INTEGRITY  Humanity Is The Devil (2023 Edition)  CD   (Relapse)   11.99

Here's another 90's underground classic that's reappeared in a new iteration on a new label (I've been figuring out the specs on the new Sleep Dopesmoker reissue lately as well), which has to be gauged against the other, still-in-print releases to sort out what's what. Now, I'll be honest, Humanity Is The Devil, along with pretty much everything that the Clevo devilcore outfit Integrity has done, is some of my all-time favorite music from one of my all-time favorite bands, so I'm the kind of maniac who has no compunctions about owning ten different CD versions of this one album. But it's still a little confusing.

Relapse went pretty wild recently with reissues of the key releases of Integrity's 90's output (which you'll find elsewhere here on the shelves of C-Blast, as you'd expect), and the band's now-legendary 1996 archonic expulsion Humanity Is The Devil has gotten the same sort of treatment, with all-new redesigned packaging and a new run at the sound and mastering, which is something that band leader Dwid has been doing frequently with his band's recordings over the past decade or so; the alternative ...

But first, the artwork. The apocalyptic sleeve art that Pushead created for the original Victory release , and which was used on the two different editions that Magic Bullet released around 2015, is out. In it's place is brand new artwork from Dwid himself. And I've gotta say, it's pretty awesome. Displaying a color palette and drawing/painting style that I haven't really seen from him before, the new artwork for Humanity Is The Devil (2023 Edition) looks like a mixture of Francis Bacon's hellish distortions, and the profane, disorienting imagery of Larry Carroll’s work on the late 80's Slayer album covers. I love it. Some of his trademark black and white collage work is included, but most of the booklet/insert for this edition looks like someone's demented grimoire / notebook filled with visions of impossible, otherworldly creatures, each one an abomination of natural form.

Now, to the music on Humanity Is The Devil (2023 Edition) : it is most definitely a different experience from the prior versions of this mini-album. Here's a part of my review for the "original" version, slightly updated:

"Today, you couldn't make it ten feet at a metalcore show before tripping over some band ripping off Integrity's sound. But when this record originally came out, these Cleveland maniacs didn't sound like anything else going on in the American hardcore/metal underground. From the earliest cassette recordings to the later Victory Records-era stuff, Integrity's were a uniquely demented strain of crossover metal that drew from a disparate range of influences, a blend of thrash metal, the sound and morality of late 80's straightedge hardcore, the unhinged, apocalyptic psychosis of Japanese hardcore legends G.I.S.M., the morbid death-punk of Samhain and Mighty Sphincter, Septic Death's bizarro schlock, and later in their career, industrial and Japanese harsh noise. Under the leadership of frontman Dwid Hellion, the band melted these influences together into a sound that was (and still is) uniquely theirs. And it's impact was widespread; just listen to the stuff on their 1990 Grace Of The Unholy cassette single, and you'll hear the birth of "metalcore". But they also wove other, more esoteric interests into the music and image as well, infatuations with apocalypse cults and Crowleyian occultism, Gnosticism and religious iconography, along with a heavy dose of Answer Me-style misanthropy.

And as far as I'm concerned, they perfected that sound and style with Humanity Is The Devil. People went nuts over this record back when it originally came out. From the amazing cover art to the absolute ferociousness of opening track "Vocal Test" and the perfect pacing of the album, this was a watershed moment in Integrity's catalog. It's certainly aged much better than just about anything else that was coming out from the American hardcore/punk underground back then. Featuring just twenty-five minutes of new music, Humanity is a lean, ravenous beast, featuring some of the band's best songwriting of their career. Dwid's lyrics were more arcane than ever, but also more anthemic, combining the Gnostic themes and imagery that Dwid was fascinated with, with an insanely infectious shout-along power as rousing as anything from classic hardcore punk. And the songs just kill. That wordless "Vocal Test", still used as their opening song every time I see them live, is a perfect piece of crossover thrash. "Hollow" has Ringworm frontman Human Furnace contributing his maniacal scream to another masterwork of violent metalpunk. "Abraxas Annihilation" and "Trapped Under Silence" are perfectly orchestrated assaults of meaty, metallic hardcore forged from crushing palm-muted riffage and aggressive tempo changes, draped in fearsome lyrical imagery, while "Jagged Visions of My True Destiny" commands a sing-along pile-up in the wake of its vicious thrash riffs. It's one massive riff/hook/aural beating after another."

But this new version has a radically different mix and construction. The overall production is more raw, and there are numerous bits of chaotic guitar soloing, trippy effects, weird electronic bits, and vocal parts and noise that are brought to the front of the mix. Man, this sounds psychedelic in a way that the original did not. Hollowed out. Spookier. And it sounds colder, and more deranged, more broken, more desperate. In some ways, this new mix/master resembles the harsher, noisier feel of the Systems Overload (A2 Orr+ Mix) that came out a while back. But there seem to be much more previously hidden pieces and passages and occulted weirdness this time around. Like the prior reissue, this also closes with the extended electronic noise piece "Humanity Is The Devil", which I had previosly described as "new narration from Dwid over the swirling, oceanic driftscape, spreading out for more than eleven minutes with a desolate, almost Nurse With Wound-esque expanse of low-end rumble and clanking metallic sounds, super abstract and atmospheric, now transformed into something that flows much better with the rest of the album." This also sounds notably different, more spare and clinical, resembling something from Atrax Morgue or one of the other Slaughter Productions projects. Gotta say, I do kind of love all of this. Is it better than the original ? It's so drastically different that I don't know. It really feels like a re-imagining of the original music, with a more arcane, damaged vibe to the entire affair. This will definitely sit alongside my beloved copies of the still-punishing original Humanity Is The Devil, that's for certain. Fellow fans of the album will need to investigate and find their own way with this one.

Track Samples:
Sample : Abraxas Annihilation [2023 Mix]
Sample : Trapped Under Silence [2023 Mix]
Sample : Hollow [2023 Mix]