. It is a multidimensional trip felt through the whole body rather than being some marketing ploy. I respect that and I have little doubt that anyone who calls themselves a fan of hard music will find this split to be a very welcome kick in the head.
The split is loaded with technical guitar solos layered on top or behind non-stop drum beats and fast unforgiving riffs. Hellion’s ability to just peer through our souls with lyrical assaults is, as always, legendary. He is a powerhouse through all four songs. A very nice touch was the G.I.S.M. cover “Document One.” It is one of the few good covers of those guys. It pays homage, while also being a totally different animal.
Krieg is not a lyrical assault a la Integrity. They really shine for their instrumentation. The vibe is immediately taken to a dark, brooding place upon switching from track four to five. Yet, they too are multi-dimensional. In “Circle of Guilt” we get the many sides of Krieg as the song goes through stages. It tells a story that begins depressingly deep, but progresses to sheer despair as the tempo picks up and the lyrics harshen to express the shift. The same goes for “This Time I’ll Leave You to Drown.” We get the range of low and high rasps on the vocal side, but the instrumentation is utterly hypnotic. It seriously takes the listener to a whole different place. It alters perception. It alters reality. Or perhaps it merely reveals the real that we refuse to see.
I could go on, but I think I will just quote one off handing YouTube quote I found while watching the new video for “Scorched Earth.” Doc Lo’s Beast Mode had this to say to the people who put thumbs down on the video:
“The 38 people who disliked this…need to be burnt alive, during the apocalypse…with this on in the background!”
Is Doc Lo’s Beast Mode a journalistic prodigy of some kind? Probably. He poetically states the obvious; “Scorched Earth” is an amazing cut. I think he and all other fans of Integrity, Krieg, or hard music in general will find this split to be a repeat favorite.