Hagzissa is one of the few bands from the so called black metal scene which has recently caught my attention. Their newly released debut full length “They Ride Along on the Howling Winds” has been released on the 23rd of August and it has quickly become one of my favorite albums, so I wanted to find more about this mysterious band. Not only their music is full of mysteries, but their live shows are also shrouded in some sort of woodland mysticism. B.Moser was kind enough to answer some of my questions, so be prepared to enter the hazy universe of Hagzissa, where old spirits and magick are pretty much alive. Enjoy!
1. Hagzissa came to life in 2016 and a year later Demo 2017 was released, which eventually led to your signing with Iron Bonehead Prod. As there is not too much info available, can you tell us more about the band? How would you describe this artistic entity?
B. Moser: My thoughts surrounding the idea of Hagzissa is already several years old, but my abilities as a musician are honestly speaking very limited, which is why started looking for like-minded, capable people willing to wander on the path of ancient black oaths. So yes, that’s right; Hagzissa has finally been founded in 2016 joined by L. (drums) who also plays in Kringa and C. (then guitar, now bass), following the footsteps of old erudite scholars of witching black and violet metal. We soon wanted to develop as a full-functioning and passionate live band which is why Morast (guitar) only joined months later and C. switched to bass. As a four piece, it was possible to act and agitate! Our aim is not to bring the old times back but to show that something never ceased to ride!
2. The name Hagzissa has a strong pagan resonance. What exactly does it mean, who came up with it?
B.Moser: Becoming increasingly obsessed with the occult as a teenager, I was going through lots of obscure books focusing on witch trials, demonology and the dark folklore of Middle Europe. I came across the name Hagzissa back in those times already when checking the background of the German word for witch – Hexe.
You can easily say it is a word that has many derivations and a more commonly found version of it is Hagazussa, which interestingly enough became the title of an Austrian atmospheric alpine-horror movie in 2017. But the sheer sound of this derivation, Hagzissa, the word itself sticks and resonates with me since then until this very day.
There actually is not one definite explanation but all the rough translations there are point at the name for a being that is said to “ride the fence” between the here and the world beyond. In my imagination, this is what it is all about when it comes to black metal. There simply is no explanation in the world that would be fitting better for the idea behind this band and so we proudly walk on the edge of the wall.
3. You’ve just released your first album, They Ride Along on the Howling Winds, through Iron Bonehead Productions. I was impressed by how good and original it is, something that is very rare these days. What have been the reactions so far? Are you happy with the outcome?
B.Moser: Thank you very much! Actually, we only got good to very good feedback so far and we truly appreciate that there are so many people out there who feel the manic oddity in the same way we do it!
There has been one exception where a reviewer was disappointed by the sound of the album compared to the total rawness of the demo and did not expect us to lose this lo-fi cloth. I would like to tell you more about that matter later on, but let me tell you that the magic of both outputs shines in the same colour to us still and makes us grin and hungry for more.
4. The songs on this album are connected through old (horror) movie dialogues, rusty violins and chiming cowbells. All these elements add to the songs a certain atmosphere of witchcraft, paganism and magic. Who came up with the idea of using those samples in between the songs?
B.Moser: The on-point usage of sound samples as some kind of extra spice is something we are all fans of. Firstly, I think it really adds to the listening experience in general but secondly and maybe even more important, it lets you dive into the story the song is gonna tell you. If then, the tale is of raging envy, malicious intent and forbidden practice, it resonates with the inner self we sometimes wish to abolish and forget. Something old that might be hidden, but is always there…
5. The four tracks on the demo sound very primitive and pagan, while the tracks on the album are more polished and have a punkier feeling. Was this new direction something the band agreed upon after the release of the demo?
B.Moser: Well then… The tracks for this tape were recorded during our very second rehearsal when we still acted as a three-piece. The technical execution of course was still far from being perfect, but the dark ancient atmosphere we wanted to achieve was already there since the beginning and right so. To put it straight, we never planned to release this recording on a broader scale, but when Patrick from Iron Bonehead stumbled upon it somehow and offered us a deal to make another 300 of them – as a promotion for the later-to-come full length – we just grabbed the opportunity. Hagzissa’s soul is in both appearances of those songs. I love the distant out-of-this-world feeling of a black metal demo recording, but an album takes another effort and we are very proud with the outcome.
6. Die Pforte (A Speech Above the Moor) is the first track on the demo and on the album as well. The German word translates as “The Gate”. Did you select it as an album opener on purpose? Does it have a special meaning to you?
B.Moser: It has been the first song I ever finished writing and I always, always, always depicted this one to be the first on any track- or setlist. It may change in the future for live gigs but for our current appearance on stage, we achieve to truly open the gates with this one and let ourselves rush into a nightside frenzy! That actually is the very purpose of it.
7. The voice on the demo was already strange, but on the album, you took it a step further on the scale of insanity. While it definitely confers a lot of originality to the music, it also adds a feeling of pleasant uneasiness. What inspired your vocals on the album?
B.Moser: Thanks again! But I can’t really tell you much about that, I’m afraid. I developed an inhale technique very early on and have ever done so also on my vocal duties with Kringa. Since I could rightfully hand over the bass into another outstandingly capable hands, I have been able to fully concentrate on voice debauchery up to physically demanding levels. And I enjoy pushing it further.
If I had to think of vocalists (in the genre) that made and left an impression on me, I would name Beliar of Morrigan, Drakh of Katharsis, Paul Chain, František Štorm of Master’s Hammer, King Diamond and Attila Csihar.
8. Hagzissa may be a relatively young band, but its music sounds ancient. Where does this “stench” of old come from, how did you manage to unearth it with such an impressive result?
B.Moser: Oh, we did? Yet another word of thank is due. Maybe we did because we truly are obsessed with the ancient. Times begone are a never ending source of inspiration as it really puts some oil into the fires of imagination. There is no more tangible evidence for that outside of museums or libraries and even there it’s trapped behind glass or forbidden to see for outsiders! If you read of people unburing their families, chopping their heads off, mutilating them and digging them back again or accusing friends and neighbors for disabling their cattle by milking a broomstick at night and therefore burning them alive and naked cheerfully… then the Devil has done a damn good job, dancing in the ruins! All of us think we know what is happening around us, but within the turn of a day we might return to our most human aspects in acts of fear, despair and disgusting primitivity.
9. From the album cover (which is amazing, by the way) to the music itself, it looks like that the band draws its inspiration from folklore and old rural traditions (devils, witches and other nasty spirits which put humans to the test since the beginning of time). Do you think that living in an urban setting disconnects us from our spiritual roots?
B.Moser: Oh sometimes it does, yes. Everybody in the band lives in a city at the moment but each of us is drawn to nature in his own way. I can only speak for myself right now but 5-6 of the songs you can hear on the album were written while I was still living at the countryside, doing long walks at night alone on a regular basis.
The rest has also been inspired while at least searching for heath land and woods. A night spent outside at a fireplace makes you think different and gives you those very special, oddly well-known feelings.You can’t have that elsewhere.
10. You and the drummer L. also play in Kringa, which has a slightly different musical approach than Hagzissa, but emanates the same “morbid” atmosphere. Is it difficult to keep these two entities on their own path?
B.Moser: In the beginning, when we got Hagzissa ultimately started, I pretty much focused on it over the course of several months. For L. it always seemed easier to hop between those two offspring. He’s a very ambitious and hardworking person and always pushes himself to reach a new level of playing drums. That also comes very much in the favour of Kringa, where we have a more grouping approach and he can welter in the darkness of abstract orders. You got to understand that I wrote everything for Hagzissa, including drum patterns – but L. was more than a mere obstetrician (which is also true for C. and Morast!). His drumming is the backbone that beats your head out of nowhere.
11. I haven’t had the chance to see Hagzissa live yet, but from what I saw on YT, the shows must be quite intense. Once on stage, you look like you let it all go and your demons take over you. How do you get into that “possessed” shape, do you have any particular “rituals” you follow before a show?
B.Moser: Nothing besides taking a sip of hard liquor maybe. We get ourselves in shape and as soon as the feedback noise is starting, the dance begins. The music does the taking. It calls and they ride.
12. You played several well-known festivals around Europe and you shared the stage with many interesting bands. But what do you think about the Austrian scene? How has Hagzissa been received in your own country, is the musical press interested in bands like this?
B.Moser: In Austria, things are relatively sprinkle-spotted. Vienna is pretty dead in terms of underground. There is the Funkenflug Society (Salzburg), Celebrare Noctem and Steel City Sorcery (Upper Austria) and some keepers of the faith in Innsbruck. Besides that, there are just some cast-aways that are not really connected, but for the most part appreciative and supportive.
And concerning the second part of your question: In Austria there is no music press that is aware of Heavy Metal at all. I mean the music press is hardly even existing and if it covers anything besides Schlager or the average mainstream charts played worldwide, indie/alternative rock is as underground as it gets.
13. It looks like we have reached the end of the road for now. Thank you very much for your time spent to answer these questions. I can only hope to see Hagzissa live for the first time (and Kringa again), so I can immerse myself in the madness your music creates. The last words are yours.
B.Moser: Thank you in reverse for your interest and appreciation. If we hear the call from Hungary, we shall take heed of it! Send your messengers.
Hagzissa contact and merchandise:
Promo Picture by Krist Mort