The rise to prominence of bands like HEILUNG and WARDRUNA has been one of the more intriguing phenomena in recent underground history. Only tangentially linked to regular notions of heaviness, but palpably rooted in the same liberated ethos as the wildest post- and progressive metal, these new forms of, let's say, dark, ambient folk have provided oases of calm and contemplation for many. That said, there is so much of this stuff being released at this point that weary music writers would rather be flayed alive than have to listen to another bunch of poncho-wearing Scandinavians banging sticks together around a campfire. Or maybe that's just me.
The good news is that HEILUNG are still eminently worth your time, as "Drif" maintains the Danes' unique sonic world(s) while adding an abundance of new colors and textures. A collection of snatched-from-the-ether mantra-cum-songs that seamlessly blend primitivism and esoteric, post-everything ambience, it demands to be listened to without distraction.
Commencing with the elegant persistence of opener "Asja" and the spectral throb of "Anoana", "Drif" takes a slow-motion slide into the depths and hypnotic squall of "Tenet": 13 minutes of ingenious atmospheres and ghostly electronics. Previous albums have been proudly rooted in Northern Europe and its arcane treasures, but here HEILUNG seem to be broadening their vision and embracing a more holistic, spiritual purpose, across continents and oceans, and possibly even into outer space too. That approach reaches an apex of efficacy on "Nesso", which combines glacial post-rock with the sound of trampled mulch, plaintive fiddles and even a touch of spaghetti western futurism. It is a startling piece of music and the most mesmerizing thing here by some margin.
Elsewhere, HEILUNG showcase their impeccable vocal harmonies on "Nikkal", weave a web of tongue-twisters on the raw tribalism of "Buslas Bann", and soar off into the cosmos on darkly magical closing epic "Marduk". The emotional power of this stuff is undeniable, and "Drif" is another transportive, immersive plunge into the past, present and future, with vastly more class, imagination and verve than the many twig-wielding lightweights that follow in their eccentric wake.