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After releasing two great thrash records in the 80s before they split up, Hirax reformed in the late 90s and this is their second release after they reformed. Is it any good? Hell yeah. This is probably one of the best thrash records that was released in 2004, and while not being as good as their 80s output it still contains enough awesome moments to make it come damn close.
Instead of changing their sound to appeal to the groove scene of today, Hirax instead preferred to stick to their guns and make some more thrash like everyone else used to. This is noticeable from the very first moments the guitars kick in on the opening song 'Killswitch', with a guitar solo that sounds like it came straight out of the 80s. Thrash riffs abound, and although some of them have a bit of groove to them, Hirax utilise it well and make it add to the overall sound, not unlike what Overkill did with 'Horrorscope'. Make no mistake, this is a thrash album through and through, everything from the riffing to the drumming sounds like it was recorded back in the Golden Years of Thrash. Adding to the overall sound of the album is a clear, polished production. While I have stated in my reviews of Hirax's earlier albums that I like the raw sound that they held, the crystal clear production actually suits the music shown on here. The guitar tone is awesome, and sounds heavy and vicious, and all of the respective instruments have real 'weight' to them.
As for the individual performances, they are all lively and energetic. Katon sounds even better than he did in the 80s, as his voice is more harsher yet still retains the famous high pitch singing style he was known for. The two guitarists do some nice soloing and create some pummeling riffs that sound like they came straight out of hell. Jorge Iacobelles is spot on with his dumming, and times each beat perfectly. He may not do a fill every three seconds like some drummers today do to show off how technical and skillful they are, but his drum work does what it is supposed to do; provide an effective rhythm counterpart to the song. The bass is easier to hear than on the previous records, but it mainly follows the guitar lines.
So, the highlights. 'Unleash the Dogs of War' starts off with an intro that is not too far removed from Kreator's 'Carrion' after which it leads into awesome riffing with catchy vocal lines. Add in some spot on soloing and you have a great thrash tune. 'Into the Ruins' sounds a lot like Hirax's older material, as it is only 46 seconds long yet has a fucking fast riff with insane vocals over the top of it. 'Hostile Territory' is another winner, with more excellent guitar work and vocal performance. The chorus is especially catchy, with Katon screaming "HOSTILE!! TERRITORY!!!". As if that's not good enough they add in a fucking awesome thrash break which is a bit short but hey, all of this is in a little more than a minute and a half, so you can't expect it to go on for too long. Finally, there is 'Hell on Earth', with its excellent thrash break and catchy vocal lines.
While it may not hold up to their previous works, 'The New Age Of Terror' comes damn close. The riffing is spot on, the soloing as good as it ever was, and Katon goes crazy with his performance. An excellent modern thrash record that proves that thrash is still alive in the hearts of many, and that Hirax truly mean it when they say they'll 'Thrash 'till Death'.