Auri is the shared brainchild of Finnish singer Johanna Kurkela, Tuomas Holopainen and Troy Donockley from Nightwish. Like most acts from Finland, I expected very rich melody filled soundscapes and strong rhythms. I was not only satisfied but also blown away.
Their debut record titled ‘Auri’ is a balancing act of symphonic, electronic, folk and pop sounds with a fantastical theme. Without giving too much away of the plot, ‘Auri’ is based on Patrick Rothfuss’s books. It is also a Finnish maiden name and derives from the Latin term Aurora, which means dawn.
Themes aside, the music itself is a treat to the ears. The album opening track “The Space Between” starts with a percussive beat on the floor toms and shifts into a mid-tempo beat with Johanna Kurkela lending here wonderful voice. She reminds me a lot of Aurora Askenes. The chorus is an epic symphonic passage with folk melodies played through the flute.
“I Hope Your World Is Kind” is a dramatic song with tragic strings and a painted sense of urgency and changes the mood contrasting from the first song. “Skeleton Tree” continues the heavy folk influences and almost left me slack jawed when the sound shifted to a middle-eastern scale and then back to Celtic. Mind you, this is just the third song.
“Desert Flower” and “Night 13” are slow-candlelit ballads and bring you back into folk fold and toss you between middle eastern and western scales. It’s done so flawlessly and does not sound out of place at all. That is a difficult task to achieve and this record does it without breaking a sweat.
“The Name of The Wind” a symphonic masterpiece with great soaring strings and gives credence to Tuomas’s abilities as a gifted composer. Same can be said about “Aphrodite Song” and “Underthing Soltice” which feature heavy focus on Johanna’s singing prowess.
The final song off the record “Them Thar Chanterelles” re-enforces the entire theme of the record. I don’t want to spill the beans because stumbling upon the story while you listen to the music and read the lyrics is so much more rewarding than reading a review and someone spoil it for you. I’ll just say that this song is playful, young and full of innocence.
There are very few records that keep me engaged throughout their run time and then make me come back for more. ‘Auri’ is all of that and so much more. The production is ridiculously good, songwriting and composition is beyond belief, the singing is on point and emotive. There are moments of joy and sadness in equal measure. I’ve been a huge fan of folk melodies played through metal and rock sensibilities and this album is everything that I like about those genres but with an added helping of symphony and majesty. To top all of that, the story is rich and picturesque.
All I can say is that if you like a spacey-cosmic feel to your music, a dreamlike sound profile and rich folk melodies, this record will keep you happy and satisfied. If any of those things are alien to you, this record will give you a proper introduction. It’s a winner, all the way through.