Drif

Heilung

Drif

With members hailing from Germany, Norway, and Denmark, international folk band Heilung explored the prehistoric civilizations of Northern Europe on their first two albums. Their third sees them taking their explorations further afield to Mesopotamia, Rome, and beyond. “We’re looking outside the Northern world because the Northern world, in itself, is nothing,” Heilung throat singer and co-composer Kai Uwe Faust tells Apple Music. “We’re widening the perspective.” Featuring ancient instrumentation and the thrilling vocal acrobatics of Faust and singer Maria Franz set to a lush production by keyboardist Christopher Juul, Drif is a rich and compelling collection of songs in what will hopefully become a long musical tradition. “The translation of Drif is ‘throng’ or ‘gathering,’” Faust explains. “We chose it because that is what we missed the most the last two years—big gatherings. But like many things in Heilung, it has several layers.” Below, he details each song. “Asja” “This is about love, recovery, and prosperity—and about chasing away evil and welcoming love. It contains a quotation of the Hávamál, which is an old Icelandic poem. It also contains a lot of blessing words that are meant to provide and help the listener through troubled times. The beginning of the song is something that I received in a retreat where I didn’t eat very much and where I was all alone, where I didn’t speak for a couple of weeks. I personally believe—and I’m not alone—that we find the best solutions for our challenges when we are retreating, when we go all alone and listen into ourselves.” “Anoana” “Here in the North, we find a lot of coin-shaped amulets. They come from the fourth up to the seventh century after Christ, and they contain inscriptions of runes. Some of them are, to the rune scientists, quite logical. We can say, ‘OK, it means this.’ But there are a few where no one—not even the most trained runologist—dares to say what it means. When I was writing the lyrics, I consciously picked these out and combined them with an old-fashioned way of rhyming. And then, Maria contributed nicely with the jouhikko, a very simple, very old-style string instrument.” “Tenet” “‘Tenet’ is a palindrome, so it is the same song even when you reverse it. It is based on the so-called Sator Square, which was found the first time approximately 50 BC in a place called Herculaneum, which is close to Pompeii. The problem with this palindrome is that it is very difficult to say what it actually means because it has words in Latin that kind of make sense, but why is it combined in that way? But it is a masterpiece, so we took this masterpiece and coded it with the help of numbers and runes and made notes from this. The melody follows the notes. If you reverse it, it will be exactly the same melody.” “Urbani” “This is based on a Roman song where we have the lyrics completely preserved, but there’s no melody or much more information about it. And that song, we know, was sung by the Roman Legionnaires during the triumph parade of Julius Caesar, after he won the war against the Gauls. It’s in Latin, and the funny thing is that it is a really rough mockery of Caesar himself. It hints to unspeakable sexual behavior and political failure and everything. I don’t fully understand how the Legionnaires were getting away with it, but we took the words and put them to the highest marching speed that we know from armies throughout that century.” “Keltentrauer” “We have here the Romans facing the Celtic armies. In Heilung’s publications, we always have these long poems that deal with historical events or interpretations of them. But this time, we upgraded it a lot. We recorded 15 people with a lot of swords and shields, and they started beating each other up in the studio. That’s why you hear people preparing weapons and, later, the clash of armies and the screaming of people that are dying parallel to the narration. Even if people don’t understand German, they have the chance to see this event with their inner eye.” “Nesso” “‘Nesso’ is an old High German word that means ‘worm.’ It goes back to the ancient belief that pain is a worm that crawls through your body or is stuck in some place in your body—and that worm could be pulled out by the medicine people of the ancient Germanic age. Luckily, we have that spell preserved in the original language. In this case, it is for the healing of the hoof or leg of a horse. Maria sings the worm out of the body there. We always try to put ourselves in the emotional state of the actual events that we’re dealing with, so we told her she should imagine that an animal she loves very much was about to die. When you listen to the song, you can hear that she’s fighting the tears.” “Buslas Bann” “This is a tough one. It’s also quite complex. It is based on something called the Bósa saga that was written in Iceland around the 13th century. It also contains really rough language. In the story, a woman—a witch, let’s call her—threatens to sing something to a king that would destroy him, basically. She threatens to sing a song that has six staffs. I was reading a lot about it, and there's runologists that say, ‘These six staffs must have been something everyone knew at the time, or at least knew that they exist, because the king is actually quite afraid of that threat.’ In the song, we describe these staffs. But there’s nothing to be afraid of.” “Nikkal” “This is the oldest known song of mankind. It is 3500 years old, and we have the lyrics and how to adjust the string instrument to play the song. It comes from a city called Ugarit, which is in what is now called Syria. It is the oldest surviving work of annotated music, but there’s still a lot of discussions going on about how to translate the lyrics. At the moment, I think there’s six different versions because no one can agree. But they all go in one direction—it’s about the goddess Nikkal, the daughter of the summer king and the wife of the moon god. It’s a very special song.” “Marduk” “Marduk is the king of the gods of the Mesopotamians. He receives a lot of worship and sacrifices, and there’s a song for him—a very, very long song. The text origin goes back to the first Babylonian dynasty—we’re talking about 1894 until 1559 BC. It contains 50 names and the explanation of these names. It is said that the moment the people of the region stop singing the song, the region will fall into total turmoil and chaos. I extracted the names, and we transformed it into what we call ‘Marduk.’”

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