We just got back from the extraordinary Roadburn festival in Tilburg (Netherlands) and as first-timers we are completely taken aback by the atmosphere and vision of this festival. There was a lot of (well deserved) buzz around Heilung. They played an intense set on Thursday (with some new material!). An outstanding performance. We only got the feeling the crowd consisted more of curious ‘tourists’ than the heartfelt audience of Midgardsblot where we first saw Heilung’s ritual performed live in 2018 (for the report of that event go here). This took away a little of the magical atmosphere for us.
We further attended a pre-listening session of their upcoming album Futha in its entirety Friday night and a hosted interview and Q&A on Saturday morning. Of course we can’t replay to you all that we’ve heard, but we at least we wanted to share our first impressions with our readers! We base our info of track names on the previously released first album details (https://www.grimmgent.com/heilung-release-first-track-and-album-details-of-futha/)
Futha’s opener ‘Galgaldr’ starts off slowly with spoken whispers. There is a gradual build up as the drums fall in and the tempo is steadily increased. It feels like the bass sounds are deeper than what we’ve known so far from the ‘Ofnir’ album. Singer Kai Uwe Faust takes the lead, while we hear Maria Franz in the background. It’s a wild an intense start for the album, drum-driven, and the female character that defines ‘Futha’ is clearly present.
By the end of ‘Galgaldr’ the spoken whispers are led by the female voice and the male one gets to sit in the background. This way, we slowly transition into ‘Noropu‘, the album’s first single that was released a little over a week ago. During the live show the night before, this track was performed with additional female vocalists on stage to accompany Maria.
Next up was ‘Othan’, a familiar track from the ‘Lifa’ live album. The mainly voice driven song is one to sit back on and let all the chants sink in.
With ‘Traust’ we venture into new terrain once again. Soft high notes reminiscent of tubular bells make the transition as a deeper bass drum guides to rhythm. Once again, it’s Maria’s female voice that takes the lead with a repetitive murmur in the background. During the Q&A we learned this murmur is a loop of a sound Kai made during an improvisation session in Christopher Juul’s production studio. Heilung likes to let creativity roam freely during recording sessions and then puzzles all the interesting elements together. Sometimes this causes frowning as they ponder how the hell they will reproduce that sound live on stage… We can share it worked out quite well as ‘Traust’ was introduced during the Roadburn show with what seemed to be an offering ceremony. We’ll just let your imagination run wild on that one!
The transitions between song 5 to 8 are a bit harder to discern as they flow fluently from one into the other. What we presume is ‘Vapnatak’ starts off with sounds of wood cracking in a forest, rain and other ambient sounds. This is the first song that features a spoken word section in German, like we know from for example ‘Schlamschlacht’ on ‘Ofnir’.
We then get a sudden switch to chanting women (start of ‘Svanrand‘?), accompanied by drums. In between, we hear something that sounds like arrows flying and hitting their target with a flat thud. My imagination took me to a dark and bloody battlefield where casualties tragically fall on both sides because of enemy’s and allies’ arrows. An intriguing song that stops just as abrupt as it started.
Kai’s whispering voice re-enters with a part or song that reminds of ‘Carpathian Forest’ from ‘Ofnir‘. It builds up with a similar intensity as ‘Schlamschlacht’ with an ending of chanting warriors. A crackling fire and light percussion flows into more electronic beats. Together with the rhythmic chants this is a track that really gets you moving again. I want to elaborate on the ‘electronic sounds’, as we learned from the Q&A on Saturday that no sound on Heilung’s albums are created by a computer or synthesizer. Rather, all the more electronic sounding elements are often nature sounds (e.g. waterfalls) that are filtered through a distortion pedal.
After a blow of horns we shift into a calmer section again with collective chants which end in one longer held tone. More chaotic tones and sounds follow. At the first listen this might feel like there are more ‘fillers’ on ‘Futha’. This word would not do justice to the overall ritual, though. Experience from ‘Ofnir’ teaches me the whole becomes a bit clearer after several listening sessions. Something I look forward to starting from June 28th!
After all the new tracks a familiar intro hits our ears. Just as ‘Hamrer Hippyer’ drives the live rituals to a final closing climax, that sentiment repeats itself on ‘Futha’. Easily the most up tempo and intense song by Heilung to date, an ideal energetic closer to the new album.
After festival performances where Heilung needs to take into consideration the short attention span of the casual passerby, they plan to focus more in depth on some calmer and transcendental parts of their music during the autumn concert hall tour. Expect a longer and more diverse show with more chances to reconnect with those aspects of our humanity that modern society has silenced!
HEILUNG festival performances 2019
20 Jun 19 Copenhagen (DK) Copenhell Festival 2019 (Exact date TBA)
29 Jun 19 Helsinki (FI) Tuska 2019 (Exact date TBA)
09 Aug 19 Jaromer (CZ) Brutal Assault Festival 2019
18 Aug 19 Borre (NO) Midgardsblot 2019 (Exact date TBA)
07 Sep 19 Selb (DE) Mediaval Festival 2019 (Exact date TBA)
19 Oct 19 Hameln (DE) Autumn Moon Festival 2019 (Exact date TBA)
22 Oct 19 Palladium (PL) Warschau
24 Oct 19 Berlin (DE) Admiralspalast
26 Oct 19 Essen (DE) Colosseum Theater
28 Oct 19 Munich (DE) Circus Krone
30 Oct 19 Prague (CZ) Hybernia
01 Nov 19 Halle (DE) Händelhalle
03 Nov 19 Vienna (AT) Der Globe
05 Nov 19 Zurich (CH) Volkshaus
07 Nov 19 Kiel (DE) Kieler Schloss
10 Nov 19 London (UK) Roundhouse
17 Nov 19 Brussels (BE) AB
20 Nov 19 Paris (FR) Elysée Montmartre