Released: November 2017
Reviewed by: Benedict Roff-Marsh
What happens if you take the cast of Vikings (the TV show) and set them to making music with nothing more than props? Heilung seems to be the answer.
I saw this first when it came out late last year on YouTube. I was shocked and impressed by the staging. It is great work – even if nothing to do with the TV show.
From the band:
Heilung is amplified history from early medieval northern Europe and should not be mistaken for a modern political or religious statement of any kind
Google tells me that Heilung means Cure in English (from German). This seems about right as the rather clear theme once you get past the Viking warrior trappings is of being one with the Earth and all that. Popular sentiment and easy to sell these days.
These guys (and yes girl) have staged a modern primitive sort of thing and it looks absolutely great. It sounds great too. Not being a musical historian I can’t say that it resembles any particular tradition but to me, it seems a mishmash of Caveman, Native American, Celtic, and Norse. Bottom line is I think they made it up.
Not the first time that people have recast religious practices of the past to fit their own modern desires.
Genre classification is almost enough to give any pedant fits. I settle on World, with a sub-genre of Tribal. I see that a fair part of the audience appears to be Metalheads (along with a girl who looks like Rachael from “Blade Runner”). I get why they like it.
Do I like it?
Well, it is frightening, beautiful and stunning all at once. I did better listening to the music without the video whilst working on something else – let it be a background. New Agers may try to say it is because I am afraid of being in-touch with my unwashed self.
You labeled me.
I labeled you.
So I dub thee unforgiven”
On one hand, I find the lack of developed melody to be frustrating. This aspect means that it feels like a Show (a circus act). It seems somewhat like the ultimate in the deconstruction of Rock by having little more than drums, weird chants and a self-serving sentiment that I don’t buy into.
I don’t fall for the New Agey tribalism no matter how great the female singer looks in her outfit. Acting like a primitive and ignoring centuries of musicality doesn’t seem to elevate the human experience to me. More to debase it.
On the other hand, it is a stunning piece of work that has grown on me with repeated exposure. The initial shock is over. The choral nature of some of the pieces like “Othan” is really good. As well as really well performed. No faux style singing here. The musical standards in this sense are impeccable. This does express & raise the human condition.
Bottom line is that I am still not really sure if I’d put aside something like Kitaro “Live In America” which has some similar elements but a lot more melodic developments. Either way, I definitely think full credit to the developers and performers of this show as it is dramatic.
What I can say is that LIFA is a thing well worth allowing to play a time or two (maybe without the video to distract) to see how it grows on you. If you like it then please do buy as it is a unique thing.