As much as I enjoy a bit of Nightwish bombast, my favourite output from mainman Tuomas Holopainen is his incredible solo album, ‘Music Inspired by The Life And Times Of Scrooge’, an ambitious project based around Scrooge McDuck, performed in English and Gaelic, featuring members of Nightwish and Sonata Arctica. Sweet baby Jesus, it truly is spellbinding! The compositions from Holopainen, and the incredible orchestrations, forced this sweaty sock into parting with his money more than once, purchasing the deluxe CD version as well as the vinyl. Scrooge McDuck was of course Scottish, but hell, I’m fine with that. The performers included Nightwish multi-instrumentalist Troy Donockley and vocalist Johanna Kurkela, who have both joined forces with Holopainen again. The end result this time is Auri. It’s fair to say that I’m as happy as Scrooge McDuck diving head first into his mountain of gold coins.
Kurkela has the warm voice of a Siren, slotting in perfectly alongside great Celtic vocalists like Cara Dillon, Karen Matheson and, of course, Moya Brennan. It’s a voice that slowly entices you in before burrowing deep into the listeners psyche. Look no further than ‘Night 13’ if you need further evidence of her vocal prowess. ‘Auri’ is not an album to drop in and out of, it’s best appreciated from start to finish in a chilled out state. Fans of Holopainen will marvel at the Fin’s latest blissful compositions, the massive symphonic arrangements associated with Nightwish are not to be found but instead the listener is truly rewarded with a magical, almost fairytale like experience. Kurkela could be whispering in your ear that she wants your firstborn and you will find yourself nodding away in approval. Couple this with a swirling mix of folk, prog, and (on ‘Skeleton Tree’ and ‘See’) a little Middle Eastern spice (the Middle East via North Yorkshire, mind), then you have Auri. With easily the most atmospheric drum intro ever on an opening track (‘The Space Between’), ‘Auri’ is not really an album to get tied up in how to best describe it. “Down the rabbit hole” seems to be a phrase associated with the band and the album, and that’s a very apt description. An album to truly get lost in. The best example of this would be ‘Desert Flower’, which succeeds in making the listener stop what they are doing, block out all the distractions, and actually listen. A rare commodity these days. Only when you truly listen to it do you then appreciate the beauty unfolding around you. The delicate vocals are simply superb, and the light orchestral arrangements stunning. Nightwish fans will be drawn to ‘Aphrodite Rising’ with it’s soaring, dream-like sequences, cinematic in stature, but there is enough magic on ‘Auri’ to ensure that they stick around for more.
Auri seems to be very much a passion project from Holopainen, Donockley and Kurkela. Thankfully, they allowed the listener to join them on the journey down the rabbit hole.
Available now through Nuclear Blast. More information here.