Heilung – ‘Discovering Insights Ahead of Debut Aussie Rituals’

The tales of the Scandinavian black metal scene are immeasurably fascinating. Church burnings and murders would be the “headlines” which (despairingly) most would base their knowledge of, or judgement by. Retrospectively though, these nuances are a prime example of the idiom: “Can’t see the forest for the trees” – most ignore the innovation, environmental awareness, historic transcriptions and storytelling of the genre. A situation where media incorrectly defines an entire “ideology” and in essence hides a lot of truth and how beautiful the whole picture is; instead focusing on negativity to please the masses.

“Innovation” is a key part to this story; a famed Norwegian outfit by the name of Ulver who have evolved with nearly every release of their 30-year career from their esoteric black metal beginnings, to their orchestral compositions, to their latter-day synth-pop movements – they are a band who pushed the boundaries of reinvention and recording techniques. There is a rumour that their third full-length Nattens Madrigal – Aatte Hymne Til Ulven I Manden (translated to: Madrigal of the Night – Eight Hymns to the Wolf in Man) was recorded entirely outdoors in a Norwegian forest – according to their biography Wolves Evolve: The Ulver Story this isn’t true (entirely?); yet the ingenuity opened a new world in capturing sound. Another example is Seattle’s doom drone outfit Sunn O))) and their fifth studio album Black One, where guest vocalist Malefic was locked in a casket during his recorded performance to the vocals on the track ‘Báthory Erzsébet’.

As extreme as these narratives appear to be, the lifeblood of experimentation exists here. For European neo-folk phenomena Heilung, the methodology of creating the veracious character in their sound embraces traditional and mystifying techniques. As musician and producer Christopher Juul explains:

“Every recording with Heilung is an adventure of experimentation and discovery. More than half of our material on all releases is recorded outside in natural environments suitable and carefully selected for the pieces that they fit with. Both actual recordings, but also their properties such as reverb, resonance and room tone. Something that is especially interesting working with is technologies such as immersive audio and surround which is a part of our works that will see its release in the not so far future. Because it brings the spectators and listeners closer and further into our universe of amplified history. For us it does not necessarily become a “fun” dogma to limit ourselves and/or to force ourselves outside in the sun from the dark environment a studio setting often can be. No, for us it’s a natural part of our working environment to find and utilise special locations for the simple reason that you can not beat the real thing.”

Mr Juul advises with infinite passion – “There are simply limits to what can be recreated inside in a studio environment no matter how advanced and technologically achieved it might be. However, our method is not limited to the surroundings where we chose to capture our sounds and emotions, but also the state of mind we put ourselves in. Whether that is extreme ecstasy and joy or absolutely devastating fear. We work with capturing primal human emotions in its original intended natural habitat, that can be both pleasant and tough. Because what we do, however amplified it might be, will always originate from something and somewhere real, whether that is from this side or the other.”

Immersion is undoubtedly one of the primal energies of Heilung. Their art-form is not a musical composition; it is a ceremony, a ritual, a spiritual awakening. Each performance they deliver is of an atmosphere that is historic, bewildering and transforming. As vocalist Maria Franz describes, this artistic delivery is more than her current “self”, it is the combination of her life stages that brings her to this eloquence.

“The music is spiritual, my regalia has its own spirits, my stage tribe is inspiring me immensely, all this combined brings my state of mind to new, deep places every performance.” She professes poetically – “I am now the result of all the different pieces of my life combined. The reflection on my journey from the beginning to where I am today combined with knowing who I am, supported by the people around me, inspired by this incredible world we live in, brings on an amplified version of myself whom I bring into Heilung.”

Vocalist Kai Uwe Faust who magnifies the neo-folk soundscape with captivating throat singing, astonishing vivacity and an extensive ancient knowledge of a myriad of sacred cultures brings the storytelling element of the outfit’s being to a full circle. Their latest full-length Drif (roughly translated as: Throng) explores past backgrounds of varying natures, for example there is a song from Babylonian times entitled ‘Marduk’ – with these resources on hand, it became apparent to this scribe to ask which stories fascinates Kai the most currently?

“I have a huge library with books about history and old cultures where I find a lot of inspiration for Heilung’s songwriting. Ancient Greek is something that fascinates me a lot since it was giving a lot of central impulses into Iron Age Europe. We can see for example how much our Celtic ancestors have been inspired by the ancient Greek culture. Unlike the Greeks, the Celts did not write or notate songs yet. I can very well imagine exploring Ancient Greek song notations.”

With these traditional explorations and experimental sound discoveries, a question that has to be put forth to the group is what are the most interesting historic instruments they utilise and will be on their debut Australian visit?

“It has been a long and complicated journey to get Heilung through Australian customs. We are basically one big biological mess, everything we have is organic material which needs special permissions to enter the country. But as we are answering your interview, everything has been declared without any issues, big thank you to Solver Productions for sorting this! Some of our instruments are made from natural materials such as nuts, shells, and so on, they sadly had to stay home, but luckily we are getting help from our newfound friend from the Gunaikurnai, Benny Clark and his family. Connecting and paying our respects to the native inhabitants of the lands we are visiting is of great importance to us, we are very grateful to have found this connection in this ancient part of the world as well.”

What would be the strangest instrument that Heilung have incorporated in their art?

Kai Uwe Faust: “The strangest instrument I have used are the buttocks of my girlfriend which provided the rhythm for a certain song. We perform that song live but on stage we clap thighs instead.”

Interview by Will Oakeshott @TeenWolfWill

Heilung‘s Debut Australian Rituals take place from tomorrow!
Hope you got tickets because these ones are SOLD OUT!

Helung – The First Down Under Rituals


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About Will Oakeshott (58 Articles)
Funny bloke, writer, Journalist, Vocalist, bit of acting, music, comedy and dad joke lover. Love: music, beer, bodyboarding, movies, books.