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Integrity - "The Blackest Curse" (CD)

Integrity - "The Blackest Curse" CD cover image

"The Blackest Curse" track listing:

1. Process Of Illumination (3:01)
2. Through The Shadows Of Forever (3:03)
3. Simulacra (2:32)
4. Learn To Love The Lie (3:46)
5. Secret Schadenfreude (3:02)
6. Before the VVorld VVas Young (8:03)
7. The Last Great Seance (3:37)
8. Spiderwoven (2:19)
9. Invocation Of The Eternally Coiling Serpent (6:08)
10. Take Hold Of Forever (1:44)

Reviewed by on May 21, 2010

"For those sick and tired of the sleek production and tame riffs of modern metallic hardcore, 'The Blackest Curse' is the vicious cure that will snap some sense into those willing to listen."

Isn’t it funny how one band gets popular, while the band that influenced them is stuck in obscurity? Metallica got big, while Diamond Head was a small blip in the metal radar. Fates Warning was doing progressive metal way before Dream Theater even got together, yet the latter got all the accolades in the mainstream, while the former became cult icons. For every band that made a name for themselves lies another band that should have gotten more recognition than they received.

Converge and Hatebreed have become household names over the past decade for bringing a fresh energy to the metalcore/hardcore scene. No doubt that these two bands have had an immense impact on those two genres; too bad that Integrity was slinging that sound a decade before they hit it big. Integrity has never gotten a fair shake for how influential their 1992 debut album “Those Who Fear Tomorrow” really was. Listen to that album, then listen to “Jane Doe” or “Perseverance” and see the striking similarities between them.

After a series of complications and split 7”, a new studio album, “The Blackest Curse,” has been unleashed on an unassuming metal public. The ten tracks range across the spectrum from quick slabs of hardcore fury to miniature opuses. Just when one thinks they know what the rest of the album will sound like, the band throws a curve ball in the equation that completely changes the complexion of the album. “The Blackest Curse” is a thrilling return into the dim spotlight for Integrity that overcomes a few misfires near the end.

“The Blackest Curse” seems like a relic from the days when hardcore meant more than just one-note breakdowns and faux aggression. The production is dry, lacking the clean finesse of most modern albums. With a few exceptions, the songs are short and calculated, packing a ton of distorted riffs and sonic disobedience in a three-minute span. Over the years, Integrity has honed in their mix of hardcore and metal and this is apparent from the very opening notes of “Process Of Illumination.” The band works this formula for the entire album without becoming redundant or bland.

The first half of the album is pretty linear, with track after track of intensity that goes from Slayer worship on “Simulacra” to a stomping mid-paced tempo on “Secret Schadenfreude.” A break isn’t in the cards until the album takes a 180 turn with the brooding epic “Before the VVorld VVas Young.” All of a sudden, acoustic guitars come out and melody comes into the picture. The band has had their share of opuses in the past, but none of them comes close to the emotional punch that “Before the VVorld VVas Young” delivers. The soulful lead guitar work, the perfect explosive build-up, a return to acoustic splendor; it has everything that a well-rounded epic should have.

“Invocation Of The Eternally Coiling Serpent” is a sinister beast, throaty whispers underneath jagged guitar harmonies that take their sweet ass time. A momentary burst of speed is exposed on occasion, but it isn’t until the last minute where the craziness ensues and ends the album on a heavy note. Well, that would be the case if “Take Hold Of Forever” wasn’t right after it. A two-minute outro as unnecessary as KFC’s Double Down sandwich, the song kills the momentum of the previous track and ends the album on a questionable note.

The last few moments of the album not withstanding, “The Blackest Curse” has the potential to make Integrity a relevant band again. The band enters this decade on a tear, readying to maim any poser hardcore bands that get accolades just because they know how to write a proper breakdown. For those sick and tired of the sleek production and tame riffs of modern metallic hardcore, “The Blackest Curse” is the vicious cure that will snap some sense into those willing to listen.

Highs: Dripping with intensity, dry production works well, surprisingly effective epic "Before the VVorld VVas Young."

Lows: "Take Hold Of Forever" is a bland way to end the album, needed a few more speedy tracks like "Spiderwoven."

Bottom line: Integrity shows how relevant they can still be after 20+ years with a vicious metallic hardcore assault.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)