Cleveland, Ohio metalcore legends Integrity cannot be stopped. Dwid Hellion, the band’s dark creative force and sole original member, is one of the most elusive characters the underground has ever produced. As a kid going to shows in the 90’s, there were plenty of stories floating around about Integrity’s brutal performances, and the controversial nature of their content and general nature, and much of it still remains a mystery to me today.
Nearing double-digit release numbers by 1995, Systems Overload cemented the group’s reputation of musical brutality. Clocking in at 34 minutes and 14 seconds, the 13-track release hits harder and displays more anger than entire label catalogues from some of these so called “hardcore” bands of today. The riffs and grooves are simply devastating, and Dwid’s signature growl sounds like a demon-possessed madman, bleakly describing any number of taboo topics.
A proper remix of the album, completed by former member Aaron Melnick and current guitarist Robert Orr, dropped on vinyl this past Record Store Day via Organized Crime Records, and a CD version is set to drop on November 29th via Magic Bullet Records as well. As a bonus, the folks at A389 Recordings locked a one-time reunion of the original Systems Overload lineup of Integrity for their X Anniversary Bash. Bloodbath imminent.
I caught up with Dwid Hellion via email to discuss the release almost 20 years after it hit the shelves, the remix, Victory Records, and how the reunion at A389 came to be.
G- It’s been almost 20 years since Systems Overload was released, and Integrity has produced a shitload of releases since then. If you could, take us back to the sessions for Systems Overload… How long did the record take to produce and record, and what was the vibe like in the studio for you guys back then?
DH- At that time, we had just under-went one of many band metamorphoses. Our first album, Those Who Fear Tomorrow, was initially met with great opposition from the underground music scene. Critics declared it was a virus that would “ruin hardcore.” If the rumors are true that we had unknowingly helped create the genre known as, “metal core”, our critics may have experienced a momentary spell of clairvoyance.
A year after T.W.F.T. was released, the critics changed their opinion and, as is common in human nature, they began to love that which they once despised. So, in turn, we changed our formula. We did not want to pander to expectations. We preferred to agitate the complacent. And this contempt helped to give life to what would become, Systems Overload.
G- Obviously, there were some issues with the original mix down of the record. How long did it take Aaron and Rob to remix the album to their specifications this time around, and how do you compare it to the original?
DH- We had converted the analog tapes to digital around 2005. Eventually, Rob decided to try a remix. He and Aaron decided to work together on this project. Initially, it would be only a Record Store Day novelty. However, the public seemed to really enjoy the new version, so it transformed from an obscure release to a release that will remain available.
G- Will the upcoming CD version of the record offer any additional artwork/liner notes/pictures that weren’t included in the initial release?
DH- The remix version has it’s own artwork that differs from the 90’s version.
G- You’ve been tapped to perform a one-time 20th anniversary reunion performance featuring the original Systems Overload lineup for A389’s X Anniversary Bash… How did it come to be?
DH- Dom Romeo is quite a persistent promoter.
G- And we thank him for it!
Metal/Hardcore/Punk… Integrity is hard to pin down, genre wise. Most people would associate the band as hardcore, due to your early affiliation with Victory Record, but the sound is something all its own. Where do you place the style in the grand scheme of heavy music?
DH- I have no interest in classifying our music.
G- Comparison of the scenes and your fans/followers then versus now… Do you find Integrity as more of an act that has established its fan base and caters to their musical tastes, or do you consider the band to be perpetually building as new material becomes available?
DH- We do not conform to expectations.
G- And given this upcoming reunion performance for Systems Overload, could we possibly expect something like this for Humanity Is The Devil?
DH- This has not been discussed.
G- To speak of your history, Victory Records dropped Integrity after In Contrast Of Sin, then picked you back up for the next few releases. What was the deal with that, and do you have any choice words for Tony Brummel?
DH- We were one of the first bands on Victory. We helped generate interest and money into the fledgling record label. It’s disappointing that Victory chose to reward our artistic efforts by refusing to pay us our royalties.
G- I had to drive to Toronto to finally see Integrity some 18 years after first hearing the group, and lord knows you never made it to Syracuse when I started going to shows… Are there any areas of the world you haven’t performed in yet that you will be attempting to in the future?
G- I’m interested in knowing about some of the newer records you’ve been listening to and exploring. Anything in particular that has caught your ear in the past few years, or any recommendations for upcoming acts you can tell us about?
DH- I listen to Oede, Vvlad, Nekrharkh, Bleme, and the rest of the Negromancy label bands. I listen to LLN bands, old Delta Blues and Lomax field recordings. I enjoy Herxsebet, FCOS, Vetala, Black Cilice, Mons Veneris, and all projects that were created by the great French genius, Vordb
G- Given your bleak lyrics, and imagery for you portray with your songs for humanity, and the world as a whole, what do you see happening that ultimately leads to humanity’s demise?
DH- The human was created to destroy and to self destruct.