Hirax
El Rostro De La Muerte

If you fancy yourself fan of vintage, no frills thrash metal and you’ve not yet heard Hirax, then you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of El Rostro De La Muerte as soon as possible. In the way of a brief history lesson, Hirax were part of the early Metal Blade roster playing a kind of frantic crossover style with albums like Raging Violence and Hate, Fear, and Power. After a period of dormancy the band – led by sole original member and charismatic front man Katon W. De Pena – developed more of a straight ahead Exodus-esque thrash attack, most evident on 2004’s ripping New Age of Terror. That is, until El Rostro De La Muerte came along, which in my humble opinion is, arguably, not only the fiercest album the band has released to date, but also easily one of the year’s best thrash metal albums.

Translated as “The Face of Death,” El Rostro De La Muerte is one hot-shit thrash inferno. Forget about the army of toddler thrashers that have discovered the glory days – well, ok, I do like a lot of what’s happening now, but you get the idea – because Hirax puts most of them to shame. Put this album at least in league with newer releases by the likes of Exodus. The riffs kill, the solos sear, the songwriting is memorable, and De Pena’s vocals are Zetro-esque and completely off the rails. Songs like “Baptized in Fire,” “Flesh and Blood,” Eradicate Mankind,” and “Satan’s Fall” – ah shit, pick any song, I’m serious – are first rate adrenaline pumpers that’ll send shock waves down your spine and metal shards right up your ass. And that includes versions of a couple of cuts in “Broken Neck” and “Chaos and Brutality” that have appeared on previous releases (the former re-recorded and the latter remixed). Piano interlude “Cuando Cae la Oscuridad (When Darkness Falls)” even works and doesn’t seem out of place; I’m not sure why, it just works.

John Haddad’s recording is pretty damn strong as well and the Ed Repke artwork is most appropriate, not to mention bad to the bone. I like the booklet with lyrics and live photos too. Hell, I even like the Rainbow Rising shirt that guitarist Glenn Rogers is wearing in one of the photos. For the love of all that is unholy, buy El Rostro De La Muerte. We need more albums like this. Keep ‘em coming, boys!

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Scott Alisoglu
December 16th, 2009

Comments

  1. Commented by: Staylow

    This album fucking rips. One of my faves of the year for sure. Good review.


  2. Commented by: Iwein

    The Big Four can suck it. These thrash metal fossils still have soul in ’em. Hail Hirax!


  3. Commented by: xbenx

    Yep, bang on the money Scott, really digging this.


  4. Commented by: Cynicgods

    A thing of beauty, this record. Just when I thought no oldschool thrash band could recapture their truly glorious early sound, along comes this powerhouse to prove me wrong. Fuckin’ A!


  5. Commented by: vugelnox

    Not too often an old thrash band can rumble back to life and make it worth our while but Hirax manages the trick nicely here. Put this up with Exodus and Whiplash for keeping the flame burning and not doing a half-assed job either!


  6. Commented by: Hirax – Noise Chaos War « Teeth of the Divine

    […] of classic thrash metal in general, you can’t go wrong. Add this to the live DVD in 2008 and El Rostro De La Muerte in 2009, and Hirax has done plenty to feed their fans’ rabid hunger. [Visit the band's […]


  7. Commented by: George Darkfiend

    Good to read an accurate review of this great Hirax album.
    Of the many old metal bands from the 80s who have reformed, not many manage to record albums that live up to their 80s heydays, but Hirax are an exception [as are Agent Steel & Helstar]. This album has it all….great songs, great & heavy production, strong musicianship, just one of the best thrash metal albums of the modern era.


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