HIRAX is an American thrash metal band from Cypress, California. Starting in 1984 under the leadership of vocalist Katon W. De Pena (the band’s only original member of the current line-up), the band played in Los Angeles and San Francisco with the other new thrash metal bands of the area such as Metallica, Exodus, and Slayer. The band was an early example of the thrash metal, speed metal.
Later in ’84, guitarist Scott Owen and drummer John Tabares replaced Savage and Keith. Influenced by such great acts as Motorhead, Anvil, and Venom, Vocalist De Pena wanted the band to go in a heavier and faster direction musically; and HIRAX’s thrash metal style was born.
Because of their notoriety in the underground, HIRAX were signed to Metal Blade Records and contributed a track to the legendary compilation “Metal Massacre VI,” which also featured Slayer, Voivod, Celtic Frost, Fates Warning, Metal Church, and Trouble. HIRAX contributed the track “Bombs of Death,” which was the first song recorded with the new line-up. The bands on the “Metal Massacre VI” compilation were at the forefront of a new metal movement and the record sold well.
“HIRAX, along with label mates Trouble, Slayer, Celtic Frost, Voivod, Destruction, and Possessed, helped start something very, very important that has lasted the test of time,” said vocalist Katon W. De Pena.
In 1985, HIRAX contributed the track “Destruction And Terror” for the compilation “Angelican Scrape Attic” 7” flexi disc, which was Earache Records first release. They were the only U.S. band featured on the limited edition compilation. HIRAX were gaining fans at a rapid pace.
HIRAX released their first full-length recording in 1985 on Metal Blade titled “Raging Violence”. The band’s combination of the heaviness of metal and the speed of hardcore became known as “crossover”. Bands such as Corrosion Of Conformity, Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, and Cryptic Slaughter were all part of this new scene, but Katon W. De Pena’s upper-range clean vocals stood out from the pack and HIRAX gained a rabid following. HIRAX played regularly throughout California- the Bay Area bars Mabuhay Gardens, On Broadway, and Ruthies, L.A. clubs The Troubador and Country Club, and Fenders Ballroom in Long Beach, California. “One of the best shows there was when we played with Megadeth and Exciter,” De Pena said. “As soon as HIRAX hit the stage, the whole club, 1,000 headbangers strong, went completely NUTS!!”
Drummer John Tabares was replaced with former D.R.I. drummer Eric Brecht and HIRAX released a second album for Metal Blade in 1986 titled “Hate, Fear, And Power”. The band had been through a lot by this time, constantly touring and some changes in the line-up, but they continued on. HIRAX released this mini LP because the y were under pressure from the record label to put out a new product. “We weren’t their typical band so we stood out like a sore thumb,” De Pena said. “The record is only 22 minutes long and we probably confused even some of our fans at the time. We didn’t want to fit in. We wanted to do our own thing. We knew that we didn’t want to follow the satanic trends of the other metal bands at the time.” It was the last release the band would record for Metal Blade.
HIRAX continued on without any label support and released a 3-song demo titled “Blasted In Bangkok”. The ’87 demo, which took only six hours to record and mix, was recorded the day after Katon’s 23rd birthday. HIRAX was back to where they started, selling demos on their own, but now they had a loyal fan base behind them that had grown larger from the two Metal Blade releases. Because of these releases, the band would live forever in the hearts of true metalheads. Lautrec Records from Los Angeles, California released a 7” record of two songs from the “Blasted In Bangkok” demo.
That same year, Katon, along with drummer Gene Hoglan (Dark Angel, Death, Testament, and Strapping Young Lad), original Metallica bassist Ron McGovney, and guitarists Nathan Williams and Rodney Nicholson formed the band Phantasm and recorded a six-song demo with Bill Metoyer of Metal Blade Records. Phantasm toured briefly with Nuclear Assault and disbanded in 1988 because of power struggles between the members.
The Phantasm demo finally got a proper release on Black Devil Records and Deep Six Records on the CD titled “Wreckage,” which also includes a show from the Phantasm / Nuclear Assault tour.
Disillusioned by the music industry, De Pena left HIRAX at the end of 1988 and he was briefly replaced by Exodus frontman Paul Baloff. This lineup didn’t last long and by 1989, HIRAX was no more.
For the next 8 years, De Pena continued to support the underground, working at record labels and stores. He was never far from the music that he grew up with and played.
The reunion of HIRAX was put into motion in 1997 when their friends in the band Spazz asked them to be on a split 7”. HIRAX decided to use the third song (“Dying World (Shock)”) from the “Blasted In Bangkok” demo and the single was released on Pessimer-Theologian Records. The record found its way to a whole new generation of underground music fans and generated a buzz about the band once again. “Later on, we would realize it was the spark that would eventually bring the band back together,” De Pena said.
In 1998, HIRAX began to receive a lot of feedback and fan mail, which triggered the reformation of the band. The original line-up (Katon W. De Pena, Johnny Tabares, and Gary Monardo) reunited in 2000 and released the EP titled “El Diablo Negro”. This was the first release on Black Devil Records, De Pena’s label, and Deep Six Records. HIRAX had come full circle at this point, redefining their sound with a combination of speed and aggression similar to their early style.
The reunion of HIRAX didn’t last long, but De Pena was determined to keep the band going since interest in the band was regenerated with the release of “El Diablo Negro”. In 2001, the band followed up “El Diablo Negro” with “Barrage Of Noise,” which received critical acclaim by magazines and fanzines all over the world, putting HIRAX back on the map and introducing them to a whole new audience of thrash metal fans.
A new chapter had been forged in the legacy of HIRAX. Since their reformation, the band has toured constantly throughout North America and Europe. In 2003, HIRAX played at the prestigious “Bang Your Head” Festival in Germany to an enthusiastic early-morning crowd. “Everybody had told us that the Saturday morning 10 AM slot is the hardest of the festival, ” De Pena said.” Because of all the late night/early morning parties the night before, most of the crowd is in no condition to get up that early, but they did for us. It only took a few songs before the whole huge floor was packed with headbangers. We were told by festival organizers that HIRAX had the best turnout for the opening slot in the history of the festival.” HIRAX spent the last half of 2003 writing material for their new studio recording titled “The New Age Of Terror”.
In February 2004, they entered Speed Semen Clove Factory in North Hollywood, Calif. with producer Michael Rozon (Melvins, Adrenaline O.D.) and recorded and mixed 11 tracks in an unbelievable 9 days.
The combination of HIRAX’s powerful new songs and musicianship with Rozon’s thick, ultra-sharp production will guarantee “The New Age Of Terror” to be HIRAX’s most successful release. The sound and feel of the recording is dark and hellish,” said De Pena.
HIRAX is a band consisting of 5 talented musicians- lead guitarists Glenn Rogers and Lance Harrison, bassist Steve Harrison, and drummer Jorge Iacobellis, but the band is a dream and obsession of one man. Katon W. De Pena could have left the band and never looked back and HIRAX would have become a footnote in the history of metal. But De Pena envisioned something more. HIRAX had more to prove, more songs to write, and more countries to conquer, so he reformed the band. Metal flows through Katon W. De Pena’s veins and HIRAX is the band that will keep true metal alive.
“The New Age Of Terror” was released worldwide in 2005. HIRAX’s live assault continued with a headlining slot at Minneapolis Mayhem 2 Festival, as well as appearances at the Metal Devastation Festival in Arizona, Tijuana, Mexico, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Massachusetts.
HIRAX recently released their first DVD “Thrash Til Death,” a headbanging epic clocking in at over 2 hours. The DVD features the complete set from their performance at Minneapolis Mayhem 2, plus bonus footage from shows played in Germany, Sweden, The Netherlands, and San Francisco during “The New Age Of Terror” tour.