“In the far dark corners of every human’s soul there lurks a black crouching spectre. The ghost-like shadow that waits. A shrouded thing that pulsates with malignant evil. The name of that ghost, is…Hagzissa”.
But who is this Hagzissa, you might ask, and why am I talking about this band? Well, to begin with, they come from Austria and tomorrow, on the 23rd of August, they will release their first full length album, They Ride Along On the Howling Winds, on LP and CD format via Iron Bonehead Productions.
Two years ago the band released Demo 2017, which came out on tape and contained 4 tracks of some sort of primitive produced black metal. Based on folklore and popular myths and legends, the demo tape quickly became sort of a sought after item and it was re released on a pro tape by Iron Bonehead Productions later that year.
What makes this full length so remarkable, especially for me, who lately I have distanced myself from the black metal “scene” ? The most important aspect is the originality of the music. Like all the releases of Kringa, the other band that some of the Hagzissa members play in, this album is outside of the well established norms of “politically correct” nowadays black metal. It is far from the Satanic cliche, it does not contain odes to Lucifer or other demons and it certainly does not have church choirs.
This masterpiece of woodland metal speaks of the Devil, but it’s about that medieval type of devil someone can encounter either when reading old books of magic or when walking through remote country side villages, where the aged people still pass orally the folklore tales and the beliefs of old. The whole atmosphere of this album reeks of superstitions, witches and old, dark forests, where an ancient evil lurks in silence. But if you dare to enter this realm, you’ll be spellbound by its beauty and you’ll never want to come back.
Half of the 8 songs on They Ride Along consist of those present on the demo, but they have been reworked so they sound much more clearer now. The other 4 are rather new compositions, but they are written in the same way as the others so the tracks flow naturally one into the other, compressing the 8 songs into a single, 40 minutes long chapter.
A very interesting aspect which I noticed while spinning this promo material was the punkish attitude some of the songs contain. This adds a groovier and “catchier” rhythm to the songs, making them easier to remember. Of course there’s also a decent share of traditional black metal blast beats, but the band is not abusing them only to sound more evil and satanic. The shift between the slow, atmospheric parts and the fast ones is very well crafted (e.g Moonshine Glance (An Iron Seed in Sour Soil) or They Ride Along ), taking the listener through various states of mind.
Until now I did not mention B.Moser‘s voice, but no review would be complete without talking about it. From high pitched screams to possessed growls and psychotic laughs, this guy reaches a whole range of vocal spectres, sounding like a mental patient who has just escaped from a lunatic asylum and is now hiding in the woods at night. This impressive demonstration of vocal prowess adds an extra madness to an already cursed album.
Without these tortured vocals, the songs would not have been complete and the whole album would have lacked its vital essence (There, Draw a Circle is the perfect example for that).
Add to all of the above the use of German in the lyrics (Die Pforte (A Speech Above the Moor)), as well as of the small interludes, like that rusty violin at the end of Irrsinnsdimensionen (A Bath Amidst the Wells) or of the cowbells which maintain the suspense at the end of the title track and you have the complete picture of what Hagzissa‘s debut album is all about.
If you get the physical copy, do not forget to stare into the cover art because it is astounding. Two bulging eyes stare at you with horror while from the ugly face of the old hag the black spectre of a witch is unfolding its long arms, in a crucifixion pose. This is one hell of an amazing drawing, which comes hand in hand with the music and the evil atmosphere on the album.
The general impression of They Ride Along, also enhanced by a solid production for this kind of release (e.g. the bass guitar is very audible in the mix, unlike many other albums in the genre), is that the guys have really took their time to deliver an impressive debut album which will definitely not pass unnoticed. Hagzissa‘s music is original, addictive, scary, heavy and disturbing at the same time. And that is quite a rare thing these days, in black metal at least.
Hagzissa – They Ride Along on the Howling Winds Tracklist:
1. Die Pforte (A Speech Above the Moor)
2. Irrsinnsdimensionen (A Bath Amidst the Wells)
3. Moonshine Glance (An Iron Seed in Sour Soil)
4. Searing Effigy
5. They Ride Along on the Howling Winds!
6. The Nightshade Wilderness
7. Atavist Kama Aconite Trance
8. There, Draw a Circle!
B. Moser – Vocals, Bass
Morast – Guitars
C. Rastelli – Guitars
L. Pachinger – Drums