Hirax

Not Dead Yet

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Released at a time of great uncertainty, when Hirax's career was teetering on the edge of soon-to-be-confirmed extinction, 1987's Not Dead Yet combined their 1985 debut album, Raging Violence, and its 1986 follow-up EP, Hate, Fear and Power, into one convenient all-encompassing package. And, notwithstanding the band's unexpected new-millennium re-formation (as turbulent and short-lived as their original run), its 22 tracks arguably still cover everything that any metal fan would ever need to hear (more, even) out of these early crossover pioneers from Buena Park, CA. That's "crossover" in a tangential sense, mind you, since Hirax's songs had only their relative arranging simplicity and general brevity (lasting no more than two and a half minutes on average) to claim from punk and hardcore, being otherwise chiseled out of thrash and speed metal alloys through and through, right down to their over the top lyrics about demons and monsters. But, as most thrash cognoscenti will tell you, the ultimate arbiter for one's loving or loathing Hirax is usually the distinctive but divisive vocals of Katon W. DePena, whose impressive high-pitched vibrato and competent midrange are both frequently tainted by his insistence on yo-yoing back and forth between them. Sure enough, most of the band's best tracks were those where DePena simply stuck with one or the other for longer periods of time, e.g., "Guardian Protector," "Raging Violence," "Blind Faith," "The Last War," and the band's single, unquestionably classic contribution to heavy metal, "Evil Forces." In sum, although much of Hirax's original '80s legacy was neither as timeless nor as visionary as some far too fond old-timers would have you believe, there's still plenty of quality speedcore to be found among these tracks.

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