Review Summary: A raw, natural, otherworldly, ceremonial and ritualistic experience.
Sound is tactile; whereas visual imagery is experienced at the surface, a sonic experience can manifest both outside and inside the body. Heilung’s use of sound is to catalyse an imaginary inner environment which is experienced as sacred and ritualistic, conjuring tangible sensations unto their audience and projecting vivid imagery from an ancestral era whose practices and culture remain a mystery. Self-proclaimed as “Amplified History”, Heilung’s shamanistic rituals are the closest recreation of what the ancestors of this era touched and the best possibility to experience what they experienced in their rituals.
Heilung relies on sonic spatialisation to convey natural surroundings. Attached to their clothes are metallic bells, parts of bones and loosely beaded objects that create a free, natural, constantly moving, sound field as the musicians move rhythmically during the rituals. Alongside the instruments and voices, these multiple sounds are interpreted as one complex and expertly textured noise. Chimes are rung to purify the location where the rites are performed, goat horns herald a change in tone or environment- like the coming storm or dawn of a new day- while samples of birds singing, crows cawing, embers crackling and the vocalists mimicking a pack of wolves howling builds a bridge between inner sensations and features of natural landscape.
Drums are crucial in rituals. Most of the tracks on “LIFA”
commence with a simple drum beat igniting the desired tempo and pitch before any other sounds are introduced. The percussion across “LIFA”
also mimics heartbeats and therefore dictates what moods are conveyed. Fast paced pounding creates a rousing atmosphere during ”Alfadhirhaiti” whereas simple, soft taps in “Carpathian Forest” send the listener into a mollified state of mind, allowing the evil incantations or purifying cries to cast their desired spell. Physically, the percussion is as authentic as the sonic projection as the phenomenal “Krigsgaldr” commences, and ends with, the gentle tapping of real human bones like the tumbling of small stones that starts an avalanche.
Contrasting states of minds are said to be necessary for possession and spiritual music, reflecting how a medium acts passively under possession while their spirit drifts between territories and interacts with other spirits in the spirit world. The most obvious example of this is Heilung’s vocal performances. Christopher Juul and Kai Uwe Faust’s singing is often twisted electronically where their cries, groans and hums sound like thunder passing overhead while their incantations sound evil, spiteful and concentrated. Maria Franz, however, transcends purifying, cleansing sounds worth of Heilung’s English translation. Growing from gentle breezy hums to cathartic cries and sounding as if she is reaching for something unreachable, her voice pierces through the rough percussion and droning yawns and casts blinding light onto the haunting atmosphere during “In Maidjan” and “Othan” particularly.
Explosive doesn’t quite summarise Heilung’s success. Three years ago, the band released their debut album “Ofnir”
and relied on a natural word-of-mouth way of promoting their music. It wasn’t until their legendary live performance at Castlefest in the Netherlands in 2017 that the world knew who Heilung were and what they can achieve. Presently, the aforementioned “Krigsgaldr” has over 4.5 million views while the full professionally shot live show “LIFA”
, which is now being reissued as a live album by Seasons of Mist, has well in excess of 1 million views on Youtube. Such statistics are immaterial in the world that Heilung resides in, however, it’s a testament to how their music- music that is free of scientific, religious, political and other materialistic ideology, sung in a language you’ve probably never heard of and performed in shamanic outfits- can leave a lasting impression on absolutely anyone.