INTEGRITY: HUMANITY IS THE DEVIL/DEN OF INIQUITY/PALM SUNDAY

(MAGIC BULLET RECORDS/VICTORY RECORDS/DARK EMPIRE/SPOOK CITY RECORDS; reissues 2015, original releases 1995/1993/2006)

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Cleveland, Ohio’s Integrity have been crushing the masses with their signature brand of occult tinged metallic hardcore for nearly 30 years. Along with Earth Crisis and fellow Clevelandites Ringworm, Dwid Hellion and Company essentially created the metalcore sub genre (though all of those acts shun the overused term today). Naturally, when I heard that Magic Bullet Records would be releasing a remastered version of the seminal HUMANITY IS THE DEVIL, along with a collection of rarities and demos called DEN OF INIQUITY and a live offering from 1992 (which wasn’t unleashed upon the world until 2006) entitled PALM SUNDAY, I was beyond stoked.

Integrity, 1995 (photo credit TINA BRUGNOLETTI)

Integrity, 1995 (photo credit TINA BRUGNOLETTI)

HUMANITY IS THE DEVIL sees Integrity embracing their metal influences to the fullest. Crushing riffs are brutally weaved with dynamic drum beats, only to be crowned with Hellion’s maniacal growl and conceptually dark lyrics. The punk aspects aren’t completely absent from HUMANITY… , but they’re definitely overpowered by the metallic riffage and more complex song arrangements commonly found in the annals of mid ’90s metal. The real treat of this reissue is the clarity and cohesiveness of the remaster. The guitars are brought to the forefront, with the vocals being dialed back from their original overpowering state. Tracks such as “Hollow” and “Jagged Visions” have a much more dynamic feel, finding their true sound twenty years after their initial release. The album is brought to an end with an apocalyptic sermon narrated by Hellion, backed by an eerie soundscape that is creepy enough to make Damien Thorn piss his jam-jams.

Integrity (Dwid Hellion, circa 2011) (uncredited photo)

Integrity (Dwid Hellion, circa 2011) (uncredited photo)

Second up in this trilogy of Holy Terror is DEN OF INIQUITY. A collection of EPs, splits, live cuts and rarities, DEN… , by nature, is a bit of a mixed bag. Most of the songs here are solid, hiccuped with the occasional misstep. The problem isn’t the content itself, but due to being a compilation of songs spanning over a decade, the pacing, at times, feels wonky and disjointed; live tracks mingle amongst studio recordings, with stylistic changes laced throughout leaving the listener feeling a bit confused.

Finally, PALM SUNDAY is a live set recorded in 1992 at the now defunct Peabody’s in the band’s hometown of Cleveland. Antagonistic and vehement, Hellion whips the crowd into a fervor whilst belting out an array of tunes from the bands 1991 effort THOSE WHO FEAR TOMORROW, along with the rarities “Rebirth” and “Live It Down” (both of which are included on the aforementioned DEN OF INIQUITY collection).

Integrity (Dwid Hellion, circa 2013) (uncredited photo)

Integrity (Dwid Hellion, circa 2013) (uncredited photo)

Integrity are one of the most legendary acts in all of underground heavy music. They’ve influenced countless acts the world over and have remained a cornerstone in the aggressive music scene for nearly three decades. If you’re a fan of punk, metal or hardcore, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of this reissue of the iconic HUMANITY IS THE DEVIL, with DEN OF INIQUITY and PALM SUNDAY being reserved for die hard Integrity completists only. All three records are available at www.magicbulletrecords.com.


CHEETAH CHROME: SOLO

(PLOWBOY RECORDS EP; 2013) A REVIEW FROM THE VAULT

Cheetah Chrome cover

Cheetah Chrome has weathered the storm of the punk movement and forged his own (quite vocal and opinionated) path, emerging as a sort of “elder statesman” (he’s still only 59) of American rock and roll. As a member of Rocket From the Tombs, Chrome laid the groundwork for Cleveland’s punk scene; when that band split into two separate groups (Peter Laughner and David Thomas formed Pere Ubu; Chrome and Johnny Blitz joined up with Stiv Bator and became the Dead Boys), he gained near-legendary status, thanks to the Dead Boys live shows. Not too bad for a guitar player whose total recorded output upon the 1979 demise of the Boys was a pair of albums for Sire Records (including the seminal debut, YOUNG, LOUD AND SNOTTY, produced by Genya Ravan).Over the years, Cheetah has led or played in various bands (he appeared on Ronnie Spector’s debut solo album, SIREN, in 1980), played with reformed versions of both Rocket From the Tombs and, until the 1990 death of Bator, the Dead Boys; he has also formed a band – called the Batusis (after the dance from the BATMAN television series) – with former New York Dolls guitarist Sylvain Sylvain. The band has, variously, included the rhythm section from Joan Jett’s band, the Blackearts, Chuck Garric (Alice Cooper’s bass player for the past several years) and Lez Warner, who has kept time for the Cult in the past. More recently, the guitarist has headed up the A&R department at Plowboy Records. That’s where we pick up this story; Plowboy has released a seven-song EP of material culled from a 1996 recording session (produced by Ravan) and two 2010 sessions, one solo and one with the Batusis.

Cheetah Chrome (photo credit: ANNA O'CONNOR)

Cheetah Chrome (photo credit: ANNA O’CONNOR)

The instrumental “Sharky” kinda reminds me of Blondie’s “(I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence Dear.” The drums (provided by producer Ken Coomer) are out front and Chrome adds a very nice guitar figure and standard-issue New Wave organ. That combination can only lead me to say, “I like it! I really, really like it!” The Batusis’ “East Side Story” is a great, punky type of country song, with Chrome’s vocals falling somewhere between Lou Reed and John Mellencamp. The rhythm section of Sean Koos and Lez Warner are tight; Koos adds piano. Sylvain’s acoustic rhythm guitar and just a touch of twang in the leads and solos give the tune a solid Americana flavor. “Rollin’ Voodoo” features a nasty Koos bass groove, some funky Warner drumming (augmented by African drums from Warner and Coomer) and some savory riffs, delivered in stinging fashion by Cheetah and Sylvain. The tune has a ZZ Top kind of processed vocal thing happening and the whole cut has that Texas blues feel.

Cheetah Chrome (photo credit: ANNA O'CONNOR)

Cheetah Chrome (photo credit: ANNA O’CONNOR)

The Genya Ravan-produced “Stare Into the Night” has a chugging rhythm and a punkish, Joe Strummer-like vocal rasp. The song is a definite nod to Stiv Bator and the Dead Boys, with the rhythm section of Greg Walker (bass), Johnny Albamont (drums) and Jimmy V (rhythm guitar) more than ably acquitting themsleves on this and the next two tracks. “No Credit” is another great cowpunk number, with the sort of politically-charged protest lyrics that drove the majority of those great ’70s punk bands. The final track from the aborted 1996 sessions, “Nuthin’,” displays an atmospheric guitar coda and snotty countryish vocals over brilliantly understated drums and nice backing vocals. The song is a solid rocker from first to last, although it seems to just run out of juice and ends rather abruptly. A Rank and File/Alejandro Escovedo slow groove dominates “Love Song To Death,” a return to the Batusis material. Chrome delivers the lyrics in kind of a sing-song spoken word way. The guitar work shines throughout, highlighted by the rather jangly lead and the well-phrased solo, both by Sylvain Sylvain. SOLO is a magnificently varied record but, it is not without its problems. Well, one problem really… it’s just too darn short! I sincerely hope that Chrome’s office job at Plowboy doesn’t keep him from recording a full-length – preferably with the Batusis – sometime soon.