(TheBRHM.com) Over on ThyBlackMan, we went into the Katon W. De Pena-led Hirax and the band’s debut Raging Violence, released in 1985. Formed in 1984 ended in 1989 but returned in 2000 with Katon as the lead singer and the album The New Age of Terror four years later.
The Return of Hirax
Why the wait between the return of the band and their fourth album? The band had been retired since 1989. That’s eleven years with not even tours in that time.
Plus, Katon was busy with life after performing as he took to working in a record store. He didn’t get stage rust and continued performing with up-and-coming and veteran bands.
Just by sticking around music, he was able to keep abreast of developments at the root level. Being in at the ground floor was an encouraging factor to reform Hirax and the band has been a cult legend since its return.
Actually, the band’s second wind has been stronger than its first run as Katon was seasoned as a musician, embraced the New Wave of Thrash Metal, and modernized the band’s sound right of the gate.
Of course, he kept the blistering speed of 1980s Hirax since that and his vocals were what brought the band to the dance in the first place. Enough with the history lesson, let’s get into 37 minutes of high-speed thrash metal with The New Age of Terror!
A-Side of The New Age of Terror
Fortunately, this album was released with a vinyl version as well. I like to split albums into A-side and B-side for these reviews. It’s just more digestible that way. Here are the A-side tracks for the 2004 offering.
-The New Age of Terror
-Swords of Steel
-Into the Ruins
-Massacre of the Innocent (instrumental)
-Hell on Earth
The good thing about the A-side is that the majority of the songs keep the spirit of Hirax and are classic, shorter songs with a ton of power to them.
If you have heard the band’s debut and sophomore releases just know that fast, intense instrument craft, soaring vocals, and rapid but aggressive lyrics are a Hirax trademark.
What isn’t a trademark is the concentration of lengthy songs. At times, Hirax’s approach can be a bit much once the song passes the three-minute mark. It can get relentless but that’s also part of the band’s appeal.
Shorter, punishing songs will prompt you to headbang but the longer tunes—flowing into other long tracks—makes for quite the listen. Hirax shows mercy by breaking up one or two back-to-back lengthy tracks with their trademark burst tracks.
Thanks a ton for that, guys. Mind you it’s a burst track, so it’s still punishing but you can’t be choosy.
Standout Tracks: “Hostile Territory” *, “The New Age of Terror”, “Into the Ruins”, “Hell on Earth” *
On the B-side, we have fewer tunes—four to be exact—with denser concentration of lengthier tracks. The A-side had its lengthy tracks but they were broken up by shorter, faster tracks and an instrumental.
-El dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) (instrumental)
-El Diablo Negro
-Unleash the Dogs of War
Now, I’ve always been a fan of short, fast track Hirax. Raging Violence is the perfect Hirax album because the longest song is a little over 3-minutes with the majority of the album’s fourteen tracks being at minimum, a little over a minute or just shy of three minutes.
Yes, we’re talking one or two-minute songs but the formula was perfect for the band’s brand of thrash metal. It made every song punchier than something meant to really showcase technical ability or to just bludgeon the listener.
You turned on the album, got ripped by raw speed, and before you knew it the next song was already here. Also, the two-minute and change average is now the norm for popular songs. That’s the window labels want artists to hit now.
Hirax has something else in its chamber before this album that is even faster than Raging Violence but we’ll look at that next time. As for the songs, they’re all good on this side.
I’m not a big fan of instrumentals, I love lyrics and singing ability but the instrumental on this side is also good. The songs that you really want to dive into are “El Diablo Negro” and “Unleash the Dogs of War”.
Standout Tracks: “El Diablo Negro” and “Unleash the Dogs of War”
This was a great listen start to finish. As much as I talked about the new direction of lengthier songs, the speed and aggression never let up and that’s the stuff I love in an acts sound whether it’s rock, metal, or hip-hop.
I love music with energy and a pulse and The New Age of Terror brought that. That said, the A-side was the stronger of the two and honestly that’s only because it had more tracks on that side.
It’s recommended that you check out the band’s 80s stuff—especially Raging Violence—before getting into this album just to hear the mix of production and sound progression and keeping with the sonic assault that brought them to the dance two decades earlier.
Grade: B (Strong Album)
Staff Writer; James Swift, Jr.
This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.