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June 15, 2024

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El Diablo Negro - 7" Picture Disc (Robodog Records)

By: Jeb Branin

I've started over on this review a couple of times already, each time trying to figure out a way to write it without sounding like one of those boastful old-fart windbags who constantly brags about how they were into bands "back in the day." So as I start writing yet again, I've come to the realization that there is no way around it - I am a boastful windbag and HIRAX is a band I have totally worshiped since they first exploded on the speed metal underground back in the mid-80s. Well maybe "exploded" is the wrong word. They were hyped by their label as the "fastest" metal band yet but I can definitely tell you that many a headbanger had no idea what to make of them upon the release of "Raging Violence." Sure they were fast but they also had this high-pitched vocalist who sounded nothing like other thrash metal singers not to mention his vocal arrangements were bizarre, often times not meshing the rest of the song. Often the metal scene just didn't get it and then when "Hate, Fear & Power" was released it not only had a thin guitar sound but its eight songs only lasted about 15 minutes - pure heresy in the metal world. Eight songs was supposed to be an entire LP worth of songs to the metal crowd. I can still remember a letter to the editor I read in (if memory serves) Kerrang! magazine accusing HIRAX of ripping off their fans by "tricking" them with an EP disguised as an LP. The letter even demanded that the magazine start listing the playing time of records they reviewed. I got a good laugh out of that letter I can assure you! HIRAX also didn't fit into the hardcore scene of the day with their staccato riffs and decidedly heavy metal style. They might have fit better in the crossover scene with the likes of C.O.C., D.R.I. and SUICIDAL TENDENCIES except they sounded nothing like those bands. HIRAX were a band without a scene and that is exactly why I dug them so much. I constantly played them for my friends (and enemies) and I can only remember one person whose initial reaction wasn't one of confusion. Man, I totally loved HIRAX. I even joined their "fan club" which was nothing more than getting a xeroxed sheet of paper with HIRAX merchandise you could buy. After they were dropped by Metal Blade Records I even mailordered their "Blasted In Bangkok" 7" and some stickers (which never came by the way - I was pissed, although considering the fact I was in college by that point and it was the first time I had ever been ripped off doing mailorder I guess I was pretty lucky). Several years later when SPAZZ formed and their drummer "Hirax" Max turned the whole extreme hardcore scene onto them I felt like a proud papa. Well all this history brings us (finally) to the review of this new 7" picture disc by the reunited HIRAX. I guess it won't surprise you to find out that I love this. The title track "El Diablo Negro" has that quirky "doesn't-quite-mesh" sound that made "Raging Violence" so great and made it stand out from the crowd. It is punchy and thrashy with machine gun verses and a singable chorus. The two songs on the flip "I See Blood Red" and "Slit Your Wrist" both have that unbridled and frantic feel that made (makes) "Hate, Fear & Power" a favorite record of mine to this day. They also show off the speed and power that Metal Blade Records used to hype about the band. Whether you are a true HIRAX fan or just someone who says you are because SPAZZ made it mandatory to like them, I suggest you buy this record. 7" picture discs are just damn cool. Besides I want to see that look of confusion on your face so I can feel superior. Although, y'know, that might not even happen since I daresay that HIRAX has more diehard followers today (thanks to SPAZZ) than when they first existed - in spite of the fact they sold far more records in the 80s than they are likely to now.
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