Review: Hirax ”Immortal Legacy” [Steamhammer Records]

Review: Hirax ”Immortal Legacy” [Steamhammer Records]

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Masters will fall and slaves will rise, immortal they shake the earth!

What a crushing, annihilating, corpse-raising record! Immortal Legacy – released in 2014 – is still the latest record released by the almighty Hirax and deserves a lot more praise than it actually gets. Nobody seems to be talking about it, you can hardly find it on any common “top-of-something” lists and no one is going to recommend this one unless you provide exact characterizations of the sound Immortal Legacy is going for. Even if it were the case that Hirax would have records of theirs on such an assumed recommendation list, it’d probably be their earlier CDs Raging Violence or perhaps The New Age of Terror and while both albums most definitely have their merits, they do not quite sound as manic as this one.

Katon W. de Pena is a fucking beast of a vocalist. Already past his 50th birthday on the release day, he never sounded this abrasive and commanding to me before. He’s always been one of the more unique sounding thrashers out there but his unhinged, quasi-melodic shrieking style is definitely one of a kind. His combination of an unstoppable force slightly similar to early Vio-Lence and the actual ability to sing is absolutely stealing the show here. There’s a lot of fine enough instrumentals and off-kilter, swarm-like guitar soloing, tearing your tympanic membranes to fucking shreds (also due to the wobbly production-job, but more about that later) and yet this album is predominantly fueled, fed and powered by Katon himself. His singing is not always perfectly in tune (Katon likes to switch things around with the last syllables or final word of a phrase and doesn’t like to be too predictable) but it’s part of the charm and as a Hirax-fan, you should already be accustomed to it. If you are not a fan of his yet, become one now!

The rhythm fretwork is most effective when the guitars are blazing forth at 200+ bpm, because that is the time when the solos are lumbering your inner-ear’s hair cells in rapid succession and one’s barely able to focus on anything else but the death of your aural perception. Or simply put: the guitar riffs themselves are not always that excellent and tend to become a bit blurry after a while. Mostly the slightly slower and mid-paced, groovier sections are truly effective and memorable in their charming simplicity and serve as a slight relief from the rapidly violent pit-action, perfectly suitable for the older bull neck-thrasher. This certain lack of masterclass-riffcraft might be the sole reason why Hirax never quite reached the popularity-level of some other acts within the scene and could never quite shake off that “second-tier” mark they seem to have been branded with since like forever. But even though that is one not-so-minor complaint that needs to be pointed out, the sum of all parts plus the overall quality of the songwriting (especially the mighty choruses) is still delivering in spades.

Another slight grievance I already touched upon earlier is the more negative side of the ear-drum-battering; the mix greatly prefers lead guitars – adding a lot of harsh, loud highs to their profile – over the muddier, more understated body of the rhythm guitars and while the prominence of Slayer-done-better-leads is a welcome one, expect to lose about 1 – 2 % of your hearing capability after each successive listen due to their proportionally excessive loudness when the volume knob is turned to 11, no matter how superb your sound gear is; yet ultimately, your ears could suffer a lot more someplace else.

To draw a conclusion here – all I truly want to say is that this record deserves a lot more fans. It’s one of the most underrated thrash gems of this decade and should be in every heavy/speed/thrash-metalhead’s collection. Even for a part-time-thrasher like myself, this is mandatory material for the car stereo – trust me, you and your local police force will love this.

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