Heilung’s otherworldly new album Drif is powerful, hypnotic and unifying

Album review: pagan shamans Heilung host a gathering of the tribes on new album Drif

Heilung Drif album sleeve
(Image: © Season Of Mist)

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For all the bands claiming a sense of ritual, spectacle or transcendence, precious few achieve it like Heilung. But while their striking aesthetic makes the metal scene their spiritual home, there’s relatively little that shrieks ‘metal up your ass!’ beyond the occasional, goblin-esque vocal turn. Because while Drif is an undeniably heavy release, this weight stems from a sense of drama, historical resonance and emotional depth – a carefully woven tapestry of ideas, sounds and inferences wherein a whisper just out of earshot or the unearthly sustain of a single bell can stop your heart in your chest.

Opener Asja begins with a foreboding drone’n’groan before Maria Franz lends her crystalline voice to the mix, while elsewhere Tenet and Buslas Bann serve as exercises in sheer hypnotic power and Keltentrauer brings history to spine-tingling life with its mix of stoic narration, clashing swords and chaotic battle cries. According to the band, the word ‘drif’ means ‘gathering’ – an apt term for a trio who throng their stages with additional bodies and invite audiences to join the wild atavistic throes of something beyond the reach of typical modern experience. But the title’s meaning also stretches further: a gathering of influences that confidently reaches beyond northern Europe to encompass other great civilisations. This, conceivably, serves as a thumbing of the nose to the racist slackjaws who might try to claim Heilung’s deep dives into history and heritage as their ‘own’.

More than this, though, Drif feels like a natural evolutionary step for a band who understand the unique power of story and song, and how such forces can transcend borders and language to bind us all together – wherever we’re from, and whoever we are.