MEET THE BAND: Dwid Hellion (vocals), Dom Romeo (guitar), Lord Long Cape (bass), Sean Garwood (drums), Justin "Sexman" Ethem (rhythm guitar)
METALCORE BEFORE IT WAS COOL TO BE METALCORE: When Integrity formed in 1988, the term "metalcore" had yet to be coined. The band would come to be seen as one of the earliest acts to combine metal and hardcore. "Obviously, I had no idea that something like metalcore would one day exist," says Hellion. "Integrity started as a result of having a wide range of musical influences — not just confined to metal and hardcore punk, but also Goth, blues, jazz, rock, industrial, noise and on and on. Basically, it was combining various elements from all of the music that I enjoyed and fusing that into one band. At the time, I thought that approach was the way that people made their songs, by combining their tastes into new creations. I did not know that this approach was actually rather uncommon until after the first album was released, Those Who Fear Tomorrow." That album would be met with mixed reviews, but Hellion says many critics acknowledged it as "the dawn of a new style of music."
AN OVERSEAS ENTITY: About 15 years ago, Hellion moved to Belgium. He's continued to keep the group going from overseas and still collaborates with Cleveland-based musicians. "I live in a small village outside of a medieval city named Ghent," he says. "It is a very scenic and inspiring place to live. I am isolated to a degree, so that affords me the luxury of recording and working on artwork without the interruption of big-city life."
A PHANTASY-FILLED ADVENTURE: Initially, Integrity embarked on an East Coast tour in 1989 with the hardcore group Judge. A few months later, the group would play its very first Cleveland show at the Phantasy on Jan. 6, 1990, with the local bands False Hope and Outface. Hellion still has the original flyer for that gig. The group returns to the Phantasy this week, and the significance isn't lost on Hellion. "Returning to The Phantasy niteclub 29 years later is quite an interesting event on many levels," he says. "It's mainly because the club is now operated by my childhood friend, who also happens to be my ex-wife, Lisa Covelli. We share three amazing children together and an unlimited amount of memories of concerts and tours."
WHY YOU SHOULD HEAR THEM: The band's latest album, 2017's Howling, For the Nightmare Shall Consume, might be its most sophisticated recording to date. "I wanted to employ a concept album approach to the writing," says Hellion. "There is an underlying storyline that ties the songs together, although the songs can stand alone without relying on the concept. This was the first recording that I did with [guitarist] Domenic Romeo. He understands the Integrity universe, and he has also a masterful knowledge of the band's catalog." One highlight, the haunting "7 Reece Mews," features menacing vocals and tempered guitars. It references the artist Francis Bacon. "It is an interpretative song about how Bacon might have come to be able to see the world through his uniquely brutal and horrific vision," says Hellion. "The storyline offers the possibility of 'what if' Bacon had a successful seance one drunken evening which left him impaired with the ability to see the demons that lurk within mankind. To cope with this affliction, he would paint humanity from his perspective and eventually gain great notoriety for doing so." Hellion's vocals have never sounded better on the disc; he describes his voice as "a roaring, end-of-the-world sermon."
WHERE YOU CAN HEAR THEM: facebook.com/INTEGRITY.HT
WHERE YOU CAN SEE THEM: Integrity performs with Devil Master, State of Conviction, In Cold Blood, Outline and Subtype Zero at 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 13, at the Phantasy.