You may recall that HIRAX released two Metal Blade albums — "Raging Violence" (1985) and "Hate, Fear, and Power" (1986) — before finally calling it quits in 1989. Playing a kind of thrash/crossover fast blast style, given a twist by wild man Katon W. De Pena's classic metal vocal style, the group lived fast and died young. Reuniting with the original lineup for the "El Diablo Negro" demo in 2000, Katon was forced to go with an entirely new lineup for 2001's "Barrage of Noise". When 2004 rolled around, it was time for a full-length, this time a vintage thrash album called "The New Age of Terror", released on Mausoleum in Europe. The disc was recently released in the U.S. through Deep Six Records in cooperation with Katon's own Black Devil Records. Fans of quality old school thrash (now having more in coming with EXODUS than, say, D.R.I.) are in for a treat.
The change in sound from the '80s albums is most immediately apparent in how De Pena's voice has become lower and raspier, making him sound rather similar to EXODUS' Steve "Zetro" Souza. De Pena's performance is a perfect match for the thrashy style employed on tunes like "Kill Switch", "Hostile Territory", and the excellent title track. A classic chainsaw riff delivery, courtesy of axemen Dave Watson and Glenn Rogers, as well as effective solos by both (though most by Glenn), gives the album a throwback appeal without making it sound dated. Mostly up-tempo, with a hint of the frantic delivery of the old days, the tracks are catchy and memorable. Once you've heard 'em, they stick with you, "Unleash the Dogs of War (Open the Gates)" and "El Diablo Negro" two prime examples. Rather than being disruptive or merely taking up space, a couple of brief instrumentals ("Massacre of the Innocent" and "El Dia De Los Muertos [The Day of the Dead])" fit right in.
No emo crooning, no breakdowns, and certainly no eyeliner, HIRAX delivers a strong blue-collar album in "The New Age of Terror" that's refreshing in its diehard heavy metal attitude. Nothing groundbreaking here, just solid American thrash.