AURI is a band probably not many of you have heard of, but yet it exists out of very familiar faces: Finnish singer Johanna Kurkela, Tuomas Holopainen and Troy Donockley from Nightwish. Unlike Nightwish, Auri is not a metal band. As you may have noticed, lately I’ve been struggling with putting bands in boxes and this is no exception with Auri. It’s difficult to put a genre on them, because there’s plenty of influences from everywhere: folk, classical music, pop music, some passages are even jazzy, or referring to Tuomas Holopainen as one of the leading composers in symphonic metal. But what’s most important about all of Tuomas Holopainen and Troy Donockley‘s work, is storytelling. If there’d be a music genre specifically meant for storytelling, then both of them would be the masterminds behind that.
Auri’s music can thus be described as very atmospheric, emotional, moving and intriguing, magical even. A big surprise to me was that the album kicks in with recently released upbeat “The Space Between.” While I would have expected the album kicking off with an epic intro song, the album sets of quite nicely and goes straight to business with some tribal drums kicking in. First thing that is very distinguishable is Johanna Kurkela‘s voice, which we are already acquainted with from “Music Inspired by the Life and Times of Scrooge”. Her voice is very unique and beautiful. All-in-all this song is a very strong start, it’s catchy, it offers very nice perspective in what the band possibly has to offer.
With “I Hope Your World Is Kind” the atmosphere immediately turns around, the song is really melancholic and reminds often a bit of Nightwish ballads, without the distorted guitar riffs. “Skeleton Tree” reminds me a bit of neoclassical folk bands that incorporate medieval sounds into their music, but then it shifts into something that sounds a bit more oriental, after which it taps into pure celtic folk, which is definitely an interesting shift of atmosphere and a winner as a combination. The transition between these worlds goes so smoothly, that it’s unbelievable that Donockley and Holopainen were able to pull this off. By far this is for me the most interesting track on the album.
“Desert Flower” sets of with a beautiful, enchanting intro by acoustic guitar, which then male vocals (I’m assuming here it’s Donockley, at least it sounds like him, but let’s not make any confirmed assumptions here, I might be mistaken). The male vocals are definitly a surprise, but the combination with Johanna Kurkela is divine. They intertwine very nicely. “Desert Flower” in its setup is perhaps more minimalistic, but this is what makes the song so beautiful and touching. “Desert Flower” is followed by “Night 13”, the first single Auri has released. In “Night 13” Johanna Kurkela has a bigger role, the song kicks in with only her voice leading us the way, swiftly some intriguing, magical sounds accompany her softly. It is no surprise that they picked out this song as a first single. It just stands out naturally from the rest and especially in this song, we can easily tell what Auri is all about. Both “Aphrodite Song” and “Underthing Soltice” give more power to Johanna Kurkela as a singer. In general throughout the album, I’m amazed (and I have to unfortunately admit also often jealous) about the uniqueness of her voice. It sounds eerily beautiful and enchanting on every track and kind of has a Kate Bush vibe over it sometimes.
While listening to “Savant” Auri managed to give me goosebumps and a general feeling of coldness, this doesn’t happen very often, only with true atmospheric masterpieces in my opinion. It’s definitely next to “Skeleton Tree” one of my favorite tracks. The track is more eerie, even spooky at times and sounds mysterious, sounds like something I want to know more about. But at the same time it sounds very motivational, especially when the song builds up. There’s very interesting happening within the song. The darkness continues in “Underthing Solstice”, a very melancholic song with very beautiful and powerful orchestrations and church organ.
The album concludes with “Them Thar Chanterelles”, which includes a very quirky nice vocal part in the beginning after which it shifts to Irish folk, with a wink to Riverdance. Ending the album and tying up all loose ends.
Auri’s debut album is one with many contrasts, surprises, hooks, intriguing melodies, suspense and just that little bit of magic you once in a while need to be able to listen to. As mentioned before storytelling is a huge part of it and it does just that, it gives the listener a unique immersive experience, which moreover has a wonderful production. There’s nothing bad I can say about this album. I don’t rate albums, because like labels, I don’t like to put numbers or percentages on albums either, but Auri has really made a strong debut album, which is definitely going to be one of the best Finnish releases of 2018 and if I would give a score, it would definitely be soaring high! So if you like to be immersed into a magical atmosphere, with lots of surprises, that doesn’t necessarily sound like metal, then this is your album to go. Give it a go, you won’t regret!
- The Space Between
- I Hope Your World Is Kind
- Skeleton Tree
- Desert Flower
- Night 13
- The Name of The Wind
- Aphrodite Rising
- Underthing Solstice
- Them Thar Chanterelles (feat Liquor in the Well)
Johanna Kurkela | Voices & viola
Tuomas Holopainen | keys & backing voices
Troy Donockley | guitars, bouzouki, uilleann pipes…