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heilung The Roundhouse Camden, London, UK
10th November 2019
Heilung - European Tour 2019 – Support: Lindy Fay Hella

Last November HEILUNG shared their first ritual with a UK audience with a spine chillingly good performance at the Islington Assembly Halls. Due to the success and great reception of that ritual this year’s instalment was moved over to the larger Roundhouse venue in Camden.

For those of you that don’t know, the Roundhouse used to be an engine shed and it was used to turn railway steam engines around on a huge turn table so they face in the right direction for journeys out of London. After that it was used as a warehouse before falling into disuse. In 1964 it was turned into a performing arts space which it remained until 1983 when funding ran out. The current incarnation reopened in 2006 and has remained a hub for many artist events since. Tonight’s ritual was performed to a packed house. When I arrived, the queue was snaking its way down Chalk Farm Rd, around the back of the petrol station and under the railway bridge near to Camden Market. “It’s going to be a good one!” I thought!! And it was.

Lindy Fay Hella

LINDY FAY HELLA hails from Bergen, Norway and is a founding member of WARDRUNA back in 2003 and she has contributed vocals for the likes of SKUGGSJA, LEAVES EYES and DARK END. She has a voice as pure as the Bergen air, wispy, fresh, evocative and pleasantly cooling. Above all the effect is natural. There is no overuse of effects or a need to fit the whole vocal range into a song just a voice that works for the song. /

Music & Performance
A few months ago I had the pleasure of seeing Lindy’s first UK solo show just down the road at The Camden Black Heart Pub where she performed tracks from her new album ‘Seafarer’. On a cramped stage in front of a full venue she enthralled us all with her floaty, ethereal and evocative vocals that conjured images of ships, stormy seas and a curiosity of what is on the “other side”. Tonight, in the Roundhouse the album had another airing and I had a similar experience but on a grander scale. Tonight, though the setlist had the added bonus of a new unrecorded track called ‘Gjelet’. Still in a packed venue but Lindy had plenty of room onstage to move and express without hindrance. So did the sound, it had space to breath, although it not as fulsome as in the smaller venue. It was as if the Bergen air had had its fetters removed and could fly around the heads of the crowd before shooting off up into the roof trusses and girders with abandon.

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She brought along her own sound guy at the Black Heart, I’m not sure if he was on duty tonight but the sound was not bad at all. As I said previously, the sound did not feel as fulsome but it filled the space until I went up on the balcony and stood extreme left or right. There were some dead spots where the sound was muffled. LINDY FAY HELLA wore a black off the shoulder ankle length dress with flounces and ruffles at the waist and knee which added to the fay like and elven aura and she also reminded me of the androgynous character Gump from the movie ‘Legend’. No, not the 2015 film about the Kray Twins, the 1985 movie starring Tom Cruise and Mia Sara. For the most part the crowd were attentive to what was happening onstage. Although there was still a long queue outside the venue there was a pretty hefty crowd inside to witness Lindy’s set and plenty of those had faces staring straight ahead in reverie but a few people I notice around the periphery just could not help themselves when it came to chatter about issues unrelated to the show.

They were not only annoying but I wonder why they spend all that money on tickets and travel to not pay any attention to the proceedings onstage. As far as I was concerned Lindy Fay was part of the ritual of the evening and these people were ruining that ritual for me, I think Lindy Fay deserves some respect! The set commenced with the track ‘Tilarides’. Inspired by a Ukrainian spear called ‘Sure Hitter’ this track grabs your attention and pulls you in, not letting you go I like the whistles on ‘Bottles Of Sorrow’, it’s as if something or someone is blowing through the wind. Says that ‘Nake Du Finn I Skogen’ sounds like it’s covered in moss. I don’t get that, to me the song evokes the image of sand blowing over objects and then revealing them again. The low tones of Gaahl were not here tonight alas due to him being on tour with his band GAAHL’S WYRD and from where I stood up on the balcony I couldn't make out if his voice was emanating from a backing track or not.

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Now I come to think of it, I don’t think there was a backing track because I don’t recall his voice on the track ‘Skaddo’ either. None the less that did not detract from the overall performance which I found to be just within the circle of intimate. The final track was the title track from album called ‘Seafarer’ I have listened to this many times and every time it causes different feelings. First it invokes good fortune on a long journey over wind swept seas and then the next it conjures images of a traveller lost in the stormy throws of a nautical storm but the lyrics sing of what was hoped for, a safe passage. Th track worked well in The Roundhouse because I imagined the structure of the building to be the bowels of a ship, the song echoing around the bulk heads like spectres either as encouragement or foreboding. After around 40/45 minutes the set was over and we all had 30 minutes to prepare for HEILUNG.

01. Tilarides
02. Two Suns
03. Bottle Of Sorrow
04. Nak Du Fin I Skogen
05. Three Standing Stones
06. Skaddo Akkurat Mars
07. Gjelet

Music: 9
Performance: 9
Sound: 8
Total: 8.3 / 10

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HEILUNG are a trio of like-minded souls who came together in 2014 to create something special, something that they have called Amplified History. Not knowing what genre, they fit into they had to invent one of their own and it is an apt name! Consisting of Kai Uwe Faust from Germany, Maria Franz from Norway and Christopher Juul from Denmark their ritualist take on Viking and Bronze age soundscapes have been enthralling crowds ever since. This is not a band in the conventional sense, this is more an ensemble of shamans that use magic to exorcise demons, heal, and to initiate time travel. They are not of this realm; they are the conduit between this realm and others! They are HEILUNG. /

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Music & Performance
The crowd are talking amongst themselves when a sign is noticed from the back of the stage. The whiff of incense is perceived by hundreds of nostrils informing everyone that the opening ceremony is about to begin. Whoops and screams caws rise up from the throngs as the practitioners of the ritual enter the stage. They stand in a circle facing each other and recite the now immortal words:

Remember, that we all are brothers
All people, beasts, trees and stone and wind
We all descend from the one great being
That was always there
Before people lived and named it
Before the first seed sprouted

No photographers are allowed in the pit for the opening ceremony. That is a personal thing that does not need disturbing by the sound of numerous shutters all going off at once. This bubble of preparation sets the vibe, and now it begins...

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‘In Maijan’ is the first ritual piece. The pounding drums jolting your senses into action, even at this early stage I can feel an energy transference accompanied by hollering and whistling from the crowd. HEILUNG look really imposing up close and of course mesmerising. The hairs are standing up on the back of my neck and whilst in the photo pit I have to restrain myself from entering a trance myself and dancing around like a banshee. It’s hard but I achieve it. Stage decked out in bones and antlers and Viking shields with symbols on them. They are a sight for the eyes, mesmerising and hypnotising. Like all good shamans and volva should be!! From the get go I am saying to myself that I want to be up on that stage as well. The Roundhouse by this point is absolutely packed. All seats up in the balcony are taken. All wheelchair space is occupied. All standing space commandeered apart from a thin strip of floor at the back where the bars are. The crowd is a mixture of goths, pagans, black metal heads, avant-garde aficionados and anyone else with a curiosity as to what this amplified history thing is all about.

The energy is palpable and oozes off the stage like a thousand snakes wrapping their bodies around the assembled bodies in ophidian embrace. The hairs are standing up on the back of my neck and a shiver embraces like a cloak of a thousand needles. This tour has the addition of two extra female voices onstage to emphasise the shift in energies, ‘Futha’ being a more female orientated album! Last year when I saw HEILUNG at the Islington Assembly Hall the energy was more war like and testosterone heavy. The energy although no less intense is more balanced, I could certainly feel that the energy was more yin and yang, sun and moon tonight. By the time ‘Krigsgaldr’ starts I am succumbing to the powers of trance. But I have to hold it together until I leave the photo pit. The opening segments of this piece with the bells and the whirring bullroarer glass over my eyes and then Maria Franz slips in with a voice that’s soothing like a balm, it enunciates the words of this ritual piece with a precision that grabs you up onto a wave of undulating waves. I turn around and face the crowd, I see hundreds of glassy eyes, pupils blazing.

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The first release from the 2nd Album ‘Futha’ is the fulcrum piece of the ritual. It is based on a 13th century rune poem now lost but a copy was made in the 17th century. This rune poem starts with ‘Futha’ but no one knows what it actually means, we only have theories and one of those theories is that ‘Futha’ alludes to the power of the feminine and female fertility. I like to think that ‘Norupo’ performed in the centre of the ritual signifies the moment of birth. Up until that moment was pregnancy and then the perspective changed to birth and beyond. From that moment the ritual was moving into the home straight. ‘Eldansurrin’, the ode to fire, was an awesome spectacle. From the balcony I could see the swathes below swaying and writhing in time to the emphatic drum beat and the hypnotic throat sung chant. The power of fire in all its glory. A painted and naked maiden enters the stage area carrying fire wands, she traverses the stage manoeuvring the wands, writing with fire.

I am now stamping my right leg in unison to the drum as the altar servant continues her gyrations. This would never have happened at the Islington Assembly Hall; the stage is just too small and the Health and Safety people would have been as keen on fire as they would have been at fire in a fireworks factory. The ritual is closed as per usual with the perennial trance inducing hallucinogen ‘Hamrer Hippyer’ I always get goose bumps when this starts no matter whether its performed live, whether I see it on a YouTube video or played on a cd. Kai Uwe Faust’s repetitive throat growl mixing with Christoper Juuls screams whilst Maria Franz bangs away on one of the skin drums Nothing else matters for the duration of the performance. It like succumbing to the talons of fever, being dragged into a miasma of intense heat before being flung out and slowly cooled, and that point I feel completely purified. Purification is the perfect ending to the ritual. I need no more, I expect no more, I am cleansed and satiated.

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It was a good idea to have the ritual here because the venue is large enough to allow more scope for set pieces on the stage. It allows for the magic to breathe and circulate. And above all it allows for a larger audience to experience the ritual. As I said above in my impressions on Lindy Fay Hella, a set, the venue is big enough but just on the right side of intimate. I wouldn’t want them to play larger venues for the sake of money and in doing so water down the intimacy to the point where it is non-existent. If that happened then the whole ritualistic experience will be rendered meaningless. Next year’s ritual should remain at this venue in my opinion or maybe if possible, move over to the Royal Albert Hall. No bigger than that, emphatically no bigger than that! I spoke to two friends afterwards, one said that the show was one of the best they’d seen in this venue ever and that they were awestruck. The other friend left early and a bit underwhelmed. He says HEILUNG are interesting “but, erm, a bit samey!” When asked to clarify, he said that the percussion and the vocals were good but after a while it got repetitive.

I think he forgot that this music is inspired by the sounds that come from the Neolithic/ Bronze and Viking ages where structures were not as sophisticated as today and were more hypnotic. I don’t think he “got it” to be honest or was in the “space” to appreciate what was being offered before him. Which is fair enough, I suspect there will be many views from many audience members ranging from “awesome” to “boring” to “samey” to whatever else springs to mind. These views are all valid. But my view is that the night was an experience to behold!

01.Opening Ceremony
02. In Maijan
03. Alfadhirhaiti
04. Krigsgaldr
05. Hakkerskaldr
06. Othan
07. Norupo
08. Traust
09. Elddansurin
10. Galgaldr
11. Hamrer Hippyer

Music: 9
Performance: 9
Light: 9
Sound: 8
Total: 9 / 10

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All pictures by Claudia Black (©CimmerianPhotography)

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