September 3, 2022 – – Mtelus, Montreal, Quebec
Arriving early to the MTelus, thinking that doing so would assure us of an opportune seating position on the balcony, proved to be comically wrong, as seemingly everyone with a ticket had the same thought. With more than two hours to go before the sole act of the evening, Denmark’s Heilung, were to take the stage, the queue to get in stretched three blocks behind the venue. During which time, squirrels pelted us with nut shells. I shit you not.
More and more people joined the line, some dressed in splendid outfits – neo-Pagan on some, others that could have passed for extras on the Vikings television show, wearing bones, face paint and everything imaginable minus swords and shields. One poor soul passed out on the sidewalk ahead of us, and was taking away in ambulance just as the doors opened to allow people in. If that isn’t rotten luck, I don’t know what is. Hopefully it was nothing serious and those that rode away were able to rejoin the show in time for its start.
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The show itself, which is more akin to a ritual than a traditional concert, began the same as every Heilung show does – with a spoken word opening ceremony which went as follows; “Remember, we are all brothers. All people, beasts, tree and stone and wind, we all descend from the one great being that was always there, before people lived and named it, before the first seed sprouted.” Spoken slowly, allowing time for the jam-packed, Viking and Pagan clad audience to willing and loudly repeat the ceremony in a spine-chilling, beautiful moment of unity.
The show began late, which caused the audience to stomp their feet and chant, presumably to lure the musicians to the stage. As time elapsed, the crowd more and more rowdy and that wasn’t something that subsided at any point during Heilung’s entire set. Rabid applause, cheering and clapping quickly became common place, as members of the crowd routinely howled like wolves between each piece of music.
Creating trance-like rhythms as the drum-based sounds beat a droning symmetry that was at times deeply calming and relaxing, but also quite visceral with the usage of Kai Uwe Faust’s throat singing. This was something to behold, and for several reasons. Not only was the music magical, inspiring and beautifully haunting – but I can’t quite remember an audience at the MTelus – or Metropolis as it was once known, to be quite as loud as this. The people all around looked the part, which added to the allure of the night.
The lighting was also phenomenal, and helped paint the ambiance as it flashed bright strobes that were probably problematic for anyone in the audience that might suffer from epilepsy, showing bursts of an oncoming Viking army appearing through the morning mists. It was easy, given the audial and visual display, to allow the mind to envision such things. This was more than a concert – this was a piece of theatre – and I honestly feel that if the group and its followers continue to grow at the rate they have, Heilung’s next visit to Montreal could well take place at a venue such as Place Des Arts, where groups such as Sigur Ros recently performed.
Among the instruments used, are drums, including one with horse skin painted with human blood, two drums with deerskin and a drum with goatskin. A buffalo horn, various rattles – one of which contains human ashes, bells, whistles and even a human forearm bone. Vocalist Kai Uwe Faust’s throat singing recalls the Tibetan or Mongolian style, while Christopher Juul uses a chirping whisper as vocals. The more traditional used vocals come from Maria Franz – formerly of progressive rock band Euzen.
Although there are but three main members of Heilung, I counted as many as eighteen individuals onstage at their height, each either contributing musically of as part of what can only be described as ritual proceedings. Earlier in the year, Heilung were recruiting members to join them on tour, as Viking warriors that appeared on stage on several occasions, topless men and women, carrying shields and spears – adding to the already strong visual aesthetic of the show.
Unfortunately, the gathering in Montreal had several disrespectful members that thought it best to chat loudly during the quiet moments of Heilung’s set, which not only diminished the impact that the set show have had, but showed a great display of disrespect to the artists on stage, those that people had paid a hefty sum to see, and the rest of the audience as well. Sadly, these rotten few, who value themselves more than the rest, these egocentric, self-centered assholes thought it best to chit chat during some of the more sublime moments of the show.
>> Amon Amarth “The Great Heathen Army’ Review
>> Heilung “Drif” Review
>> Wardruna “Kvitravn” Review
Earlier this year, I thought it strange that Jack White had requested all cell phones be locked into a little pouch but as time marches on, and as people continuously grow more and more rude and self-obsessed, unable to leave their phones in pockets while an artists performs, I now fully understand the reasons for the banning on all phones, and support it.
There were no accredited photographers for this event, as such the images used here are from Evenko’s house photographer, Susan Moss – and are used with permission.