Nuclear Blast [Release date 23.03.18]
Auri – a side project of Nightwish pair Tuomas Holopainen (keyboards) and Troy Donockley (acoustic guitars, Uilleann pipes, vocals) – is one that’s been a while in the gestation. The oldest song in the set, ‘Aphrodite Rising’, written by Donockley as long ago as 2011.
But it was always intended for one singer, and one singer alone, Mrs Holopainen, aka Finnish singer songwriter Johanna Kurkela. From the moment the three’s paths crossed there was, we are led to believe, a meeting of minds and a karmic need to create music together. But other commitments – Johanna’s solo career and the Nightwish Endless Forms Most Beautiful album and tour got in the way. Until now.
But, Nightwish fans, don’t get too excited. Auri is a very different Nordic feast, an album of atmosphere, with nary a plugged in guitar sight (or sound). And from a neutral’s point of view, that’s a good thing.
Absent the metal and bombast of Nightwish, but equally more focused than Holopainen’s soundtrack like solo work, Auri is simply a beautiful canvas of pastoral acoustic guitars, folk orientated vocals, and sweeping panoramic keyboards, evoking images of Celts, ancient forests, fjords and longboats, capped by Kurkela’s heavenly vocals.
Recorded at Real World Studios with, interestingly, parts recorded separately, Auri has been deliberately constructed to take the listener on a journey, to immerse them in a timeless cocoon blocking out the noise and interference of the digital age, taking them to a place of mystery and imagination.
And in that respect, it has to be said, the album is a triumph. It blows a hole in attempts by bands like Magenta (and others in the melodic prog genre) to tap into the Celtic vibe. It soothes and washes around you, cleansing the senses, and the spirit. And that’s got to be a good thing, right? ****
Review by Pete Whalley
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