Auri - Auri

Auri cover
Nuclear Blast
Auri is basically a trio, which features Finnish singer Johanna Kurkela along with Tuomas Holopainen and Troy Donockley from Nightwish. It’s basically, a distraction from the “dayjob” and for the most part some nice “choral” ideas that could just be wasted – since most of them seem hardly compatible with what Nightwish has turned into, so they take a life of their own in this conceptual album.
The style is very obviously reminiscent of other Holopainen works, with an emphasis on the soundtrack of Scrooge, but also with a fair amount of Nightwish-isms, here and there. Kurkela is a fine singer, who does her best to bring to life the songs of Holopainen in a style that mingles, the likes of Bjork, Sia, Anneke Van Giesbergen, Enya you name it… it’s sort of pop, folk, experimental, new age bullshit that at times can be quite catchy and elemental but also at times pretty blunt.
The first couple of songs don’t allow you to second guess their staying power too much. “The Space Between” sounds like Annete era Nightwish without all the bombastic over the top metallic instrumentation, to the point that it could pretty easily be mistaken for a NW “demo”. I suppose it’s a safe, way to introduce the listener to a “different” project.
“I Hope Your World is Kind” is more in tune with those NW folk ballads, but also did remind me of some of the more recent styles embraced by the incomparable Kari Rueslatten. It could be mistaken for acoustic Anneke too, during its softer moments.
“Skeleton Tree” is driven by a wind melody that sounds way too familiar, and has an overall later era Enya sort of vibe, mixing eastern and western influences all too capably.
“Desert Flower” is a soft ballad, with occasional strings, that remains too choral and never really climaxes, ala Icon’s masterful, “Too Catch a Thief” for instance, some good melodies, wasted in a mediocre composition.
“Night 13” is a dramatic number that starts of as a sad ballad, but later on has a rather predictable, percussive crescendo as it tries to go into folk mode, with the two not quite “clicking” and the percussion rather drowning out the singing rather than frame it.
“See” is heavier, more ambient and tries to experiment, with a sound that would probably work much better with the bare essentials in terms of orchestration. Its eastern spices never quite seem to ripen too, as it unfolds far too slowly and by the time it becomes “interesting”, it feels rather boring and lacking a certain direction as it seems to cycle through its melodies, for lack of anything better to do.
I can’t quite decide, if I think that “The Name of the Wind” is a masterpiece, or the most pretentious piece of shit even conceived. A minute of vocalizing, pianos, strings that climax wildly… it’s grandiose and ethereal in its simplicity, which I supposed means I must like it… however pretentious it might or might not sound.
With “Aphrodite Rising” Tuomas is attempting to replicate a bit of the sound that Kari Rueslatten achieved and perfected in “Mesmerized”, but while the verses are fine and dandy, the adlibbing here and there, sounds as if a writer’s block didn’t allow a verse to be completed in time. It’s still endearing as a piece and even Troy’s (?) vocals, sort of slot it nicely.
“Savant” sounds like incidental music from a movie, but is just to odd and the Finish spoken part sounds rather odd and off putting, if I am to be frank.
“Underthing Solstice” at seven plus minutes, is like a Nightwish song – if you took out not only all the bombast, but also all the joy and did it in minor… yeah… there’s a reason they don’t do that.
Lastly, “Them Thar Chanterelles (feat. Liquor in the Well)”, with its adlibbing, is also pretty boring until it gets all “jiggy wit’it!” midway; I suppose in that “liquor” part and it goes full on Irish pub. Damn, I could be river dancing, if I knew how to (dance that is)…
A very unequal album, that’s likely to appeal to the droves of Nightwish fans, but has a few charming moments here and there and good performances throughout, but seems to sorely lack the cohesion and focus of other Holopainen works.