Hirax - El Rostro De La Muerte
Black Devil Records
Thrash Metal
14 songs (51:21)
Release year: 2009
Reviewed by Tony
I think that with every Thrash band there is a competition and a certain degree of what makes Thrash great sought after. Some bands want the best shredding guitar, some search for limitless speed, some want to be the heaviest. For as long as the eventful and winding history of Hirax has been shaped, they have done one thing better than almost anyone. They found a sound their fans loved, they played with heart, passion, and never compromised. Hirax have been one of the most underrated and underappreciated Thrash bands ever. Before I got to Noise Chaos War, The New Age of Terror was given a 30 / 100 by one of our past reviewers. Most of the forumites disagreed with this disgustingly low score. The reviewer cited poorly construed riffs and a lack of depth as his primary cause for concern. But I feel The New Age of Terror should at least be given a 50 point boost. It’s the few of you that will severely disagree with me that will make this album worth reviewing. Amongst tops in forumite distaste for Hirax would be Katon W. De Pena’s semi-melodic vocals. Katon was masterful in his architectural design of the California Thrash scene, his voice booming with excitement. As he pushes 50, he still has it, and all of it. 2009’s El Rostro De La Muerte (Spanish for the Face of Death) is potentially Hirax’s heaviest album, and what it lacks in certain departments, it certainly makes up for them in others.

El Rostro De La Muerte begins with an infamous quote from legendary American General George S. Patton. Patton sheds his frustrated, burly outlook on the concept of dying for your country. Baptized by Fire is a scintillating opener, providing a lyrical outlook on the merits and tribulations of war, as told through the eyes of Katon. A solid opener is followed by several other memorable pieces before finally the title track and one of the strongest of Hirax’s discography bursts onto the scene like a bat out of Hell. This song is well over five minutes, even though a few fleeting seconds consist of an eerie intro. This song is a powerful, piledriving track with a headstrong verse and a catchy chorus. Catchy choruses have always been an element in Thrash songs that I really love and can really stir a crowd. Just think about the reaction Slayer gets when they play fan favorite War Ensemble. It’s like a sing along amidst a hail of bullets and twisted metal.

Often the chief complaint leveled against Hirax (besides Katon’s vocals, which I’ll elaborate on later) is that their riffs are not decisive and precise enough to warrant a solid score. But to me, sometimes Thrash doesn’t have to be all about musicianship and a cutting edge sound structure. Hirax do not need a top flight producer and upper crust musicians to make some of the best Thrash the USA has to offer. Like 2004s The New Age of Terror, there are some tracks with lengthy intros. But where the previous effort had short tracks specifically designed to provide a precursor to the bigger hits, El Rostro De La Muerte is consistent and bundles these tracks into one.

Hirax have the same philosophy on guitar solos that any rugby team has on scoring tries: early and often. And while so much of Hirax’s music surrounds their riffs and lead guitar playing, it is the percussion by strong armed drummer Jorge Iacobellis, featuring a lot more double bass with striking endurance, and of course his simple but strong beats make for a punishing aural assault. Of course on some songs, especially songs with a chorus like El Rostro De La Muerte, Katon has a chance to elaborate on his melodic talents and accentuate his vibrato. At times, Katon can almost get as theatrical as an NWOBHM vocalist. Of course, not on the level of a Dickinson. Katon can also lyrically hammer the listener in the vein of a true Thrash vocalist.

Honestly, I may be a huge Hirax fanboy, but to be real I am an experienced metal fan and musician and I know my way around a record. I truly think that Hirax get too much flack for things that I find to be the strengths of the band. So, agree to disagree. But I know this is one that Hirax fans will universally enjoy.

Killing Songs :
Baptized by Fire, El Rostro De La Muerte, The Laws of Temptation, Satan's Fall
Tony quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by Hirax that we have reviewed:
Hirax - Immortal Legacy reviewed by Andy and quoted 75 / 100
Hirax - Noise Chaos War reviewed by Tony and quoted no quote
Hirax - The New Age of Terror reviewed by Jason and quoted 30 / 100
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