TVD Live Shots: Heilung at the Roundhouse, 11/10

I’ve seen some unusual shows before, but nothing quite like what I witnessed at the Roundhouse in London last week. Hailing from Denmark, Heilung (translated from German, “heilung” means healing) took to the stage for a ceremonial celebration of all things Celtic and Viking age. With music based on texts from artifacts of the Northern European Iron Age, Heilung call their unique sound “amplified history,” and while it’s an incredibly niche genre, the crowds are getting bigger and bigger.

Founded in 2014 by German tattoo artist Kai Uwe Faust along with Danish vocalist/ producer Christopher Juul and Norwegian singer Maria Franz, the group self-released their debut album, Ofni which quickly garnered an audience. This record would later be reissued on their current label Season of Mist, and become the basis for a stellar live performance, strong critical acclaim, and massive underground buzz that would pave the way for this new genre.

Opening up with a prayer of sorts to a capacity crowd of nearly three thousand, the stage was set to connect the audience back with earth. Nature sounds are played in between sets instead of the sound guy’s random playlist with human bones, reconstructed swords, and frame drums are the instruments of choice. Dark, ominous lyrics pulled from ancient artifacts such as amulets, rune stones, and other iron age artifacts. The level of detail and research that goes into the music is translated very well into a live show. There are moments where you feel as if you were transported back one thousand years into the past and are watching a pagan ritual as it happens. It’s quite an experience.

I have to admit I’m not too familiar with the band’s catalogue of work. “Krigsgalder” was the one song that I quickly recognized from diving into a custom Spotify playlist. It’s a remarkable song that sounds a bit like the dark evil twin of Enya crossed with the best of Dead Can Dance—with a touch of devilish Gregorian chants and a bit of electronica for good measure. These aren’t songs you listen to individually, it’s more of a get comfortable, put on the album, and get ready to be transported to another time and place. Amplified history quickly becomes confirmed as the exact way to describe what Heilung has been able to achieve.

It signals an exciting future for Heilung as the forerunners of a new brand of paganism within the rock and metal community. It’s even prompted Kerrang to write a feature just this week discussing the topic in depth. Let’s hope that the hype doesn’t breed a bunch of copycats who are looking to cash in on what could a very welcome pivot in a scene that desperately needs it.

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