There are many paths a band can take when riding a fresh wave of hype or relatively rapid success. Some run with the formula and attempt repeat success, some take steps closer to the so-called mainstream, and some forge straight ahead on their own path, unwavered by opinion and outside influence. Off the back of a captivating viral hit in their live performance video of ‘Krigsgaldr’ Heilung have thrown their antlers in to the ring and are firmly in the latter category, striking out on their own terms with a striking, nuanced, and quite frankly mesmerising second studio album in the shape of Futha.
Whilst sharing similarly ancient and meditative space with bands such as Wardruna, Forndom, and Skuggsjá, Heilung’s core trio of Kai Uwe Faust, Christopher Juul and Maria Franz have created a truly unique proposition with Futha. Something on display here feels entirely more primal and organic than any of their genre-mates and only serves to envelope the listener in an immersive listening experience that entirely justifies their self-proclaimed tag of “Amplified History” without inducing pangs of cringeworthy pretension.
Driven primarily by ritualistic percussion as well as emotive and raw vocal performances sung in a variety of languages (ranging from old High German, Icelandic, Norse and beyond) that sit somewhere between Skaldic poetry, ritual chant, and battle hymns, Futha captures a timbrel and textural vibe like no other. The dense, subtle, and computationally intelligent synth-work is a particular highlight, working to augment the simple rhythms and sparse traditional instrumentation in a way that is hugely admirable in a situation that could have easily seen the balanced tipped and ultimately ruined by clumsy digital overload. Tracks like ‘Othan’ and ‘Traust’ bring to mind the legendary genre-busters Dead Can Dance with soaring, earnest vocals atop brooding and bubbling keys, whilst album closer ‘Hamrer Hippyer’ brings the experience to a climax of layered, throaty, morphing voices and pounding rhythms.
Futha is a body of work that deserves multiple deep dives to unlock its myriad secrets and will absolutely see Heilung conquer hearts and minds with their primordial ceremonies the world over.
Futha is released on 28th June and be purchased here.
Words: Red Sismey