Sep 222022


(Our editor Islander [that would be me] wrote the following concert review and took all the photos that accompany it.)

The literature of anthropological evolution (in which I’m a dabbler rather than an expert) makes a convincing case that much of our behavior is rooted in instincts that evolved over a vast span of time, instincts geared toward the survival of the species. Unfortunately, it’s also pretty clear that in the “modern age” those instincts no longer function very well as instruments of preservation and advancement. Instead, they lead to behavior that’s just plain dumb, or worse yet self-destructive, or still worse yet, dangerous to the survival of the species as a whole.

Unlike almost all other creatures on the planet, our big sophisticated brains give us the ability to override instinct for the better. Sometimes we actually behave in genuinely altruistic ways. Sometimes we’re able to extricate ourselves from dangerous predicaments through the exercise of reason when instinct alone would fail. We just don’t do any of that as often as we should, and there’s a case to be made that time is running out.

These thoughts bubbled to the surface as I reflected on the performance of Heilung I was lucky enough to witness in Seattle on the night of September 20th. On the one hand, the intense primal attraction of the show was a vivid reminder that “primitive man” still dwells within us. On the other hand, it was a testament to the willed creativity of which we’re capable, and the capacity to create beauty and magic. Continue reading »

Oct 122021


(Our Denver-based friend Gonzo had the good fortune to witness a recent performance by the multinational European collective Heilung at the extraordinary Red Rocks amphitheater in Colorado, and he sent us the following impassioned review plus photos that he took.)

There aren’t many words in the English language that describe what it’s like to watch Heilung perform their ritual in a live setting.

Captivating? Yes.

Immersive? Also yes.

Spellbinding? Definitely.

But just as their self-proclaimed moniker of “amplified history” seems to imply, you’d almost have to come up with new expressions to adequately describe their show to someone who’s never seen it, let alone heard of the band at all.

How else could you describe the thunderous booms of massive drums made from deer skin and painted with human blood? The hypnotic throat singing of Kai Uwe-Faust? The piercing siren songs of Maria Franz? And the modern-day portrayal of an ancient Iron Age ritual that features about 15 other performers, dancers, singers, actors, and enough ambience and atmosphere to be one of the most memorable live shows you’ve ever seen?

I have no idea, but it’s more than worth a try. Continue reading »

Apr 192020


You may have noticed that I didn’t post anything yesterday, a rare missed Saturday opportunity. I participated in three virtual happy hours on Friday afternoon and evening and somehow didn’t understand that I wasn’t required to drink straight through all of them. Saturday taught me that lesson, brutally.

I’ll try to make up for lost time today with two installments of this usual Sunday column.


Versus All Gods is the ninth full-length by this famous Singapore band, and the first one since 2012’s Revenge & Conquer. In those seven years two new guitarists joined the line-up, and something happened to the song-writing as well — something that seemed to convey rejuvenation, a return to the thermonuclear energies that fueled earlier releases, coupled with the mastery that comes with experience, sort of like a barbarian horde that has learned through decades of successful conquest how to decimate even more powerfully and brutally. Continue reading »

Jun 082019


I managed to get Part 2 of this Saturday round-up finished in time to actually post it on Saturday, leaving the field wide open tomorrow for a SHADES OF BLACK column, which also might be a two-parter, and a Sunday premiere. The five songs I chose for Part 1 were consistently high-energy, full-throttle attacks, but the songs I’ve selected for this second installment are much more variable. There is also (gasp!) a healthy helping of clean or almost-clean singing to be found here, but I think you’ll find that it earns the exceptions to our Rule.


I thought for sure I had written about Heilung before today, but can find no evidence of it. I know that I meant to, because I have been fascinated by their past music. But if this is the first occasion, it’s a worthy one, because their new song “Traust” is simply fantastic. Continue reading »