Heilung Brings the Ceremony to Kansas City

Maria Franz of Heilung performing in Kansas City. Photo by Josh Chaikin

Kansas City saw some reasonably warm weather last week, which worked out well for those waiting to see HEILUNG on Friday night. With two hours before doors, the line was already snaking around the Midland, extending a block. Many were clearly fans of the band, dressed in costumes I wouldn’t be surprised to see at a Renaissance Faire, with matching makeup.

The show opens with one of members of the group burning an assortment of herbs to cleanse the space. Slowly, more members emerge, until the stage is full, and a circle is formed. One member then spoke the words of the opening ceremony, which were then repeated by the other members onstage. Slowly, more and more members of the audience, which had to be at the Midland’s capacity, joined in. The ceremony calls for unity, reminding us that “We all descend from the one great being,” and are all interconnected to nature.

It would become clear, for the uninitiated, this was not going to be a “traditional” concert. Sounds of nature filled the room, The music would start with a simple horn, and the cry “Harigasti Teiwa!” seemingly a call to an old Nordic priest.

The songs would be sung in a similar fashion; all lyrics in an old Germanic, or proto-Norse language, befitting a band whose members come from Germany, and the Nordic region. The influences in from the regions mythos pepper throughout the music, with traditional folk instruments, like the jouhikko.

One doesn’t need to understand the lyrics to appreciate the music. Music is transcendent, and it does tell us how we should be feeling; heavy, rapid drums evokes a rapidly beating heart, so the tension of battle is high (of course, an army of soldiers with spears and shields marching at the back of the stage helps tell the story as well).

HEILUNG is something of an enigma. Though their music is folk, it’s steeped in the Nordic folklore, whose lyrics call images of Odin. It’s not uncommon for themes like this in power metal, but HEILUNG does it with the mother tongue, and period instruments. With shamanistic runes decorating the stage, and being projected around the theater; the burning of sage, and performing of pagan rituals, HEILUNG brings something that, while highly theatrical, is also very authentic, and sincere. As said in the opening ceremony:

Remember, that we all are brothers
All people, beasts, trees 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

Words and Photos by Josh Chaikin

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