Combining ancient melodies with otherworldly vocals, field recordings, dark ambient soundscapes, and shamanic rhythms, German, Norwegian, and Danish pagan folk act Heilung creates a trance-inducing blend that evokes the very dawn of civilization. The group has issued a string of acclaimed studio efforts (Ofnir, Futha, Drif) and has had its music appear in video games, television, and film.
Heilung ("healing" in German) was formed in 2014 by German vocalist Kai Uwe Faust and Danish multi-instrumentalist and studio engineer Christopher Juul. Later, Norwegian singer Maria Franz (Juul's girlfriend) joined the band. Brought up in a strict Christian home in rural Germany, Faust was forbidden television but encouraged to read, and he became fascinated by ancient pre-Christian traditions. As a youth, he rebelled against his parents and briefly embraced satanism before discovering shamanism and Viking culture. He studied Tibetan throat singing and became a poet and a tattoo artist. Franz felt a sense of belonging and community after discovering her local Viking re-enactment society at the age of 11. Juul was brought up directly connected to these traditions, the son of a pagan priest in Copenhagen. Heilung was born when Faust visited Juul's studio, Lava, to record some poems, offering the engineer a tattoo as payment. The two connected immediately and decided to create a musical project that would take listeners back to the Bronze Age, using ancient instruments and objects and Faust's otherworldly throat singing, with lyrics taken from original Viking rune inscriptions. When Franz joined, lending her ethereal vocals to the mix, Heilung was complete.
Calling their style "amplified history," in 2015, they self-released their debut album, Ofnir, which attracted some attention. But their big break came at 2017's Castlefest in Lisse, the Netherlands, where they brought the house down with a unique ritual performance to a 10,000-strong crowd, filling the stage with guest performers all clad in ancient furs, bones, and antlers. Amazingly, it was only their second ever show, and they had only three days to prepare. The performance was filmed and made available online, where it was streamed a million times. The band signed to Season of Mist and released the recording as their second album, Lifa. The label reissued Ofnir in 2018 and put out Heilung's second studio album, Futha, the following year. 2019 also saw the group's music appear in the popular television show Vikings. 2022's wide-ranging Drif expanded the band's sonic palette by exploring ancient civilizations outside of Northern Europe.