AURI - Auri
March 20, 2018, a year ago
Never one to sit around idly, Nightwish mainman/keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen created an offshoot that also includes Mrs. Holopainen, aka Johanna Kurkela, a Finnish singer/violinist with a career, even before meeting her husband, and the Wisher's pipe master, Troy Donockley. The genesis of the group dates to 2011. The music is classified as "progressive folk," which isn't completely accurate. Guess that's meant to convey the minimalist (typically lyrical) passages, but at the same time, the backing music occasionally is not that far from the bombastic operatics of his day job. As the running order progresses, the sounds get more experiential, further and further from Finnish familiarity. For a comparison, think a symphonic laced Blackmore's Night (for more than just musical reasons), especially "Night 13" and "Aphrodite Rising", the first song written (by Donockley) for Auri.
The opening "The Space Between", with its catchy pop melody and prominent voice (the music is way down in the mix), recalls ‘70s sensation ABBA. Donockley's haunting Celtic pipes introduce "I Hope Your World Is Kind", which wanders from sparse piano notes to full-on orchestration. Somewhere between liturgical and Phillip Glass resides the violin accented "Skeleton Tree". Donockley gets a chance to show off his singing (in duet), on the mellow, acoustic "Desert Flower". A Middle Eastern influence (akin to "Sahara”, albeit purer, less epic) inhabits "See". Apart from his compositional genius, this is not a Holopainen showcase, but then again, neither is Nightwish, as his instrumentation is never the spotlight, with either outfit. Essentially an instrumental "Savant" feels like a cinematic soundtrack. Constructed on a recurrent liturgical intro, "Underthing Solstice" is a somber (depressive?) piece. Vocally, "Them Thar Chanterelles" finale is nothing more than hummed lyrics and a borrowed (but acknowledged) portion of the old folk song "Liquor In The Well".
In the promo literature, Holopainen is quoted as saying he was "inspired again," working of Auri, so much so that (after suffering some writer's block) the Nightwish material flowed once more. Sure it was fun to have artistic freedom outside Nightwish (although honestly, some of these tunes wouldn't be out of step on one of their platter), as well as connect with the Mrs. on a creative level. Sure it will sell a ton, just based on the legion of Nightwish fans' curiosity, and Tuomas had already said there will be more Auri works, but as the adage goes, "Don't forget your day job!"