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Auri - Auri

by Jon Conant at 27 March 2018, 2:52 AM

When Tuomas Holopainen first announced a side project apart from NIGHTWISH, I didn’t know what to think. But, mostly I was excited beyond belief as a massive NIGHTWISH fanboy. That being said: me and just about everyone else went into this completely blind. The new three piece named AURI consists of Tuomas, fellow Nightwish bandmate Troy Donockley, and Finnish singer Johanna Kurkela, (who also happens to be married to Tuomas). From the beginning, the band was clear this project would NOT be about metal, but rather “a journey, delving deep into the magic of AURI.”

Well, musically speaking, that means absolutely nothing, and I am guessing that was their intention. To leave it open ended for interpretation, allowing for pure artistic integrity when their debut self-titled effort would be released. The only thing they specified is that it would NOT be metal. And frankly, I wouldn’t have expected anything else. Given the decidedly more folk/symphonic direction of NIGHTWISH with their latest effort and the fact that they’re all getting older, this felt like the right time for Tuomas to announce a softer/more atmospheric project.

Now that the album has been released, what is the verdict? Well, surprise, mostly. Despite the lack of information about what the music would sound like, and given the epic melodic nature of their lead single “The Space Between,” I would have expected something driven by the furious and epic piano/synth combo that defines Tuomas’ musical talent. Soft, yes, but distinctly Tuomas.

That is not what we get. Instead, a distinctly ensemble effort, clearly attempting to equally spread out and feature the talents of all 3 bandmates. Obviously Johanna is front and center being the lead vocalist, but the album finds a way to feel balanced and thought out…for better or for worse.

The worse part? The album is significantly underwhelming. Not because it’s “soft” music, we knew to expect that. Rather, the bulk of the album maintains an ambient, slow, and experimental type sound, rather than a melodically or rhythmically driven sound. Why is this disappointing? Because the first two tracks on the album, “The Space Between” and “I Hope Your World is Kind” are thundering and epic tracks setting up what should have been an equally epic album. In particular, “Your World is Kind” is an unrelenting synth and piano backed showstopper that honestly, if given some guitars and bass, could have been a Nightwish entry. The melody was dark and haunting, it moved and flowed, and it had me listening attentively. It was fantastic, and a rock solid start to the album following the incredible “The Space Between.”

But after that? The album hits the brakes with instrumental “Skeleton Tree,” and then never really picks back up any of the steam that the first two songs promised. I loved the first two songs because they were softer and distinctly AURI, but still with passion and fury. The rest of the album I can only best describe as ambient experimentation. It’s technically great, well done, but it’s the kind of thing that has a hard time finding a huge appeal outside of the people who created it. It’s art for the sake of art, which is great for AURI, but maybe not so great for the fans. And by the way, the 3rd track on any album is a TERRIBLE place to put an instrumental song. I mean seriously.

So what’s the positive side? Amongst all that ambient experimentation, we get TONS of beautiful vocal work from Johanna. Sit back, close your eyes, and relax: she is simply magical to listen to. Troy also provides more than enough fantastic guitar work, doesn’t overdue it on the pipes, when we do hear them they’re perfectly placed, and we even get some vocals from him on “Desert Flower” which is really wonderful to hear.

Sadly though, Tuomas is not featured enough on the album. I realize they were going for an ensemble effort here, but it was underwhelming. Despite what anyone may tell themselves, he is the master behind it all, and the fans want to hear that. But we don’t. That being said, the production was top notch, and I was really pleased to hear that from these veteran musicians. The layers of sounds were crisply laid, and beautiful placed together.

Am I disappointed in this album? No, not at all. Frankly I don’t think it would be fair to be disappointed in the album as a whole, it’s so uniquely artistic to the band members it’s almost impossible to objectively criticize. In addition to that, I am a MASSIVE NIGHTWISH/Tuomas fanboy (I nearly cried when I met him in 2014). But I did find the album self defeating: it can’t live up to it’s own promises on the first two tracks, and loses serious steam. Re-ordering the track list could have helped this. But instead, it’s an underwhelming effort from this 'young' 3-piece.

I do sincerely hope to hear more future AURI releases. The beauty we hear on this self-titled effort is more than enough to make me crave for more, especially with the first two tracks. But I can’t say I was blown away this time around. I will look for their next release to be driven more by the melody and synth of Tuomas. But for now, enjoy the soft and drawn out experimentation of “Auri.”

Songwriting: 8
Originality: 8
Memorability: 7
Production: 10

4 Star Rating

1. The Space Between
2. I Hope Your World is Kind
3. Skeleton Tree
4. Desert Flower
5. Night 13
6. See
7. The Name of The Wind
8. Aphrodite Rising
9. Savant
10. Underthing Solstice
11. Them Thar Chanterelles (feat Liquor in the Well)
Johanna Kurkela - Voices & Viola
Tuomas Holopainen - Keys & Backing Voices
Troy Donockley - Guitars, Bouzouki, Uilleann pipes
Record Label: Nuclear Blast


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Edited 02 December 2021

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