One of the most interesting and storied groups in American heavy metal hardcore is Integrity, and the band's 12th full-length is a concept album about what might happen if the great British painter Francis Bacon had a drunken séance and summoned all kinds of diabolical things to his house.
Howling.. For The Nightmare Shall Consume is dominated by anger, emotion, pathos, and the strange, grim theatrics that have always set the band apart from their peers—led by the personality of their mercurial singer and only constant member since 1988, Dwid Hellion. Now, with Relapse Records behind them, one of the most fiercely independent and anti-trend groups of the modern age is more popular than they've ever been.
Formed around the hardcore punk scene of the late 80s, the band stood out from the pack by taking the anger of hardcore into a darker realm, citing people like Bacon, Black Sabbath, and psychedelic drugs as influences. Trouble making and violence always seemed to follow them around, with Dwid finding inspiration in people like Sakevi from the Japanese metallic hardcore group G.I.S.M, who once turned a flamethrower on an audience.
Walter Schreifels of Quicksand remembers: "Dwid gave me this Integrity cassingle of "March Of The Damned" and I was really knocked out by it. It was really Slayer-esque but I could relate to it on a hardcore level. People had been attempting to do that sound but Dwid really nailed it. He's been a real divisive figure where a lot of people thought he was cool as shit and other people hated him but he's still doing it all and it's the fact he has this great musical quality is what makes him a star."
After accidentally inventing the sounds of groups like Hatebreed and Terror with Charles Manson and Process Church-obsessed records like Those Who Fear Tomorrow, Humanity Is The Devil, and Systems Overload—and perhaps turned off by the 90s corporatization of metallic hardcore—Dwid started to experiment with weirder and darker themes with his noise group Psywarfare. Working on a slew of side-projects that owed more to Throbbing Gristle than Bold, Dwid's Integrity released thrillingly nihilistic, gothic hardcore records as the people he influenced rode the Warped Tour Merry-Go-Round.
"There's just an ominous presence about Integrity," says Integrity guitarist Domenic Romeo who joined the band last year and co-wrote Howling… with Dwid. "It's not happy music. It's super volatile and emotional. Kinda like the exorcism in the Exorcist. It's like a rollercoaster of fear, terror, rage and sorrow, put to music.
And that comes from Dwid?
"His vocals are one of the most identifiable in extreme music and throughout all the member changes and all the stories around the band, you can hear that inner tension in all the recordings. The dysfunctional nature of it all, like feeling it can all become unhinged at any given moment. That's what made those early records so special. You can still hear it now in the new stuff. He's a truly inspired and unique artist."
Since 2003, Dwid has lived in Belgium with his wife and kids and does not like doing interviews, specifically ones that are for articles that talk about the history of the group. So we interviewed him.
Noisey: I thought it was interesting that the record is subliminally about a drunken party at Francis Bacon's house.
Dwid: Starting the album, I created a storyboard that we could reference for inspiration. A blueprint to allow us to focus on a specific trajectory, like a map that we could return to if we strayed from the path. That storyboard was based around the premise of a young Bacon having a séance which included some of his decadent and eccentric cohorts. Somehow, the séance that they attempted actually worked. Thus transporting Bacon to several actual occult occurrences that transpired at different times throughout human history. In a Dickens-like way, Bacon was witnessing these events, but not physically interacting. When he returned back to reality, Bacon was left with the ability to see the demons within others, and therefore paint these demons. This was the foundation for the album, but the songs evolved on their own and like an unkept garden, it became overgrown with ideas, poisonous weeds, corrosive insects, rot and decay until those feral ideas eventually overtook the initial concept and expanded into something more interpretive, a more organic abomination.
Why do you like Francis Bacon so much?
Bacon had that famous quote, "I am optimistic about nothing," which could be interpreted a number of ways. I like to imagine it as life being experienced the way one might gamble, which was pure chance without abandon. No fear, no guilt. When he lost, it was the same as when he won. It was the experience of life. Though his winning days outnumbered the losing, he definitely knew how to celebrate regardless of the outcome. Then there is the darkness that he saw in the world. Depicting his subjects as though we were seeing into who they really were. He was not painting a photographic portrait; it was a deeper realism that he captured. He painted what was truly lurking inside of those people, he coaxed the demons to bleed through their hosts and be seen and forever imprisoned upon the canvas.
I remember being drawn to Integrity as a kid because you would use Bacon artwork and quotes on your records
I had to be 14 or 15 when I first discovered Bacon. Something about him resonated deeply within me. Bacon was a sorcerer, his strong will challenged the random chance of existence and he created his own reality. When I first learned of Bacon at that time, Bacon was not nearly as publicly accepted as he is nowadays. If I recall, he was seen as something like a deviant outcast within the art world, some sort of beast. Much like Crowley. The art world was unable to ignore Bacon, and in the end his will infected the world.
You think that's every gonna happen to you?
My approach seems to appeal to a specific type of person; someone who is looking for a scope to find answers from within themselves through artistic means. It's an acquired taste, which if imbibed consistently can lead to a distinct type of intoxication.
INTEGRITY on tour:
Sept 23 Reading, PA East Coast Tsunami Festival
Sept 30 Cuauhtemoc, MX Off Limits 2017
Oct 06 Tokyo, JP Antiknock*
Oct 07 Mie, JP Chaos*
Oct 08 Osaka, JP Hokage*
Oct 09 Tokyo, JP Earthdom*
Oct 21 Tulsa, OK Fly-Over Fest
Dec 17 London, UK CTW Fest May 24-27 Baltimore, MD Maryland Deathfest 2018
Andy Capper is an executive producer for VICELAND, and is the director of NOISEY. Follow him on Twitter.