Monday, June 14, 2021

Revisiting Metal Legends Hirax’s 1985 Debut.

March 28, 2020 by  
Filed under Ent., Music, News, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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( Formed in 1981 as L.A Kaos, Hirax is one of the Bay Area bands that used to get overlooked. It was always around but when it became Hirax in 1984 and took to the thrash sound of the area, the crew headed up by Katon W. de Pena garnered a fanbase. Part of this comes from taking to the speed-heavy side of Bay Area thrash headed up by Slayer and Exodus. This band’s 1980s albums are just…blistering.

L.A Kaos Days

Before becoming Hirax, the band was L.A Kaos from 1981 until 1983. The sound here was very different from the direction the band would take four years later. I can best describe it as early 80s New Wave of British Heavy Metal. The U.S equivalent would be NYC power metal band Riot’s early stuff from the 1970s where it sounded like hard rock.

The band’s music originally made it out as a demo and the production quality is raw and weathered. These tunes would be remastered for the Born in the Streets 1983-1984 split album with Hirax. We’ll have to get into that album in a later review because the songs are really worth covering.

I will say that L.A Kaos and very early Hirax were heading in a very interesting direction. In the short period before the band went full on thrash, it was a speed metal act. That’s pretty much a few notches from thrash. The sound is something I really dig. Speed metal from the 1980s is my favorite music and this period in the band’s history is just extremely interesting.

A-Side Score: 9/10

Let’s get into Raging Violence. In total, the album is almost 31 minutes and moves from song to song so fast that it feels much shorter. The A-side of Raging Violence has seven songs and they all they all rip! The guitars are fast and furious in each tune while the drums just add power to the tracks. Above all of this are the rapid, soaring vocals of Katon W. de Pena.

I’ve mentioned his vocals before in another article but in the context of this whole album, he kind of established where the bar is for melodic vocals in thrash metal. It’s an odd fit and hearing Katon in L.A Kaos and pre-thrash Hirax, he has a background in heavy metal. Just straight up old school metal. His vocals mixes well with the blistering attack from the guitarists and drummers.

The A-side of Raging Violence established exactly what Hirax would deliver throughout the 80s. Most of the tracks on the A-side are strong songs so it’s hard to point out which ones are the true standout tunes.

Standout Tracks: Blitzkrieg Air Attack, Bombs of Death, Raging Violence

B-side Score: 8.75/10

Once you’ve sped through the A-side, you’ll find more of the same on the B-side. So are some slower songs here if you count “speedy” as slow. That’s pretty much as slow as Hirax will go on this album. The only reason it gets a little lower than the A-side is the length of some songs.

The strongest ones are shorter than you’d think they should be. One example is the song “Destroy” at just over a minute. It’s over before you know it! The length works when you consider the hardcore punk influence of Hirax’s brand of thrash. Some hardcore punk songs can be extremely short and Hirax ran with that approach on their debut.

Also, this side is just shorter than the A-side. Same amount of songs but a couple of the songs here are just faster than the A-sides.

Standout Tracks: Warlords Command, Destruction and Terror, Destroy

Raging Violence Verdict: 8.87/10 (Highly Recommended)

This was an explosive debut! Sometimes you a bad debut or a good one. Rarely do you get a great debut that is also so overwhelming. The double whammy of the band’s playing speed for the 80s, lyrics of war and destruction, and Katon’s vocal performance makes for a truly destructive combo.

I really recommend Raging Violence if you want to check out some of the high speed stuff from 80s U.S metal. Yeah, it’s a very specific period in metal but once you get into albums from that decade on the west coast, you’ll notice a split in scenes—glam metal and thrash metal.

Raging Violence works as good example of the thrash side. Once you peep the sound, you’ll know what other bands have a similar sound easily. It’s not just a good introductory album but it’s a ridiculously strong album on its own.

Staff Writer; M. Swift

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.

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