Fables of the horned one’s macabre misanthropy set within the unconquerable darkness of the night only compound bravery amidst irrational superstitions of the supernatural; So much so that any tightly-bonded culture’d hold tighter to the chest that ingrained (if not necessary) fear enough to mold fantastical hero from fools who’re slightly less frightened of their own shadow in the moonlight. Anthropomorphize a rock, a crooked ancient tree, or a caved in well full of bones all you’d like… it is the demon, the stalker, the predator in the dark that is the most spiritual connection to our ancestral ooze by way of fear of the unknown and the flight from it. Pre-dating their studious embroilment in the occult arts by way of Kringa, yet not alight in full-robed devotion to conjuration of ancient evil until 2016, Hagzissa formed to speak the irrational unspoken edges of darkness that distort the mind– Apparitions and jagged horrors fill their debut full-length, ‘They Ride Along’, driven by ghastly winds and ritualistic atmosphere that’d translate into momentary self-abandon at the pace of blood whipping through the panicked heart of hunted prey.
The cry of guitar feedback that sparks Hagzissa‘s entrance should be a brief moment of familiarity for the select few who’d either laid their hands upon the bands 2017 demo or if an earlier indoctrination with Kringa (well, ‘Feast Upon the Gleam‘ came out two days prior…) had made lucid that screaming guitar hat trick. It only benefits Hagzissa that B. Moser carries a particular ancient sensibility when spearheading a black metal project; A great deal of petrified pre-second wave black metal traditions have long bled out into the lost corners of the world and count the far northern Austrian town of Linz as the portal from which this quartet would arrive. Primitive black metallic rhythms extended into psychedelic intensity a la early Culte Des Ghoules, Veiled (Germany), as well as the more extreme rock spectrum explored by a band like Hexenbrett today each provide a stroke of what accumulates within Hagzissa‘s debut album that’d deem it special. Loose guidelines to be sure but, a mid-to-fast paced rock rhythm section is the distinguishing factor and general driver of notable rhythm within. For my death metal attuned ears the equivalent level of atmosphere and rhythm would be a record like Stench‘s ‘Venture’ but wearing Master’s Hammer‘s early-to-mid 90’s skin.
‘They Ride Along’ might be the fastest spinning 41 minute unorthodox black metal record I’ve picked up all year. The flow from song to song is natural enough that it almost appears as a stroke of luck that the rhythm guitars would lay together so easily but not bind into one soupy mess of variations on a theme as the album progresses. What distinguishes one song from another is typically rooted in pace changes, twisted intro riffs, and particularly varied vocal performances from B. Moser‘s generally non-traditional melodies. On a subconscious level the only detractor that’d likely offend the average black metal listener could be the punkish mid-paced attack that Hagzissa had generally obscured within their distant and fuzzed-over demo a few years back; A record so driven by rhythm doesn’t for a second appear self-conscious of that raw, high impact approach and for sure there is no sacrifice to complexity or fluidity when it comes to such high energy freakery.
I was immediately drawn to this sound and particularly to the feral nature of the vocal performances alongside the frantic almost noise-rocked guitar performances; I suppose it was slightly confounding to find a member of Whiskey Ritual was involved at first but ultimately if you take the finest strengths of Kringa and Whiskey Ritual then temper the occultism and drug addled excess with ancient horror Hagzissa suddenly makes all the right sense. Without any of that context ‘They Ride Along’ is still a twisted and enjoyably rhythmic black metal record worthy of many spins. Moderately high recommendation. For preview purposes I’d suggest “Irrsinnsdimensionen (A Bath Amidst the Wells)” for a general idea of where Hagzissa go on this record and then “Moonshine Glance (An Iron Seed in Sour Soil)” to get an idea of how the early tracklist flows together.
Spectres poised in black shadows. 4.0/5.0
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