Interview with Kai Uwe Faust and Maria Franz | By Marika Zorzi

Drawing inspiration from Northern Europe’s Iron Age, Heilung’s themes, lyrics, and ambitious visual presentation evoke the Viking period in grand fashion.

On their 2015 debut album, Ofnir—reissued via Season Of Mist in April—Heilung’s percussive, primal music is deeply ritualistic and truly embodies “amplified history,” the genre they identify their sound as. “Heilung is how it naturally emerged from [lyricist and vocalist] Kai’s [Uwe Faust]’s shamanic work when it fused with the musical genius of [instrumentalist and producer] Christopher [Juul] and [vocalist] Maria [Franz]’ heart,” the band say. “We had to think about what to name it, and then, we realized it didn’t fit the common genre boxes. That’s when we came up with the term ‘amplified history.’”

Heilung originated in Germany, Norway, and Denmark, but the Northern European traditions are what fundamentally unites them. “All three of us grew up in areas where the traces of our forefathers are very present,” the band explain. “While Kai played as a child in ancient Celtic stone circles in Germany, Maria sledded down grave mounds from the Viking age in her hometown in Norway. Christopher, being the son of a pagan priest (Godi), had the earliest exposure to pre-Christian spirituality. His hometown, Copenhagen, has traces of settlements from the Stone Age.”

Their interest in ancient times started when they were very young. “My passion for art, spirituality, and the warfare of my forefathers started back in childhood,” Faust shares. “I grew up very strictly Christian, where TV was not allowed. That left me with a huge number of books, on all topics. The historical books were my favorite.”

Franz has a similar background and explains, “I was always drawn to mysteries, and thus, the past naturally took my interest. Growing up in Borre, [Norway], had a huge influence. Who were these kings and queens beneath the mounds? I found and joined Viking reenactment groups at the age of 12, learning from the most skilled historians and craftsmen specializing in trying to solve the puzzles of the past.”

With Ofnir—their originally self-released full-length, which was followed up by 2017’s Lifa—Heilung recreated the magical atmosphere they grew up in. “We want to invite the listener to a world beyond the concrete, glass, social media pollution, and all the things that keep us busy all day long,” Faust asserts. “We want our listeners to connect via trance or meditation with their primal, very native selves. The victories and struggles of our forefathers made our lives possible.”

Their lyrics are taken from texts found in ancient rune stones, preserved spear shafts, amulets, poems, and other relics of a bygone era. “I am inspired with the deepest respect by the old rune carvings and the later Icelandic sagas and similar poems,” Faust says. “These remnants of pre-Christian culture and spirituality are done with a very special rhyming method and very complicated meters.”

To pay tribute to their heritage, the Danish trio employ unique instrumentation in their music. “We use Blot, which is a drum with horse skin painted with human blood,” they explains, “two drums with deer skin, one with goatskin, a human forearm bone, deer bones, a buffalo horn rattle, a clay rattle with human ashes, a Hindu ritual bell, antiques from temples, a reconstructed silver cup from the Viking age, Ravanahatha—an ancient Indian instrument—numerous rattles, whistles, and percussive instruments.”

Even if they relate deeply to the past, Heilung have their feet planted firmly in the present. “I often reflect on the time we live in and how lucky we are to experience such great progress and innovation,” they say. “At the same time, we as a species have never been more disconnected and ruthless toward our habitat. I believe that, at this time more than ever, it’s important that we see ourselves as one species. Origin: Earth. Species: human. Music is helping us toward this feeling of unity, and the good forces fighting for our survival need to stay united to stand a chance. The past is like the roots of a tree, needed to bring life to the branches, the future.”

Purchase Lifa here

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