HIRAX is a band deep thrash fans have always embraced and forgiven their numerous ins-and-outs from the scene because when this band is on, they're freaking on. Lone original member Katon W. De Pena never really got his due during the Eighties, probably because HIRAX is more extreme than LIVING COLOUR and 24-7 SPYZ. The underground enigma factor of H.R. and the BAD BRAINS eluded DePena as it nearly did Rocky George, who shows a gesture of solidarity by making an appearance on HIRAX's newest album, "Immortal Legacy".
You know by the tape rewind glib opening "Black Smoke" the intent is to teleport listeners back to the days of old. Though Katon De Pena's voice was one left behind his contemporaries in the vast wilderness of Eighties thrash, the minute he manifests on "Black Smoke", an immediate convivial feeling emerges alongside him. Though the clouting stomp rhythms from Jorge Iacobellis are largely repetitive throughout the album, "Immortal Legacy" becomes an instant portal to classic thrash. With "Immortal Legacy"'s pulp fantasy cover art provided by Philip Lawvere, who did KREATOR's "Pleasure to Kill" and CELTIC FROST's "Emperor's Return", the sweep back to thrash's vintage years feels complete.
HIRAX never was included on the same mid-level tier as their peers, but they might have reached at least that plateau if they'd had the opportunity to keep their ranks fortified. Regardless of where HIRAX falls on the strata of thrash legend, give them credit here on "Immortal Legacy". Guitarist Lance Harrison (aka "The Shred Baron") does a superb job ripping and tagging throughout the album. Helping his cause in the solo department following the departure of Mike Guerrero are guest appearances from AGENT STEEL's Juan Garcia, DARK ANGEL's Jim Durkin and the always-fabulous Rocky George. Thus the guitar solos on "Immortal Legacy" are blistering at every turn, plus the 44-second guitar instrumental "Earthshaker" gives a gnarly pause following the speed rush of "Thunder Roar, The Conquest, La Boca de la Beastia (The Mouth of the Beast)", a song as exhausting as its title. There's even a pretty cool bass instrumental from Lance Harrison's brother, Steve, "Atlantis (Journey to Atlantis)".
When HIRAX isn't flying on all jets with "Black Smoke", "Hellion Rising", "Violence of Action", "Deceiver" and the title track, they're playing in mosh tempo modes with power metal strumming to the tune of crossover-period D.R.I. on "Tied to the Gallows Pole" and "Victims of the Dead".
The only minor grumble about "Immortal Legacy" is its replicated chord patterns between verses on many of the songs, plus the adherence to the same bang-blitz tempo throughout the fast cuts. On "Hellion Rising", Jorge Iacobellis' massive kick drums are turned up too high in spots so that he's smothering everyone else but Katon.
Nevertheless, HIRAX are back and they're scorching on "Immortal Legacy". Katon De Pena is still razor-sharp (he's tremendous on "Violence of Action") and by now it's probably safe to say even Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth, alongside numerous thrash singers, owe De Pena a debt of gratitude for a few vocal maneuvers. Welcome back, old warrior.