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Album Review: LIFA by Heilung


Album Review: LIFA by Heilung

People who tell you that they are open-minded to new ideas are normally the first to tell you that they don’t like something. In this social media orientated world it is easy to retreat to an echo chamber, inhabited by those with common interests and beliefs, safe that we cannot be challenged. If we are challenged we can block with the press of a finger or fight the assertion with other peoples’ facts. In an increasingly faithless world, those of us who have been brought up pre-social media, find faith amongst the grooves of our favourite vinyl record, basking in its warmth and confident in its familiarity, but another echo chamber of sorts.

But what do you believe and why do you listen to the music that you do? How often do we really push ourselves, have that moment of release, feeling that you are out of our skin and lost sight of firm land, with every fibre telling you that it’s wrong, or its nonsense or that you are too smart to fall for this? Do you ever get the opportunity to stand somewhere and just feel that you belong and that you are energised by the very surroundings that you find yourself in. Are spirit and belonging wasted words, now without any meaning?

Those fringe dwellers… well, we resign them to the odd-basket and hope that they stay in their world music festivals. But those of us who were born above the northern hemisphere snowline we have split persona – a sound, a sight or music, stirs something ancient putting superstition before everything else.

Success by the band Hexvessel and the mesmeric Myrkur tell us that there is an opportunity to sing to the ancient soul that should be within us all. If you were lucky enough to see Heilung perform at Castlefest then you have already had a taste of this phenomenon. For the rest of us, this live recording of the event has been preserved.

This recording, called LIFA, is nine tracks in total, or that is how it is on the recording at least. This may as well be a single track, a single dirge calling from a long-past time, to drag our history back to us. The recording is, as I mentioned, from the Castlefest event and it is a production with multiple shaman, drummers, spearmen, warriors and assorted hulder. Let me refer you to the text provided by the band and how they described their music.. ‘Every attempt to link the music to modern political or religious points are pointless, since Heilung tries to connect the listener to the time before Christianity and its political offsprings raped and burned itself into the northern European mentality’ (taken from the Heilung Facebook page).

Are you still with me? Truth be told, this is somewhere between ancient invocation and shamanistic ritual. Its strength is in the performance, something you can witness online or on the DVD of the event, but put on the headphones – proper ones that hug your ears- and lie back. Does it talk to you or does it literally repulse you as nonsense? Heilung, which is healing in German, take the listener on a journey that rises and falls but hopefully leaves you more relaxed than when you started the tumultuous journey. The drums on this recording are traditional skin drums with counterpoints coming from bone and metal work. The rest is multi-vocal or chant. There is absolutely no point in trying to go through a review of each track as it is the totality of the performance that holds the value. The Danish ‘band’ blur the line between act and belief as well as between the performance and conjuration.

If you do not want your iron-age (and long before) history amplified and broadcast back to you, I would urge you to avoid this, go back to the six inch screen of your universe and back into stasis. If you are even slightly interested then check this out. Those of you that were born or have history above the global line that runs through the old forest, sparse lands of Europe and the new found lands should check this out, but I would encourage everyone to give it a go. The worst that can happen is that there are a few moments where you are challenged. Alternately you might discover new worlds. It is your call.

For me, I enjoyed every bizarre, guttural movement. Normally I would urge a purchase, or tell you to avoid, or make advice to the band at this point, but not here. I’ll just leave you to search this out and decide for yourself if you have any history within you that matches what is on offer.

Review: Craig Grant