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Live review: Heilung - London 14/1/23 (And an important dive in to Heilung's history)


This was my third time bearing witness to the healing ritual of Heilung, they have had the most profound and important effect upon my life. It was touching to see this journey reflected in the eyes of those around me who had come to heal for the very first time. What they witnessed may very well be another defining and pivotal moment in Heilung history.

I have put off writing this because I fear I could never do Heilung justice with my words, but having taken my time to think about what I saw.. Many things have dawned on me that even long time Heilung fans may not have realised, and I wish to point a few things out that may deepen your love for their ritual.


The Review is later if you want to skip this unusually long intro from me, but I do have a very important point to say first, I promise it is worth it!


First of all, lets set the scene:

2014 - Kai Uwe Faust and Christopher Juul formed the premise of Heilung from their pagan love and the old Norse tattoos Kai was well known for creating. Juul, being a producer offered Kai the use of his recording studio to start the process.


2015 - Maria Franz, Juul's partner joined Heilung and the band self released the album 'Ofnir'


2017 - You know that incredible performance at CastleFest we have all seen on YouTube? The one that made us go from a confused face, to a dropped jaw, to a life defining moment of deep clarity in the space of only one performance?

That was their first ever live show..


Let that sink in and just think on that for a minute before what I have to say next..


And if you haven't seen that turning point in history, here it is:

I need to make a quick personal point to make my overall point, bear with me!

2018/19 - In November 2018 I saw them in London (not realising it was probably their first show in the UK) with someone very special to me that had helped me delve in to Nordic Paganism, though our contact seems to have ended I truly and deeply wish them the best and the unwavering favour and love of the Gods to ever be with them. After that show I questioned everything about my Christian beliefs and who I was as a person, I cried happy tears and felt the healing that was promised. Again in November 2019 we both saw Heilung again with two other friends very close to our lives and in our pagan journey. I cried harder and felt the pain of an awful year washed away, it was at that point I truly converted to the old Gods.


2020 - Disaster had struck the world with Covid and Heilung was postponed again and again. The healing I so desperately needed from a truly awful year in my personal life and for some many others out there, was lost.


2023:

Finally, three years later, their third London show was about to begin at Hammersmith Apollo. My partner and I queued early for hours to get front centre barrier.(Only to be in vane because the tickets I bought in 2019 for this show were re-sent from the Brixton venue change and now would not scan, meaning I spent 20 minutes at the box office quite annoyed at ticketmaster as the queues rushed in..) Our night was rescued by a kind man who let us squeeze in at the far right barrier. This man told me he had recently discovered Heilung and he truly believed Heilung had helped him so much that he was now in remission of Cancer! Also, that he did not know quite why Heilung meant so much to him, other than how it made him feel spiritually.

Others we met that night also explained it was their first time. To see such joy, hope, and love for Heilung, even in the freezing queue and a cramped barrier was awe-inspiring. I was seeing how far the group had come and their effect on the world before they were even on the stage again.

This hopefully puts across in some small way the magic in that venue and the electricity of every baited breath.


MY POINT! - CastleFest to almost all of us, and to those who I had met this night, was an incredible masterpiece of a performance. A true turning point in the history of the spread of modern Paganism/Odinism/Asatru/Poly-Theism, whatever you wish to name it.. You cannot deny Heilung have had a strong hand in the spread of paganism.

BUT.. No one at CastleFest knew what to expect, or who Heilung were.. They - like we were - first watching that video, were confused, then lost to the music, and finally elated to have experienced such a show.

It was precisely because of this that Heilung were able to put on such a poignant epic..

Not only did the band know that they had to get it perfect first time, otherwise they would appear fascicle to the audience with such a new and experimental approach to live music but they knew it may effect the live recording and muddy years of hard work and dedication to have got to where they were.

Thankfully, they were given respectful tranquillity and hypnotised peace by the audience who remained captivated on Maria's every delicate vocal note, and every guttural growl from Kai.

Those witnessing that live show did not know what was being sung next, what vocal sound or note would be played next, and so kept quiet as Maria spun the most intricate and delicate feats of vocal perfection imaginable to the joy of us all worldwide immortalised in recording..

If you want a more substantial opinion on this check out this amazing YouTube channel where a vocal coach has covered many Heilung songs in detail with such love that she ended up interviewing Maria too because of them!

This sadly is not something Heilung are able to do now to their full capability because as we know, the CastleFest audience were loud enough in their applause and elation at the end of each track back then.. Well, now that their audiences know what to expect and cry out far more regularly in over zealous joy, Heilung have masterfully compensated for this which I will briefly discuss in the review section.


Heilung also recorded this performance for 'Their next release' so here's to hoping for a Live show DVD soon to relive the magic. This is why I think it will be another pivotal point (as with CastleFest) that will spread their message to an even wider audience!


Also .. For those unaware, £1 from each ticket sale on this tour is being donated to Trees For Cities. An organisation working at a local and international scale to improve lives by planting trees in cities!

 

STOP A MOMENT!


Please consider donating or fundraising for Beyond Reflections who are a charity run by friends of Elektro Vox and they supply an essential service to so many.

Their support really does save lives!

 

Review


Lili Refrain

Lili is a performer I had not listened to before and had no idea of what to expect, and even so I can certainly see why Heilung chose such a performer to accompany them on their journey.

A solo performer who has exudes witchcraft and emotion, Lili uses a looping machine to in turn record the likes of a powerful and deep reaching drum, a cattle bell, and more to provide a background of all encompassing atmospherics to compliment her incredible vocal range to full effect. For someone with a small amount of kit, it is one hell of a performance!

From pushing her vocals to astonishing heights, to powering out some impressive guitar work, Lili Refrain is an artist you should all take some time to add to your playlists.


8.5/10


Eivør

Eivør, much like Heilung and Wardruna being responsible for a lot of music on 'Vikings', is responsible for a lot of the music in the show 'The Last Kingdom'.

One such song is Lívstræðrir 'Threads of life' speaking of the tears rolling down the cheeks of Thor as Sigmundur's bloody story turns the Faroe islands to Christianity and away from paganism in the Færeyinga saga.

(The Netflix show Vikings-Valhalla is currently exploring characters in that saga and history)

This is a deeply touching and emotive piece that touches all who hear it and the audience was captivated and spine chilled in every corner of that venue.

Eivør is a truly talented singer who owned the stage, able to adapt her vocal chords and breathing in to instruments upon instruments interlaced in tribal complexity. Therefore, you can imagine how impressive her singing was too!

A truly brilliant performance.


8/10


Heilung


Here's a short compilation video of some highlights from London that a fellow audience member uploaded:

The setting for the ritual was immense, a curtain swept back to reveal a woodland of trees, drums, instruments, and a centre piece with the runes around it. Heilung slowly entered and took their places each upon a rune. The significance and power of the runes individually is substantial, when combined together, you create true magic and power. The metaphor of the combination of all Heilung members in this healing ritual was immediately apparent.


The audience bayed and howled, cheered, and elated to the top of their lungs. The howls of wolves rose higher amongst the cacophony and brought all there to uniformed and spontaneous harmony with our howling giving voice to our ancestors and gratitude for their presence.


This is not a band, this is not a 'gig', Heilung are travelling shamans, sears, and most importantly Skalds keeping the old ways alive. Most importantly though, they bring their healing ritual to help bring peace and harmony to the lives they touch, to the souls bearing witness.


When Heilung gave voice to the opening chant, you can imagine how well four thousand plus people chanted the words back with love and excitement..

"Remember that we all are brothers.."

Following my point about CastleFest and how Heilung have needed to adapt vocally.. As soon as Kai gave voice to 'In Maidjan' it was clear that he has had to change his vocal growls in sections to be heard over such a crowd; So same with Maria, she has had to accommodate the audience to still be heard with the softer parts in to something a little less delicate. This is not a bad thing, Maria when given peace to be delicate and gentle in song is pure bliss! However, to now see her weave her voice around such competing sounds of a crowd gone wild with this new and evolved Heilung performance, is like watching a master swordswoman having to parry that bit harder, and riposte that bit stronger, it is just a difference in approach to match the challenge.

This also reflects in the instrumental aspects of later tracks, for instance the 'arrow strike' at the beginning of 'Svanrand' instead takes the form of a very loud and unexpected drum beat sending ripples through the startled audience. Perfection..

This being my third show, I could tell everything about this performance - even only one song in - was beyond scope and measure to quantify. Now with more back up singers, who are themselves intricate characters and pieces of the whole. New production value from the works of Christopher Juul, new lighting, microphones in all the right little places, the setting, the choreography, intricate costumes, the metaphor in each motion, and so much more.. Well, I look back at CastleFest and realise how truly far Heilung have come. From a group of friends with an incredible experiment to show an unexpecting audience, to now worldwide heroes in the sagas we are currently living through..

Heilung are the messengers truly worthy of the Aesir, the Vanir, the Jotuun, and the spirits of the Earth.. This is as authentic as you can possibly get in this modern age when needing to perform to more than a few dozen people. Yes there may be electronics at play all around but truly, at the heart of it all, is the magic and ritual of healing and opening your hearts to the spiritual and to so much more than the day to day capitalist hell-scape we are trapped in.

These photos by @vampyrbrat


I return to my comment about each motion and the metaphors therein.. Maria at one point was singing a difficult vocal piece bust still managed to pull off three yoga poses on one leg slowly from one to the other. At other points the warriors and supporting singers perform their dances, steps, or incantations of body symmetry in perfect unison. No move is wasted, every single step, hand motion, and pose is deliberate, everything is dripping with power - with meaning. There are many highlights to this performance, from the warriors, to the use of fire, and of course the well known songs. Something not so well known is the meaning of songs like 'Galgaldr'.

(Near the end where Maria and Kai growled words at one another for a couple of minutes..)

They speak of the prophecy of Ragnarok from the Poetic Edda, the end time, the time we seem to be living in now..

Brothers shall fight and fell each other, And sisters' sons shall kinship stain; Hard is it on earth, with mighty whoredom; Axe-time, sword-time, shields are sundered, Wind-time, wolf-time, ere the world falls; Nor ever shall men each other spare.

axe-time, sword-time, wind-time, wolf-time..

Three beautiful moments were that of 'Asja', 'Traust', and 'Anoana'.

'Asja' is a love, healing, and protection song meant to give aid to the troubled who hear it. Kai growls out part of the Havamal taking the role of a demon assailing one suffering. Maria sings this song of self love and protection to purge the spirit. Not only was Maria's voice heavenly but the warriors dancing in slow and synchronised movements, was breath-taking.

'Traust' had Kai tie and bound a warrior to a spear behind her back and then cast her down in to nothing. Maria in turn approached slowly, raised the warrior up, and dramatically released her from the spear that was holding all the intricate ropes Kai had tied, letting them fall to the ground; The warrior healed and freed by Maria remembered who she was and stood proud in the shield wall of her fellow warriors once more. A particularly touching moment for me considering the painful things I have been through the last few years..

The healing ritual was working its magic on me even better than I had hoped.

For 'Anoana', as soon as Maria sat down, the stage was engulfed in the lighting of intricate carvings and motifs. For those unaware, as the gentleman who had let us squeeze in and loves this song was unaware.. The lyrice are taken from carvings in 'Hracteates'. These gold coins and amulets from northern Europe are from prosperous and peaceful times where the Romans paid the Germanic and Scandinavian peoples gold in return for peace.

This gold was used to make protection charms, to help fulfil wishes, and grant divination. None of these carvings have been translated, the only word known amongst those sung is 'Landawariar' (Warrior of the land, guardian of nature) The thought of the mighty Romans cowering to the sons and daughters of Odin.. Well, it is beautiful to think of such long durations of peace for the old ways.

In so performing this songs, Heilung created that emotion and beauty before us. I think where I was in front of speakers, Maria sounded like she was needing to change and strain her voice in this seated position on a throne in order for the microphone to better pick up her vocals, I can't quite tell, it may have been a combination of both things but it was still incredibly beautiful, especially with the singers sat in the middle of the runes chanting the chorus.

There were so many good moments. The camera crews certainly broke the illusion a fair bit but the amount my partner and I were filmed and taken photos of, I'll be shocked if we don't show up in the recordings so it's great to know this may all be seen again and re-lived.


Of course Heilung ended with 'Hamrer Hippyer'- the tribal rave of reckless abandon and ecstasy. The warriors threw themselves up against the crowds, the dancing escalated, the audience let loose, and the God's smiled upon what was once more a successful worship in their honour and for the healing of those who so desperately needed their souls cleansed. If Odin had not already heard his many names during 'Alfadhirhaiti', then he must have certain felt us then!


As the quiet again drew close, Christopher Juule entered the circle, acknowledging his utmost respect to those around him, he slammed his staff down sending lightning in all directions from the clever use of lighting and sound. The ritual was complete..

Finally Heilung came back to the circle, took a breath together and cheered - in what must have been incredible joy at not just another successful show, but a perfect performance for the camera and the crowds they know had been waiting for three years for that exact moment. It was bliss without measure. As the band bowed out and slowly exited, standing ovations thundered harder than the Apollo must have ever heard.


Did I cry this third time? I sure did, and this healing ritual came at a pivotal point in my life once more, I hope this third time continues to shape me in to a better person and I hope it genuinely helped everyone there who witnessed the love and power of Heilung to truly discover who they are too.


Thank you from the bottom of my heart Heilung for everything that you do!


100/10

No score does this justice


(Please let me interview you one day! I've tried, you're really hard to get hold of!)

 

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