Unity among concert goers has never been this strong.
Photos by Heaviest of Art at The Novo in Downtown Los Angeles on January 9, 2020.
Following the success of their their third full-length Futha (Season of Mist, 2019), HEILUNG set their sights on hitting North America for their first proper stateside tour. Seeing as Futha debuted at #3 on the Billboard Heatseeker charts and #4 on the Billboard World Music Charts (and 5 other Billboard charts placements), the anticipation for a HEILUNG live experience would be through the roof and the immediate sold out shows defined that. Not only was their latest record well received, but the group's music found itself on the final season trailer for Game of Thrones, an Adidas x Alexander Wang collaboration commercial, and more recently, the band has announced that they'll be composing the soundtrack for the upcoming Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II video game. For those unaware, the experimental folk band harnesses the textual and runic inscriptions of Germanic people from different eras, including the Bronze Age, Iron Age and Viking Age. With just six years in existence, these accolades speak to the value of HEILUNG's outings.
On January 9th, The Novo in Downtown Los Angeles became the conduit for the group's first North American tour stop. Prior to doors opening, hundreds were in line despite the colder than usual LA evening, many of which sported the same tribal face paint and attire that the group themselves embody. As doors opened, the hordes made their entry and were evenly spread between those who wanted first dibs on merch and those who wanted to gaze from the front barricade.
The venue's ceilings and walls were illustrated with projections of HEILUNG's Amplified History symbolism. Dim lighting and ceremonial background music set the atmosphere early on, easing one into the venue. Dozens were pouring in by the second, eventually hitting capacity well before the group's scheduled start time.
As much as we would've liked to photograph the opening ceremony that took place before us, we applaud HEILUNG and all involved for prohibiting one to do so in respect of the indigenous community who orchestrated said ceremony. The group respect indigenous protocol wherever their performances take place (as all should if indigenous elements were involved). HEILUNG came together with a native tribe on stage to undertake a ritual in blessing of the stage that would host their hymns to follow.
Following the sight to behold, the notable opening track In Maidjan hit the stage and the experience was well on the way. The group came out with full intensity, pounding away and shaking one with powerful sound. Bright lights and smoky atmospheres added an element of wonder to HEILUNG's aura, which was welcomed by the engaging LA crowd. With about 10 people on stage at the time, you have to appreciate how they all come together to form one cohesive entity.
The raw, primal energy that radiates from the stage transcends the physical being, invoking pure joy and a sense of inspiration if you will. From the rhythm of the rattling drums to the chants, the thousands in attendance were united on all fronts, bobbing their heads with hands held high. Acoustics at The Novo were pristine and added a bombastic sound to the visual experience that HEILUNG was delivering.
Whether you listen to the group's studio recordings or not, the ritual was both hypnotic and evocative enough of reaching any soul present. The voice of Maria Franz filled the venue as Juul's percussion resounded underneath, seamlessly layered among the warrior's chants and the backup vocals of Emilie Lorentzen. Within the thousands in attendance were a few teary-eyed fans, proving that HEILUNG's hymns are deeply felt.
What HEILUNG put together that night was not a concert, nor was it a performance. It was a religious experience that captured your every sense, leaving one breathless by night's end. It's no question as to why the group sold out all but their Montreal, QC show (which is actually close to selling out). Few acts can reach this level of audiovisual magnificence via the live setting and HEILUNG have defined themselves as one of the world's premiere, must-see acts.
Enjoy a slideshow of the Los Angeles ceremony below and pick-up Futha HERE.