Metal’s very own Peter Pan, Tuomas Holopainen, has finally made his first substantial solo venture from Nightwish (that is, if we’re not counting Scrooge… which we are not) on Auri – a largely acoustic and orchestral album of lullaby-esque ditties featuring the vocal talents of Finnish pop singer Johanna Kurkela. It’s not their first collaboration, with Tuomas having previously written a song for Johanna called Satojen Merien Näkijä (incidentally, a lovely, unofficial sort-of sequel to The Islander). She’s a different breed entirely to the singers of Nightwish, but that’s in no bad way. Her voice has an exceptionally youthful quality that perfectly conveys the childlike wonder that is at the heart of much of Tuomas’s work.
This is not a metal record, but to the trained ear of any Nightwish fan on songs like the wistful I Hope Your World Is Kind, there are clear echoes of Nightwish tracks such as Turn Loose The Mermaids, not least in the folky melodies and gentle pipes that make it unmistakably a Holopainen composition. The darkly dramatic Skeleton Tree and Johanna’s hypnotic, chant-like vocalisations contrast with the beautiful Desert Flower, with violins that could melt a heart of steel and the low, familiar voice of Troy Donockley. On both See and Aphrodite Rising there are even shades of psychedelia, which make for a welcome diversion. This is a stunning work that inhabits the same world of awe as Nightwish: a world of crashing oceans and a solitary lighthouse beam in the dark that will be ever so familiar to Tuomas’s fans, and a strangely intriguing comfort to everyone else.