Review Summary: Gal anda viðr, gangla viðr, riðanda viðr, viðr rinnanda
Utter darkness. Ruins of an age long past, almost lost. A man and a woman meet, not even their contours showing. They feel each other, know where they are, know what’s going to happen. No word needs to be spoken. Their breathing steadies, the ritual about to commence firm in their minds, and it begins. Voices intertwine. Hers a monotone droning, his a serpentine snarl, as some feral creature learned in the tongues of men. Their voices belong together, become one, and speak of the history of mankind, its future and the destruction of all things. Without prejudice, without discrimination, they accept what has happened, what will happen. The voices do not speak of good or of evil, for in nature there is no good or evil. They simply speak of survival and of the path of life. Simple. Pure.
It is the interlude to an ancient shamanistic ritual, one that will have the world tremble in its wake. The blowing of horns announce its commencing and soon others join in. Ritualistic rhythmic snarls, growls and grunts form the backbone for big drums to form a counterpoint. As the first ritual progresses, male and female vocals take turns in chanting and blessing what is to come, creating a hypnotic tidal wave that leaves one with visions of a distant, cold land in a time long gone.
‘Futha’ is first and foremost a ritual celebrating the feminine inner strength, and as such, it only takes this first opening ritual before the vocals of Maria Franz take center stage on Norupo
. Her sweet but strong voice is like a force of nature, soaring and sweeping untamed by the rhythms that try to keep her earthbound. The more they try, the more she resists until a grandiose climax erupts and all is left bare and raw and broken. These are just the first two rituals out of nine, and they already took me to a completely different place and time in my mind’s eye.
The “amplified history” of Heilung is among one of the most original and inspired music acts to come out of the last couple of years. Taking the texts of ancient runes to enact real shamanistic rituals of ancient Scandinavia only works if it somehow ‘feels’ authentic. Anyone who ever witnessed a live-show by this group knows that this is the case when it comes to Heilung. Everything, from the primitive instruments to the outfits to the actual performance, screams authenticity and attention to detail. Heilung take great lengths to ensure that it is so, and one needs only listen to their earlier work ‘Ofnir’ or their new record ‘Futha’ to know this for a fact.
When compared to the more masculine ‘Ofnir’, ‘Futha’ offers a lighter and more immediate approach. Because the focus of the music lies more on the female vocals this time around, the songs feel more inclusive and accessible. This directly results in a record that will grab more new listeners by the throat, yet it is still far from traditional accessible music. This is a record to hypnotize and entrance you. It does have the added downside that it gets very difficult to talk about the individual songs.
Highlights do occur though, in the more electric sounding urgency of Svanrand
, in the buildup of the aforementioned Norupo
and in the grandiose finale Harmer Hippyer
. It is the music of Mother Nature, but that does not mean that it is pretty, for at points it certainly is not. Some of the male vocals (and even some of the female) are downright terrifying and call to mind early age black-metal rasps, like in the beginning of Harmer Hippyer
. There are also two spoken word ‘stories’ that breathes some air in between the drums and chants and give the album as a whole a more conceptual vibe. Without the translation (which I do not have), they do not make a lot of sense though, since it is all in spoken in the ancient languages of the time.
All in all, ‘Futha’ is a wonderful record for those who are open for something organic and primeval. It may not always be catchy, accessible or pretty. It is, however, pure and free from political view, religion or creed. It is music to be experienced for oneself, not to be described. Take yourself to a quiet place, put on ‘Futha’, and let yourself be immersed in ancient ‘amplified’ history.