Buena Park, CA's Hirax formed in 1984 and achieved only moderate success during the original outbreak of thrash in the 1980s, yet their cult following has grown exponentially in the years since, to the point where they are now frequently cited among the genre's important -- and unique -- early contributors. Led by charismatic frontman Katon W. DePena, Hirax's lineup was completed by guitarist Scott Owen, bassist Gary Monardo, and drummer John Tabares when they were signed by Metal Blade and issued their debut album, Raging Violence, in 1985. Along with its manic blend of speed and thrash metal, the LP was distinguished by DePena's high-pitched, clean singing style and for featuring unusually short songs that revealed a definite hardcore influence -- thus partly qualifying it as an early example of speedcore or crossover -- both stylistic bridges between metal and punk. Those claims were further confirmed by the arrival of former D.R.I. drummer Eric Brecht before 1986's Hate, Fear and Power mini-LP, but Hirax never got to capitalize on this trend since DePena quit the following year, going on to work with original Metallica bassist Ron McGovney in a short-lived new band called Phantasm. In the meantime, the remaining members of Hirax had attempted to carry on, rehearsing with former Exodus singer Paul Baloff before deciding to call it all off and go their separate ways. In 1987, Metal Blade reissued both of Hirax's releases on one disc, misleadingly named Not Dead Yet, but except for a brief attempt at re-forming, the group really was dead and buried -- at least until the year 2000, when DePena decided it was time to unearth the Hirax name and give it another go, starting with the next year's tentative Barrage of Noise EP and following it up with 2004's comeback full-length, The New Age of Terror, introducing a new backing crew of guitarists Glenn Rogers (ex-Deliverance) and Dave Watson, bassist Angelo Espino (ex-Reverend), and drummer Jorge Iacobelles. The album was welcomed with open arms by what remained of the aging crossover and speed metal communities, and Hirax were given several opportunities to tour behind it -- but when the ever volatile DePena bailed at the last minute from a round of scheduled Japanese dates, the band's future was once again cast in doubt. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia
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