HIRAX
"Thrash 'Til Death: Live in Concert"

(Black Devil Records)

For more information, visit BlackDevilRecords.com.

RATING: 5.5/10

As one of the attendees at the 2005 Minneapolis Mayhem II festival, I can say without equivocation that HIRAX's (who replaced SODOM on the bill) performance was a hell of a lot more exciting and the sound far better than what you will see/hear on "Thrash 'Til Death: Live in Concert". Both sound and picture quality (including the crappy lighting and so-so camera work) are better than bootleg, but not by a whole hell of a lot. The guitars lack crunch and the rhythm section beef. At least Katon W. De Pena's voice comes through well, while his overall stage presence and wild enthusiasm for all things thrash metal goes a long way.

The song selection covers the early '80s crossover material from Metal Blade releases like "Raging Violence" and "Hate, Fear and Power", as well as several tracks from the excellent full-on thrash of 2005's "The New Age of Terror". Don't get me wrong, the band's performance is great fun to watch and though the flat sound is a bummer, it's not abysmal. Guitarists Glenn Rogers and Dave Watson slash and burn, bassist Angelo Espino is a human dynamo, and drummer Dave Chedrick holds it all together competently. The wild-eyed and smiling De Pena is the perfect front man, proudly representing the old school with spiky wrist bands and black leather; the guy truly understands how to command an audience. All five members are clearly having a great time.

The bonus material is basically for the diehards. Brief sets from Bang Your Head festival (Germany, 2003), Sweden Rock festival (2004), Tidal Wave festival (San Francisco, 2004), and Dokk 'Em open air festival (Holland, 2004) are in fact bootleg quality. Still, it is interesting to see the enthusiasm for this band after so many years of dormancy. Incidentally, Jack Starr joins the band on stage at Bang Your Head. A 2005 show from The Pound (San Francisco) benefits from a better sound mix, but we're talking in relative terms here. An interview from Sweden Rock festival with the band is fairly comprehensive, and hearing Katon tell stories from the '80s thrash glory days is entertaining and informative.

If you're a big HIRAX fan, the DVD might be worth the cash. Just get your expectations in check before making the purchase and don't play it on a cheap system.

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