Heilung are not merely a Neo-Folk Band. Nay – they are a high concept Neo-Folk band, as shown by their new album Futha (Season of Mist), which is apparently about women’s bits, as opposed to the last album Lifa (also by Season of Mist), which was about men’s bits or something. Look, I’m paraphrasing the press release here. Leave me alone.
A first listen does not bode well. The growling male vocals remind me of Papa Lazarou, though at least the female vocals sound suitably wild and ethereal. And yet when opening track ‘Galgadr’ really hits its stride, with a hypnotic beat and mantra, it all becomes instantly worth it. This formula carries on through the album and works each time. Like all the good stuff in this world, it sounds easy but surely has taken a great effort to devise.
There are also some interestingly bleak spoken word sections too, such as those in track five, ‘Vapnatak’. Of course, it sounds dramatic mainly because it’s in German, and I can’t understand a bleeding word of it, but it sounds good, which is the whole point, surely?
Now, the big danger the album faces, constantly, is descending into pretentious tosh. Yet its biggest achievement is that it manages to avoid this, mainly by maintaining a sincere, creepy and dramatic tone, and by taking itself seriously enough to work very, very hard on each track.
The album’s strengths lie in precisely the sort of self-discipline and rigour that you need to stop this sort of music descending into self-parody. It knows when to move on, when to introduce a new idea, and when to give the listener something different to listen to.
And when it all reaches a crescendo with penultimate track ‘Eldanssurin’, with inhuman growls combining with desolate chorals, the hard work seems more than worth it in the end. Good music needs hard work to appreciate, especially when the last track, ‘Hamrer Hippyer’, somehow manages to drag out 15 minutes of what can best be described as dark age beat-bopping and throat singing without giving a shit whether you asked for it or not. It works, once again because it just throws itself in with wild abandon and because (whisper it) it’s catchy as hell.
In summary, then a fine album, once one scrapes away the pretence and finds the patience it requires and, arguably, deserves.
8 / 10