Eroding Integrity

Dwid leads his band through a hardcore overhaul.

In conversation, Dwid, the heavily tattooed lead singer of the local hardcore/metal band Integrity, is soft-spoken and polite. But on record, he screams his lungs out. For example, on "Bloodlust" and "No Time for Sudden Glances," two songs on the band's new album, Closure, his hoarse vocals sound like an animal being tortured. Dwid didn't go to some fancy multitrack recording studio to lay down the tracks. He recorded most of them in his upstairs bedroom, and given that he lives in a quiet, family-oriented neighborhood in Mentor, his neighbors couldn't help but take notice.

"We were doing vocals upstairs, and it was in the summertime," he recalls one morning while relaxing in his living room, where the beer stains on the carpet suggest it's been host to numerous parties. "It was really hot, so we had the window open. A neighbor ran across the street and asked, 'Are you OK?' He thought I fell off the roof. I can yell pretty loud without any amplification."

Dwid says that his house is actually far enough from the other residents that he can play the piano "really, really loud" late at night and not have to worry about disturbing anyone. It's ironic that Dwid, whose values are anything but conventional, would return to the suburbs whence he came. Born and raised outside of Louisville, Kentucky, he moved to Mentor when he was in high school. It was then that he discovered the hardcore scene by befriending a neighbor who dated one of the members of Confront, a local hardcore group that played regionally in the '80s. He eventually started working as a roadie for the band and, after becoming friends with another roadie who played guitar, formed Integrity in 1989. Dwid made a fortuitous connection after traveling to Chicago with a hardcore group called the Gorilla Biscuits. Tony Brummel, the owner of Victory Records, wanted the Biscuits to do a record for Victory. They couldn't because they were under a contract with Revelation Records, so they told Brummel to call Dwid.

"So Victory called us, and we didn't have any songs or anything, but Tony sent us money, and we were able to make a record," Dwid says. "We started playing some shows out of town before we had even played here. We didn't do it the right way. We didn't start out playing here. We started playing in Buffalo, Rochester, and Albany on a tour with a band called Underdog."

At the time, Victory was a strictly straight-edge hardcore label, so when fans of other acts on the label found out that Integrity, which plays metal as much as punk, wasn't exactly hardcore and definitely wasn't straight-edge, they were initially upset. As a result, 'zine reviews of the first few records were mostly negative.

"Everyone assumed that we were straight-edge, and that became really troublesome," Dwid says. "I can't tell you how many times I've had to say, 'No, we're not straight-edge,' as I'm drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette.

"Our influences are really weird," he admits. "We were into Joy Division, Slayer, and Black Sabbath. Weird stuff. Our guitarist at the time was really into Iron Maiden. We had all that stuff, coupled with a spooky image like Samhain and the Misfits. We had a skull logo. People just didn't know how to take it, especially being on Victory. I'm generalizing, of course, but there was a cookie-cutter formula that people were following at that time. We didn't follow that. Anything that's different, people are usually afraid of, because their values are being threatened."

Adding to the confusion was the fact that the band created a website for a mock religion/cult it called the Church of the Holy Terror. Integrity even put leaflet-like fliers in its albums to promote it.

"We made [the Church] up to inspire individualism," Dwid says. "We wanted to offer ideas and a philosophy so people could go out and do their own thing. We took elements of lots of different religions and put them in there, but the main goal was to make people think."

Dwid says he's moved beyond all that now. Because he wants to dissociate himself from the hardcore scene, he says that Closure will be the last album he'll release as Integrity. For future endeavors, the band -- which features keyboardist Zunkley, guitarist Vee Price, bassist Brandon, and drummer Adam -- will be named Angela Delamorte, which is Italian for "Angel of Death."

"I hate the name Integrity," Dwid says, adding that Closure is a concept album about "Christ returning to earth as a woman, an angel of death." "I chose Integrity initially because it meant stand up for whatever you believe in and whatever your ideas are, regardless of trends in music or anything else. Our new name gives a better picture of what we're trying to do."

Dwid says Integrity will play one last show this summer. But the newly christened group has already started recording material for an EP and has plans to release a full-length on Victory next year. One thing that won't change: Dwid will continue to write lyrics that deal with "the psychological problems of my childhood," as he puts it. And not even therapy sessions will bring closure to that.

"I tried to go to therapy a couple of times, but they didn't really want me," Dwid says. "I think it's really just an outlet for somebody to talk. I can't say across the board that they don't know what they're doing, but most of the time they just tell you what you want to hear and tell you positive things. My therapy is in the records."