Following up the harrowing, apocalyptic metal dementia of 1997’s Seasons in the Size of Days , Integrity returns to the fold with the thoroughly confusing and disappointing Integrity 2000 . Apparently, the band has changed its name to the album’s title, added In Cold Blood’s Jayson Popson as occasional second vocalist, tacked onto the record two skittering, digital-hardcore-esque “bonus tracks” that together are as long as the whole 11-song album, and lost guitarists Aaron Melnick and Frank Novenic, the men equally responsible as vocalist Dwid for making Seasons such a scary, good time.
Harkening back to the standard-issue metal-core crunch of 1996’s Humanity is the Devil , Integrity 2000 further strips the band’s sound down to a Slayer-meets-early Swans sonic architecture: logistically, a pedigree set to stun; realistically, an album that’s stunningly boring. Dwid’s all-too-painful-to-imitate vocals are still intact, however, and his vision seems just as dark and bent as it was on Seasons . This time around, though, metal-core’s Boyd Rice has to deal with Popson getting his time at the mike all too often, which begs the question: where is the direction?
…Well, nowhere in particular, really — just constant staring at the ignition, wondering how to get the thing started. Integrity 2000 actually kicks in around the third song, “The Burden of Purity,” haunting feedback dives and all, then follows up strongly with the much-too-short “Never Surrender” (no, not the Corey Hart song), which begins in a double-bass frenzy of classic Slayer proportions, only to be followed by Popson bear-growling with a mouth full of marbles to a punching-bag beat — and then that’s pretty much it. Hints of brilliance past, to be sure, but these two isolated examples only serve to make the rest of Integrity 2000 look that much clumsier. Sure, “Sanctuary” chugs along quite nicely in a Cop-era Swans way, but it ultimately does just that; and “Never Meant as Much” possesses some keen dynamics and almost-killer guitar squeals, but me says Melnick and Novenic could have done the deed even better. Finally, the album ends on a bizarre, cryptic note with the almost-ill-advised Hank Williams-via-Metallica of “Eighteen.99” — hey, at least Dwid is not averse to showing his sensitive side.
Victory Records, P.O. Box 146546, Chicago, IL 60614; http://www.victoryrecords.com