DiPiazzas in Long Beach was transformed into a bonafide thrash metal show on Saturday night as a mini legion of metal heads piled into the small bar/music venue for a performance from Hirax, one of the first generation of LA/OC’s speed metal bands. The show gave us a slew of talented undercard acts, including LA/OC local thrash bands Madrost, Tormenter and Skrapmetal.
Led by the youthful and charismatic vocalist Katon W. DePena, Hirax's band’s sole original member, the band was formed in the Long Beach/OC area in 1984 and came up among peers in the underground emerging thrash scene, with bands like Slayer, Metallica, Testament, and so many more from the LA and Bay area metal communities in the early to mid 1980s.
Though they never became household names in the mainstream, for the past four decades, Hirax has proved it deserves a spot in the history of thrash and even creating a sound that was steeped in both power metal, crossover thrash and hardcore punk.
At least 100 people, ranging form old to middle age younger punks and thrashers all squashed into the front and when the band appeared onstage at 11:30, sweaty and brutal circle pits were lit like fires, and people were slamming into each other all night.
Hirax, which features a solid line up of DePena on vocals, guitarist Lance Harrison, bassist Steve Harrison and drummer Mike Vega put on one of the loudest, most energetic shows at DiPiazzas in recent memory. The machine gun effects of the drumming vibrated and echoed the room, as groups of people sat on the bar side of the joint, their beers rattled and gyrated from the sheer volume. Guitarist Lance Harrison delved into the realm of thrash that puts Hirax in the same league as bands like Destruction, Exodus, Kreator, Possessed and so many more.
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Hirax, and DePena are no strangers to the heavy metal community. The band’s presence and on-stage chemistry evokes the days of when the shows were literally dangerous, at venues like the famous Fender’s Ball Room, where many legendary thrash, punk and hardcore bands performed in the 80s, and the slam pits were so intense people regularly got hurt, severely.
DePena and his bandmates stopped frequently between songs, to humbly thank the crowd, and take swigs off bottled Budweiser, as the madness in front of them ensued, fists and bodies flying in raging circles, as the thrash tunes kept coming. “The monitors are moving all over the placed getting thrashed up here, so this must be a good show!” DePena yelled to the rabid slam dancers kept running on stage to stage dive back into the crowd. Several belligerent moshers even had to be warned by bouncers from the bar to calm down or be 86ed, after all it was all in the name of good fun, not pointless violence. To give people an idea of how dedicated the legions of Hirax fans are, DePena mentioned several in the crowd had traveled from all throughout the state to see the band, including areas of Northern California, Palm Springs, and also Guadalajara, Mexico.
For just under an hour, the fans in attendance in Long Beach got to witness a new school version of the old school thrash metal show ritual. Hirax played a set list that was a great representation of their entire catalog, the band included at least one song from each of the band’s albums, from 1985’s Raging Violence, to 2014’s Immortal Legacy. For anyone caring to catch a show that keeps the legacy and vibe of real genuine thrash metal alive, be sure to catch Hirax the next time they play live.
Hirax’s set list:
Baptized by Fire
Hate, Fear and Power
La Boca De La Bestia(Mouth of the Beast)
El Diablo Negdo
Bombs of Death