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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Hirax

The New Age of Terror

Review by Mike Korn

It may be a "new age of terror" but what we have here is a very familiar sound. That sound is old school thrash metal, and the band purveying it is truly one of the die-hards of that scene, Hirax. These guys have been around since the days when Kerry King had long hair and nail-spiked armbands. They've rubbed shoulders with the likes of Hetfield, Mustaine and Baloff before those guys hit the big time. It has been a quiet 15 years or so for Hirax, but now the wolves of thrash have been unchained once more.

This band was always kind of unique, even in the 80's. They did albums like "Raging Violence", full of short and insanely fast tracks that featured the unusual melodic vocals of manic frontman Katon DePena. Katon has kept the faith with Hirax, and the band now emerges into the 21st century, where metal has become even more extreme. Is there still a place for Hirax? "New Age of Terror" would seem to indicate there is. The record is 100% old school Bay Area thrash in the grand fashion. Even the production has the dry, analog quality that marked many of the old bands. To tell the truth, I had to let this one grow on me. At first listen, it sounded too "basic" and not "busy" enough. But after a while, the simple hooks lodge themselves in your mind, and you find yourself first nodding your head, then banging it, and finally flying around the room with air guitar at the ready.

If you like aggressive metal, but the over-the-top vocals and total distortion of death metal is not your thing, Hirax may be just what the doctor ordered. Thrash still lives!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Killswitch
The tick of a time bomb serves as an intro here. Well, you won't have to wait long for it to go off. This kicks in right away with some blazing thrash, complete with plenty of ripping guitar solos. Katon's vocals make an immediate impact.
Hostile Territory
This song is not too far from "Killswitch" in delivery but seems a little thicker in tone, with strong drum work propelling it along.
The New Age of Terror
The first half of this track is based around a crunchy mid-paced riff that is brilliant in its simplicity. This is notably slower than most of the other tracks but not lacking in power. At the half way point, the tune switches gears with a different, nervous-sounding riff.
Swords of Steel
Twin guitar harmonizing gives way to another catchy mid-tempo track that occasionally picks up the pace into speedy thrash. It's typical of the album in that the song is not a mind-blowing classic, yet it definitely gets the blood flowing.
Into The Ruins
This really reminds me of old Hirax from the "Raging Violence" days. It's a very brief cut, totally speed-based and featuring blast beat drumming - one for the die-hards.
Massacre of the Innocents
A brief instrumental with a military feel to it, the guitar arpeggio on the end is so close to the outro riff of Entombed's "Left Hand Path" that I might consider getting a lawyer, if I were Hirax.
Hell On Earth
A real pounding is what you have in store here. This is one of the record's best cuts, with some novel vocal lines and a cool Exodus-like mid-section. A false ending leads to a very thrashy real finish.
Suffer
This is the most intense track on the record. You can just feel the band's anger and desire to rip as they blast through some classic thrash. This is Hirax at its best and Katon's vocals are excellent.
El Dia De Los Muertos
A gentle instrumental with a very familiar sound to it, kind of like the mellower moments of old Metallica, this is the something the band would have never attempted back in the 80's.
El Diablo Negro
This track is OK but didn't really grab me the way the others did. It's a thrashy cut but doesn't seem to want to draw blood as much as "Suffer" or "Hell on Earth". Katon's vocals are a bit more subdued than usual as well, and the ending is very weak.
Unleash the Dogs of War (Open the Gates)
Fortunately, this ends things on a better note. This is gonna remind a lot of people of old Slayer, and that sure isn't a bad thing. The main verse chorus riff is just supremely catchy, and the vocal hook that goes with it slays, for lack of a better term - great stuff!
 
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