The Icelandic ancesteral folk music troupe Heilung has more than a dedicated base of followers; their fans are equally earnest and carnally integrated into the experience. The physical met the spiritual right here in Denver as Heilung performed to an unwaveringly immersed and completely sold-out Ogden Theater on Friday, January 17. Delivering an of-the-Earth, ceremonial experience from the moment they took the stage until the very last chant was uttered at the closing of the 90-minute set, the ritualistic approach is anything but archaic.
By starting the set with a smoke-and-feather cleanse, Heilung opened the space to welcome the organic sounds of nature brought through the form of war chants, throat singing, and even the utilization of human bones. The ambiance is as experimental as it is primitive, calling on the masculine and the feminine to dance in opposition as well as in synchronicity with one another.
Songs which lean into the guttural chanting and call upon tribes of men with ancient weapons and shields take turns with ethereal and airy melodies led by the trio of siren-esque, tribal women. With a sonic resonance based on the amplification of texts and runic inscriptions from Germanic peoples of the Bronze Age, Iron Age and Viking Age, Heilung create a unique and penetrating sound that speaks to the warrior in us all.
Heilung, which means healing in German, are currently on their first ever North American tour, which sold out in less than 72 hours. Luckily, Denver was one of the seven cities which they made a stop in. Debuting the album Othan in 2018 and their follow-up, Futha, in 2019, their music has been featured in a Game of Thrones commercial, and will be in an upcoming episode in the Vikings TV series. Additionally, Heilung will be scoring the soundtrack for the video game Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II.
Photos by Veronica L. Holyfield