2014 marks 30 years since HIRAX’s demo was released. Immortal Legacy (out March 4 via Steamhammer/SPV Records) shows the band is still in tip top thrashing shape. One of my favorite things about this release is that it sounds old school. I don’t mean old school in the sense of “hey, man, this shit is outdated.” I mean that it is not overproduced, feels real and human, is relevant, and keeps the blood pumping through the veins of thrash. While most of this is on behalf of HIRAX, it is also important to mention they hired producer, Bill Metoyer, who worked with the band on their first two full-length albums. This LP will please the likes of thrash purists, as well as those newer to the genre. Even the cover art has a bad ass traditional feel to it. Why? Because Philip Lawvere (DEATHROW, KREATOR, CELTIC FROST) has come out of artistic retirement with this as his first oil painting since his return! A Viking warrior, sword covered in blood, standing over his slain enemies. Yeah, bad ass!
“Black Smoke” ushers you in with some incredible speedy guitar work from Lance Harrison, matched by the rhythm section of Steve Harrison on bass (yes, the Harrisons are brothers) and Jorge Iacobellis on drums. Katon W. de Pena begins his trademark vocal attack shortly after a BLISTERING guitar solo. If this song doesn’t get your head banging, there’s something seriously wrong with you. This song is unrelenting in its audio assault of shredding, speed, and powerful vocals.
On January 24, 2014, HIRAX released a fantastic split with their thrash brethren SODOM. Their half of the split featured the second track from Immortal Legacy, “Hellion Rising.” This track is an apocalyptic anthem! I could only imagine the demon featured on the split’s artwork ripping a city apart, destroying everything in its path. THIS is what metal is supposed to do! It’s supposed to get you amped up and paint a picture in your mind. “Victims of the Dead” gallops along with the same intensity. Katon’s vocals are superb on this song. It sees peaks and valleys of his range and intensity. I can just hear crowds at their upcoming shows screaming along to this one: “RELEASE! THE VICTIMS OF THE…RELEASE! THE VICTIMS OF THE DEAD!” As stated about the previous track, these lyrics fused with the music create some wild pictures for you.
“Thunder Roar, The Conquest, La Boca de la Bestia – The Mouth of the Beast” is also a track making its triumphant return. I feel this song is a perfect fit with the selection of thrashers on this record. In my opinion, this movement is the most epic composition on the album. It is 4:54 of this band going for broke at every position. The harmonized guitar intro is a buzz-saw thing of beauty. Your ears do not deceive you; this is HIRAX reminding you 30 years later that they still deserve to be considered thrash elite. If you have not heard this Cerberus of an arrangement before, you must hear it now! So, how exactly do you follow up a track that massive? With the 44 second, guitar only display of awesomeness that is “Earthshaker.”
“Tied to the Gallows Pole” is one of my favorite songs on Immortal Legacy. As dubbed by his bandmates, “The Shred Baron,” Lance Harrison puts on an incredible riff clinic throughout this number. Any guitarists in training looking to play bad ass riffs and melt faces: take notes on this one. This will get the fists flying in the air, circle pits whirling, and necks breaking without fail. The song flows effortlessly into “Deceiver;” one that features more catchy chorus work that HIRAX is so great at. Again, Katon’s vocals soar and roar all over this piece and command your attention.
The title track is next in line. “Immortal Legacy” as a song, and as full-length, can be seen as a statement to the metal world. HIRAX hasn’t lost a step. The pedal remains to the metal and their prowess is unmatched. Aggressive, shrieking, and merciless, it is clear why this album bears this tune’s name. “S.O.W. (intro)” is another exhibition of shredding, guitar-centric melody. It’s a perfect prelude to “Violence of Action,” where you hear what appears to be an angry phone conversation between two men, where one guarantees “I’ll shoot you in the face, and I’ll go to sleep tonight,” followed immediately by a blast of riffing. As you could probably gather from the title, this is the most pissed off song on the LP. To put this song into four words taken from lyrics by Katon, “Attack. Dominate. Obliterate. Infiltrate.”
Now, let me take a moment to point something out. To this paragraph, I have greatly sung the praises of the guitar composition on this record. While that is true, you absolutely cannot discount the drum and bass work. The apex of Steve Harrison’s bass playing is witnessed on “Atlantis (Journey to Atlantis).” You thought all the shredding and thrashy goodness would be left to the guitarist like most every other situation? WRONG! This solo bass performance features beautiful melodies that you will easily (and gladly) become lost in. This song is merely the calm before the doomsday hymn that is “The World Will Burn.” My favorite showing on the LP is this fitting closer. I love the apocalyptic themes and doom-laden lyrics spread among this collection of music like a plague. This one is the exclamation point at the end of a death sentence. “THE WORLD WILL BURN! SUFFER THE WORLD!” is shrieked and ruggedly declared by Katon over the soundtrack to the end. A perfect ending to what is a powerful statement by HIRAX, letting us all know they are far from finished! ~ETB
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Thunder Roar, The Conquest, La Boca de la Bestia – The Mouth of the Beast”, “Tied to the Gallows Pole”, “The World Will Burn”
WRITTEN BY ERIC THE BULL