Ad­just your mind­set, Shamanic hea­thens HEILuNg are in town.

Shamanic hea­thens lay siege to the doors of per­cep­tion

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Contents - IS­LING­TON ASSEM­BLY HALL, LON­DON

It’S a GatH­ER­ING of the tribes. The queue, snaking down Up­per

Street, is awash with oth­er­worldly glam­our, be­decked in cowls, flashes of fu­ture-shock clan face­paint, beaded head­dresses, horns and antlers – all gath­ered as if pass­ing through a rainy north Lon­don high street to a mid­sum­mer night’s dream. This is a call­ing, and the mag­net is Heilung, a band who crash­landed, fully formed, into wider con­scious­ness with two re­al­ity-warp­ing shows at Castle­fest and Midgards­blot just 14 months ago, whose first-ever UK ap­pear­ance has been sold out for months, and for whom ‘buzz’ seems too mea­gre a word in light of the de­vo­tion that’s grown around them, al­most pre-or­dained, as though by some sym­bi­otic pact of na­ture.

The stately in­te­rior of the Is­ling­ton Assem­bly Hall is al­ready packed and re­sem­bling a post-apoc­a­lyp­tic con­clave by the time cel­list JO QUaIL ap­pears on­stage. For any­one tuned to the left side of the sonic dial, she’s be­come a reg­u­lar pres­ence, sup­port­ing and collaborating with the likes of Amenra, Myrkur, Win­terfyl­leth and Anna von Hausswolff, but for all its deeply res­o­nant phys­i­cal­ity her mu­sic roams so far be­yond any fa­mil­iar frame­works that she has a habit of en­rich­ing any con­text she finds her­self in. Sur­rounded by Heilung’s ar­ray of bound sticks, skulls and antlers hold­ing up all man­ner of an­cient per­cus­sion, her in­stru­ment – look­ing like its been strung on an alien pelvic bone – seems to be carved from the same el­e­men­tal ma­te­rial. There’s a rit­u­al­is­tic as­pect to tonight’s pieces that take hold amongst a rapt crowd, sam­pling chords and beats against the cello’s neck in real time as Man­drel Can­tus from new al­bum Ex­solve flour­ishes from a ma­trix of pulses and plucked strings into an or­gan­i­cally lush bloom. Ab­stract, an­gu­lar ground­work is re­solved into Ad­der Stone’s rich, ex­ploratory tones that feel like they’re re­ver­ber­at­ing in your bone mar­row, and the cheers and ap­plause fill­ing the hall at the end is more an out­break of un­con­tained grat­i­tude than mere ap­pre­ci­a­tion.

There’s a primed sense of an­tic­i­pa­tion build­ing up through­out venue that erupts into rap­ture the mo­ment the house lights dim. When HEILUNG ap­pear on­stage, they’re like emis­saries from an­other world: a scav­enger cult in threaded veils, an­i­mal hides trail­ing strings of trin­kets and Iron Age drap­ery. Maria Franz is a ghostly pres­ence, the white tas­selled dress, black painted spikes curv­ing down from masked eyes and antlers al­ready an iconic im­age, while Kai Uwe Faust’s or­nate curlicues sprout­ing from his hood sug­gest a hulk­ing, faerie en­forcer. The open­ing rit­ual builds the an­tic­i­pa­tion back up once more, the band join­ing hands in a cir­cle and chant­ing a bless­ing –

“We are all de­scended from the one true be­ing” – for what’s about to fol­low. They dis­perse and take their places on­stage. A lone goat horn calls out.

The hide drums be­gin to pound out a pulse-rac­ing, ini­ti­a­tion beat. And 800 souls are shot through the Star­gate, trans­ported via adren­a­line rush into an atavis­tic age of won­ders, cer­e­mo­nial ca­coph­ony and a com­mu­nal, soul­riv­et­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for which there re­ally is no com­pare.

‘Am­pli­fied his­tory’ is Heilung’s own de­scrip­tion of their mu­sic, but In Maid­jan’s throat chants ris­ing to a massed har­mony and un­chang­ing, heart­beat-re­cal­i­brat­ing groove feel as though they’re drilling down into the deep­est, most prim­i­tive strata of your DNA, per­form­ing CPR on some­thing long-dor­mant yet uni­ver­sal. It stirs an­ces­tral mem­ory un­til it’s brought to the boil. Peo­ple are lost in a trance. Coy­ote howls ring out in call-an­dresponse (op­tional). The floor re­ver­ber­ates as feet are stamped in an­swer to the beat and the tra­di­tional band/au­di­ence di­vide is re­vealed as a flimsy con­struc­tion, stripped away to re­veal some­thing more pow­er­ful in its stead. Al­fad­hirhaiti’s chants are echoed by a war­rior choir ap­pear­ing on­stage, bod­ies painted black and sport­ing shields and spears, a swirl of en­er­gies stirred by a heady groove. What’s be­come Heilung’s sig­na­ture song, Krigs­galdr – its Castle­fest ren­di­tion now up to 9.3 mil­lion views on YouTube – lay­ers the sound of rhyth­mi­cally clash­ing swords and var­i­ous, or­bital beats on top of a drone that pulls you over its event hori­zon as if by trac­tion beam. Maria’s crys­tal-clear, echo­ing vo­cals weave the most en­chant­ing of spells as Kai and Christopher Juul trade a breath­less war­rior code in­can­ta­tion.

Com­par­isons with Wardruna – an­other band who have be­come akin to a re­li­gion in their own right – might be invit­ing, but not only do Heilung draw their own crowd of met­al­heads, goths, in­dus­trial fans and seek­ers of the es­o­teric, the in­trin­si­cally emo­tional na­ture of Wardruna is a very sep­a­rate qual­ity from the Shamanic, con­scious­ness-rais­ing rites echo­ing through­out the venue. Each mem­ber on­stage comes across as a ves­sel for some­thing an­i­mal­is­tic and ar­che­typal, the ef­fect be­ing a loss of self into some­thing more bind­ing and wild. One new song, Norupo, does take on a more epic, re­flec­tive qual­ity, but as Ham­rer Hip­pyer ramps up the tempo un­til the Is­ling­ton Assem­bly Hall be­comes host to a pri­mor­dial, psy­che­delic rave, Heilung be­come not just a pe­ti­tion for unity, but its ut­terly tran­scen­dent, chan­nel-un­block­ing, just-lose-your­fuck­ing-shit ef­fect. Heilung may be out of this world, but they’re also a jour­ney to the very cen­tre of it, where the won­ders truly never cease.

JONATHAN SELZER

this Eyes Wide Shut se­quel looks men­tal

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