Heilung – Lifa (2018) – Review

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Do you know what pisses me off to no end? It is these people, who think that they have it down pat. They know everything, because – HEY – only they got the magic potion to the fucking omnipotent wisdom that holds the universe in one piece. Only THEY are in touch with Mother Earth and her mysterious vibrations. Right? Or is it not really a she, but a he. A blasphemous thought, ain’t it?

And then they tell us doughy westerners that we don’t get it, should anyone beg to differ. And squish all dissent quickly through censorship, because they can, in this fleeting age of social networks and flimsy clicks. Yet by doing that, our all-knowing magisters risk ending up in their own echo chamber populated by yaysayers. 

Heilung do exactly that judging by some of their remarks that I had the displeasure to read. That no political or religious statement is being made (or allowed) when the Opening Ceremony is anything but. That trying to connect modern shenanigans to their message of pure earth lore will be met with disdain, if not banned outright. Gaia forbid, someone could dilute the crystalline purity of their message.

That they don’t want idiot haters or political ideologists on their threads, I can understand, though.

On the other hand, we need to give Heilung credit where credit is due. Their 2018 album Lifa and its source Ofnir – for most – merged into an epic and powerful piece of work. I must admit I was transfixed since they somehow appeared on the RMR radar. This band performs with a stage presence that I have seldom seen to date. 

Lifa is an outstanding and elaborately crafted show, powerfully made-up with fantasy garb and accouterments of all couleurs that one can take exception with – or not. But the overall picture is of a powerful, extremely forceful, and vigorous depiction of their trade of almost hypnotic proportions. Deer antlers, human bones, and body paint included. In other words, the band members are extremely good at what they do and know how to work an audience.

No doubt Metal Hammer got them high on the list of best stage performers. And I’m in no way surprised that all big festivals (try to) grab them to come and perform. Season of Mist saw their potential as well and quickly got them on board.

Lifa sports a brand of Pagan Folk and Neo-Folk that is not new, but certainly has not been depicted in that kind of an intense way. In a way, Heilung reached that level of their craft that Faun aspired to achieve, but never quite got to. Many a band already depicted the popularly called Dark Ages in all its gory glory. Some describe it in terms of Black Metal like Ildra. Others like Wardruna deliver a brand very similar to Heilung‘s fare. Albeit at a greater level of maturity and – I daresay – with a better focus than the latter. 

And let’s get down to earth some.

Whilst Black Metal bands often invoke the Dark Lord, meaning their unholy faith is based straight in Christianity, Heilung get all of their inspiration from pagan times, taking heavily from Shamanism. By many accounts, shamanism describes itself as the source of all wisdom, so there we go again. The band also freely takes from inscriptions on runes, and old poems. In short, whatever source they could find that will fit the theme of the early medieval period, starting with the last remnants of the Roman demise.

A lot of the aforementioned credit goes to Maria Franz whose crystal clear vocals carry a lot of the power Lifa projects. Interestingly, she also appeared on Myrkur’s Mareridt on percussion, if my memory serves me right. This apart from a few other personal projects that took the back burner in favor of Heilung. If my sources are correct, she also wrote the majority of the tracks on Lifa.

Including the excellent Krigsaldr that serves as the filet piece of the album. Just the build-up to the chanting with the human bones ticking, the bullroarer sounding off, and different drums and bells going off really got my attention. Even the ever-dangerous war monologue in the middle integrates seamlessly into the humming, drumming, and bellowing. 

Yet sometimes the hollering, screaming and stomping about the stage gets a bit tiring after a while. Apart from a few enlighted moments, there are bird calls, animal sounds, and Viking-ish figures galore that kind of eat away at the performance of the truly remarkable arrangements.

This goes as far as presenting some sort of Pagan Acid House in Hamrer Hippyer. True, during the show and together with the strobes, this kind of tune is powerful mana for the audience. Yet, same as proper House, this one fails to talk to me. 

Amplified History Heilung call their trade. Yet, sometimes it is a bit unclear what exactly the abundant amplifying is all about. Their brand of Pagan Folk is however really out there in the arcane without any of the paraphernalia modern times often demand. You’ll get a ritual of sorts out of Lifa, not the sensory overload on hurdy-gurdy that other Pagan Folk and Metal bands like to produce.

Meaty rhythms brought about by drums, war horns, bells, and other equipment not usually associated with music neatly hit the fray of soldiers marching and other brutalities. Together with the primeval screaming and chanting the band will get you an experience that is not easy to reproduce. 

Yet again, the album itself is one thing, the live performance quite another. I would thus warmly suggest that you go see them once you have the chance, or failing that watch it on YouTube. This is one amazing album that should definitely live in your music collection, even if your usual musical style is quite another.

We – for one – look forward to that next album that will surely arrive at our doorstep shortly.

Ed’s note: And congrats! The album successfully made it onto the Intermittent Digest – Tome VIII, the 2nd edition of the most popular posts, and the famed 2018 Top 10

Record Rating: 6/10 | Label: Season of Mist | Web: Facebook
Release date: 5 January 2018

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