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New drummer, new songwriting, still thrash - 84%

Gutterscream, April 18th, 2005

“…world war, paranoia, hate fear and power…”

With the ultra-short mushroom cloud of a title cut Hirax’s sophomore lp detonates, and the remaining trio of Depena, Monardo, and Owen make sure everyone offers a hearty, double-fisted salute to new stick-flailer Eric Brecht, the replacement for John Tabares, a capable drummer who at times seemed overwhelmed by the band’s stunning thrash delivery on the debut. Beside that, nothing new on the home front - a great thing ‘cause Raging Violence is a glam-killing, child-tearing, Egghead-shattering creature that needed no other fine-tuning, tinkering, or modifying, and cringing from Katon’s vocals is not something the true Hirax fan does.

Funny enough, in my head I’ve always considered this an ep rather than a full-lengther as the lp is only a minute and a half longer than Reign in Blood, but unlike the Slayer classic, I constantly feel like I’m flipping sides with this (so get the cd, you outdated dolt), and the briefness of the bombastic “Hate, Fear and Power” doesn’t help, but I digress.

“Blind Faith”, a brawny, multi-rhythmic thrasher, finds itself smack dab in the middle of two monsters. While it has survived the sudden discharge of the title cut, “Unholy Sacrifice” charges from behind like a possessed pace car for speed metal, a massive barrage of riffs accumulating more and more destructive force as it blares on and has always been a top track for me. John Tabares probably would’ve imploded by the second riff. “Lightning Thunder” lassos the stampede for the most part with a more moderate pace, but lurching and bucking is the power seething underneath.

Side two fires with a little less thrash and a spotlight on more thought-provoking songwriting as the “The Last War” will attest, rumbling to life with double bass, cadenced paces ranging from deliberate to jogging, a handful of stout rhythms, and a brewing chorus. “The Plague” is home to classic thrash licks and a toned chorus, meanwhile “Imprisoned by Ignorance” mixes up interesting, unorthodox riffs with traditional ones. “Criminal Punishment” does nothing to undermine the mindset, shifting back and forth between thrash quality riffage and the newly found, more conventional script.

Even though I’m still a sucker for Raging Violence, Hirax prove a few things here. Not only does thrash continue to burn within their chest like chronic heartburn, it’s capable of roaring with even more frightening consequence than on their debut thanks to “Unholy Sacrifice”. In addition, their proclivity for more traditional writing has been set in stone, etched by just about every track on side two. Katon’s voice is as sharp and penetrating as on the debut, and the three zombies on the cover that have eaten Egghead are just as colorful and chaotic.