HIRAX - Raging Violence / Hate, Fear, And Power
April 21, 2023, a month ago
First two Hirax albums initially released on Metal Blade records in 1985 and ‘86, getting the remastered treatment for CD and vinyl in 2023. Singer Katon W. De Pena is the remaining original member of the Cali based thrashers since their inception in ‘84. To date they have issued three more albums with different lineups, several singles and EPs. Before I start talking about each album, many forget, or don't know, that Hirax were there too at the birth of thrash metal in Los Angeles and San Francisco playing the clubs with peers Metallica, Exodus, and Slayer. But Hirax were a bit different, fast and furious but brasher and unfocused, chaotic, not as song based like Metallica, or satanic like Slayer Show No Mercy, savage like Exodus Bonded By Blood.
Another major difference the songs were shorter, under three minutes, some barely over a minute, quick bursts of hectic aggression. Plus, Katon's shrill vocal tone and delivery also set them apart, giving Hirax that, as they were called, crossover (thrash) appeal to punk rock fans and skaters, like Suicidal Tendencies at that time, and other west coast bands D.R.I. and Cryptic Slaughter.
Longest song on Raging Violence, "Demons - Evil Forces" at 3:21, contains one of the best opening lyrics in all heavy metal history, "You, you will go down, down to the demons and when you get there, you'll... you'll be down in Hell". This length gives the song time to be a complete song, part slower tempo, riff directed (with solo) that does include a couple changes, unlike others from the fourteen tracks. "Blitzkrieg Air Attack" at two minutes puts its feet in the ground and doesn't move from the straight forward pounding drums and riff. Aside from the opening riffing, "Guardian Protector" also suffers from sameness at a minute and a half. But they manage to fit in a solo. Opening guitars to "Bombs Of Death" could have been on Slayer's Show No Mercy. Drums are all over the place on the title track, but there are moments everyone comes together.
"Warlord's Command", again it's like the drums are on one page, guitar and bass try and keep up. As I compare my vinyl from the ‘80s to the stream for such an old analog production the remaster is a bit in sonic improvement bringing more definition to the drums. Couple more good riffs are found in the remaining six songs, "Destruction And Terror" keeps at a steadfast pace, but overall a lot of sameness in the flat line deliveries. I understand, they were young and just learning how to write this music, literally inventing as they were creating it. Fifteenth hidden track is just a bunch of layered demonic voices.
For starters, Hate, Fear, And Power, great album artwork, is barely an album only clocking in at seventeen minutes. A better production than the debut, sonic clarity, in the remaster you can hear the separation between instruments. Title track opens the album and reminds of S.O.D. being only 31 seconds long. Track #2, "Blind Faith", just short of 3 minutes one of two best of the batch, all the players and vocals come together for a clear direction. Guitar lead starts "Unholy Sacrifice" but that spastic clank almost bumbling rhythms from the debut is still present. De Pena's vocal lines follow the riffing in "Lightning Thunder" with a more defined bass sound also heard on this album. "The Last War" benefits from the changes, riffs and tempo switching gears a few times for variety. Drums start closer "Criminal Punishment." It's too bad a couple of those songs from the debut didn't make it to this album, probably could have benefitted a minute or more in time, arrangement, and production.
Even though later Hirax albums would show growth and improvement in all areas, these two are classics in crossover thrash metal.