Hirax: Brotherhood of The Black Heart

2015-03-21

Suggested Audio Candy:

 

[1] Hirax “El Diablo Negro”

[2] Hirax “Hellion Rising”

[3] Hirax “Bombs of Death”

[4] Hirax “Atlantis (Journey To Atlantis)”

 

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brotherhood
noun 1. the relationship between brothers
2. an association, society, or community of people linked by a common interest, religion, or trade

 

I never actually had a brother. Three older sisters fascinated by the concept of dressing me in their frocks as an infant and ensnaring my face in my grandmother’s stockings until I resembled a bank robber, only to drag my bony ass up her stairwell using the gusset for leverage…but no brothers. When my father passed I was left the sole man of the house and I could have done with a brother then let me tell you. Recently I acquired four in one fell swoop and in the unlikeliest of locales. A squalid little establishment in Camden Town, North London. It goes by the name of The Black Heart and, in truth, turned out to be bathed in glorious illumination. This tiny little stomping ground represented the concluding leg of HIRAX’ UK tour and what better way to go out than with an intimate gig, wall to wall with faithful servants of metal?

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Five days prior, in Gwynedd, North Wales, the band had thrashed the crowds of HammerFest to within an inch of their lives and my dearest friend had been present to witness the sickness. AnnThraxx made her lengthy pilgrimage across the Atlantic ocean and was rewarded with a show which highlighted just why HIRAX are still going strong over thirty years after their initial conception. There have been numerous changes to personnel over that time but the band inaugurated by charismatic front man Katon W. De Pena in 1984 is currently riding the crest of a wave after the release of their fifth studio album Immortal Legacy last year on Steamhammer Records and appear to have found their ultimate configuration going forward.

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With Lance Harrison grinding lead guitar, younger brother Steve Harrison bleeding bass, Mike Vega tormenting drums, and De Pena’s distinctive vocal tearing through each riff like a disgruntled bull charging a matador’s cape, Hirax know exactly how to affect an audience. Moreover, they have never once forgotten what it means to be part of that mosh pit. The Black Heart may well be the most intimate gig they have played in terms of meters squared but, if anything, that actually made for a more exclusive HIRAX experience. The adoring crowd got to bump fists with their heroes, look into the whites of their eyes as the band, not merely soaked in the adulation, but reflected it right back out there. The club enforced an 11pm curfew but, by the time we devoured the encore of Bombs of Death from their 1985 long-player Raging Violence, we had been soundly and decisively HIRAXED.

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Allow me to take you back to The New Age of Terror. I’m speaking of a cloudless day in Los Angeles, California, Tuesday 5th August 2014. The location was a gargantuan lard factory which had been secured for two weeks shooting key scenes for Matt Farnsworth’s monumental genre-bursting classic The Orphan Killer: Bound X Blood. It would mark my first appearance before the camera and, significantly, I was not the only one breaking my duck. Legendary gunslinger Lance Harrison was cast as my associate, that being a fellow scumbag security guard with a similarly questionable work ethic. As if I wasn’t already daunted enough by sharing my first ever scene alongside the majestic Diane Foster, I would also be required to stand toe-to-toe with a rock God in the process. I should have been shitting Black Smoke into my smalls at that point as I prepared to be Baptized by Fire but instead something utterly unprecedented played out as I prepared to press the Kill Switch.

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Thank God for Blind Faith. Despite the fact that Harrison knew plenty about Chaos and Brutality, there was no bravado or acting superior. I was Tied to The Gallows Pole and it fast became abundantly clear that I wasn’t alone in my restraints. Lance was every bit as edgy as me but, as any Assassins of War will attest, nervous energy need not spell Destruction and Terror. We shuffled off to rehearse our lines together and, unbeknownst to either of us, a brotherhood was already forming. I live for that shit; the sparking of fuses with kindred souls makes my dick rigid. Consequently, we nailed it proving without a shadow of a doubt that “we are the fucking law.” Our next scene was entirely improvised. Talk about an Earthshaker.

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The following week Lance returned but this time with reinforcements. Steve, and Mike and frontman Katon were in close tow and, for a few minutes, that peaceful shipment yard was set ablaze. Their gift to us was Hellion Rising. We received our souvenir wearing shit-eating grins sufficiently elongated to cram an amp into. I was transfixed the whole time like a wayward venison in headlamps, complete with jutted jaw, and clenched knuckles as Marcus Miller and Baby Sister stomped the blast radius clenching their own axes. Four minutes and seven seconds later I fell from my trance, spat out the well-masticated amplifier, and knew I had acquired three more brethren. Being architects of metal, their first rejoinder was to invite the similarly side-swiped FX virtuoso Simpat Beshirian and myself back to their truck for a brewski. We duly accepted and the rest is rock and roll history my friends.

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The first thing that struck me in that moment was how utterly sincere all four men were. There were no egos, no attitudes, just brotherhood and beer, two components that mesh decidedly well together. This is why I believe that HIRAX are on the verge of their magnum opus. Faces may well have changed over the years but right now there is perfect symmetry. Four nodes, wired into the system, processed in unison, and primed for the motherfucking surge Grueheads. This virus is aware. Fast forward seven months to that congested mosh pit in North London and Scarlet Genesis and I had an appetite for destruction. The almighty HIRAX obliterated The Black Heart. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house come the end as the crowd’s cheeks ran deep red in shared awe.

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There were a number of instances that fueled my fire. Watching Scarlet swirling about the front row like a twister of sorts, sodden hair snapping the air while gurning with delight was one. Lance reaching out and dropping his guitar pick into my palm as a gesture of brotherhood was another. Smelling ass from the row of revelers directly behind me also resonated as a venue hasn’t truly been savaged until you can discern the scent of another man’s colon. The moment when Katon paid heartfelt tribute to dear departed friend and lead guitarist for Terrorizer and Napalm Death, Jesus “Jesse” Ernesto Pintado Andrade was utterly poignant but our master of ceremonies didn’t dwell and instead paid reverence and swiftly regrouped to unleash another wave of hysteria in honor of his fallen comrade. By this point the ventricles were pumping blood relentlessly around my very heart.

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As the witching hour cometh and The Black Heart was left to assess the damage of their Bombs of Death, Scarlet and I were invited backstage to break bread with the band of brothers. Prior to the show we had spent a good hour with Lance reminiscing and enthusing as we settled in outside the club for beer and nicotine. That was beyond priceless and the blood-red cherry on top of this particular culinary delight was the moment when the brotherhood was reunited. Time was of the essence as Scarlet and I would still be required to traverse the London Underground before our own witching hour cometh, while the guys were soon to set off for the next leg of their tour in Belgium. True brothers know how to spend such time exhaustively.

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The guys cut their teeth alongside artists such as Metallica, Exodus, and Slayer and, three decades later, are still on their Journey to Atlantis. The battle has been won, HIRAX arrived at The Black Heart and came away victorious. But the war still wages on. I wish to close with a quote from the St Crispin’s Day Speech from Henry V by William Shakespeare.

“we few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
for he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother”

 

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GREY KEEPER FRAME

6 Comments

  1. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Hirax, at Hammerfest, and hanging out with them (thanks to one of my best friends Dave Sweeney) in Manchester after their performance there.

    These guys are the real deal and I can’t say enough about them. I loved every minute of being around them, and I hope to meet up again and live the Hirax Experience another time or five…
    🙂

  2. Thank you for putting your foot up my ass when I truly wanted to throw in the towel baby….This was one of the most epic nights of my life, and I will carry the memories (eh, maybe with any luck I’ll forget the marathon in due time, lmao!) What joy it brought my heart to be a part of this magical reunion, which a truly incredible group of souls…

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