Auri is a mystical journey of Celtic music by the music duo of Nightwish Tuomas Holopainen and Troy Donockley accompanied by the soprano and lyrical voice of Johanna Kurkela who take us to a musical journey coming out straight from the stories of Patrick Rothfuss.
Even though the fans of Nightwish would have expected heavy guitars and drums in their new project, Auri is an example that challenges the stereotypes of metal musicians. The project focuses on Kurkela’s Soprano voice that travels through different keys and dissonance melodies creating an uncertain environment as well as beautiful instrumental solos that lure the audience in a journey of fantasy.
“The space between“; the first song of the album, is introduced to the listener beginning with percussion instruments while gradually revealing Kurkela’s voice. What stands out in the piece is probably the bridge part. Kurkela is modulating through different keys creating dissonance melodies that disrupt the equilibrium of smooth and consonance melodies in the previous parts. Thus, the conversation between the string instruments at the end of the song, including the wind instruments, remind us of Holopainen’s style from the imaginaerum album of the song turn loose the mermaids where the imitations of the strings occur in the final seconds of the piece.
The next piece “I hope your world is kind” begins with a peaceful low whistle that is suddenly interrupted by Kurkela’s voice singing lower than her normal range creating a sudden antithesis as well as disrupting the peace. The calmness returns to the song with a dissonance sequence and ostinato of the piano.
What is particularly interesting is the constant use of imitation like the ones in Skeleton tree. The imitation between the low whistle and string instruments in the intro give the listener an impression of what follows. The main theme has a strong Celtic Irish element that it is later enhanced by the magical solo of the bagpipes.
In the album, the listener gets to hear not only Kurkela singing but Donockley as well. In “Desert flower” Donockley performs the piece with Kurkela in a very successful duo. The piece uses intense guitar and piano melodies in the background as well as a hauntingly beautiful and melancholic solo of the violin with a highly expressive vibrato that is later on repeated an octave lower.
Except the Celtic melodies, the orchestral element of Holopainen’s style can be clearly heard in “Night 13” where the intense use of orchestral instruments fit perfectly in the mood of the album as well as moving away from the symphonic metal element.
The next piece is even more unpredictable. “Them thar chanterellers” uses a strong sense of ostinato of the voice and viola in the background and a strong waltz rhythm with an unpredictable change in time signature going from ¾ straight to 4/4. Thus, the change of tempo that reminds us of the sudden tempo change of my walden. As Holopainen himself has stated: “I love the fact that in this world of music where all the songs are about love sex and death, you have a girl in the woods picking mushrooms and getting drunk”. Indeed, the intense scherzo mood of the piece could not have been more accurate with this picture. Another Important detail that makes this piece to stand out is the pizzicato accompanying the voice as well as the low whistle imitating the staccato of Kurkela’s voice. The culmination is brought by a combination of backing drums and string instruments; Something that can be seen in Holopainen’s pieces: a clear and majestic culmination.
Moving forward to the next song “See” that focuses in a conversation between the low whistle and violin; two instruments that match perfectly, contribute in creating a picture of fantasy to the listener.
“The name of the wind” begins with a beautiful intro of Kurkela’s voice accompanied by the imitation of the piano. The piece uses intense piano melodies compared to the previous tracks including ostinatos and arpeggios with the accompaniment of orchestral instruments. The theme is later on imitated by the piano in a calmer manner which isolates the orchestra in a way where it has the main role in the piece.
After a melancholic song with the minor scales having the main role, the listener is introduced to “Aphrodite rising“. The piece, the solo viola as well as the ostinatos are more energetic compared to the previous tracks. The song has a quicker tempo and the use of major scales make it more joyful.
Moving forward to “Savant“, a song with a dark meaning that disrupts the energy of the previous song. It begins with a sequence of a low E of the double bass creating an uncertain environment. Later in the piece a haunting narration of Uuno Kaila’s Vieras mies might not be understood by everyone but certainly gives the listener an impression that it is not a piece of joy and calmness.
The final piece of the album “Underthing solstice“, has an interesting and unique intro including the cello accompanied by the organ. It is worth mentioning that the song focuses on imitation that firstly happens between the bagpipes and cello instead of Kurkela who imitates the theme later on. What is also important to mention is the intense use of imitation in the bridge part of the organ and the voices that create the main theme haunting compared to the calmness of the first few seconds of the piece.
To sum up, the pieces have a strong use of imitation and ostinatos. Many characteristics of Holopainen’s writing can be distinguished through certain pieces like the culmination of each song as well as the sudden rhythmic changes. Also, his love for poems and fantasy as he once explained can be brought to life to the listener’s imagination with the beautiful melodies of the album. Every piece of the album has its own identity and story to tell through dissonance melodies and Celtic sounds. The songs gradually create a sense of anticipation through the peaceful introductions that finally culminate in majestic ways.