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Auri's II – Those We Don’t Speak Of is "The perfect antidote to these troubled times."

Folky Nightwish side-project offers a soothing solution to 2021.

Auri
(Image: © Nuclear Blast)

Tuomas Holopainen has his career meticulously planned out. Or at least he did until you-know-what struck in 2020. With extra time on his hands, Nightwish’s composer and keyboard player turned to his bandmate Troy Donockley, and popular Finnish vocalist and string player Johanna Kurkela (whom Tuomas just happens to be married to), and knuckled down to the second Auri album. The trio had always planned to release a follow-up to 2018’s long-awaited Auri, and had a selection of new material penned and ready to go, but their day jobs took first priority. Until now.

Those We Don’t Speak Of is the unconventionally beautiful fruit of their labour. The opening title track emerges from layers of irregular melodies that sum up the disharmony of the last 16-plus months. When Kurkela’s delicate, folky vocals align they bring hope from an enchanted dreamworld. Here, the sun always shines in forever blue skies, the lush grass is always soft underfoot, and the inviting streams are warm and sparkling. Kurkela’s voice and strings harmonise perfectly with Donockley’s lower register as the song gently flows into the acoustic elegance of The Valley, where there are elements of Nightwish’s softer moments – think The Islander or Harvest. This theme continues as the skipping melodies and accompanying birdsong draw to a close. 

Let’s get one thing straight: Auri certainly aren’t Nightwish although there’s plenty for fans of the progressive symphonic band to enjoy via Holopainen’s cinematic keyboard flourishes and Donockley’s otherworldly pipes. Yet the overall flavour is more progressive, with unusual time signatures, touches of folk and Kurkela’s tender vocals, which are a world apart from Floor Jansen’s powerful, multi-octave range.

Inspired by folklore, fantasy novels and dreamscapes, the group’s second album sounds brighter and more organic than their self-titled debut. The gorgeous Pearl Diving is all storybook lyrics and lush harmonies reminiscent of Heather Findlay-era Mostly Autumn (a band with whom Donockley has frequently collaborated), The Long Walk is audibly inspired by Clannad, and Scattered To The Four Winds is packed with uilleann pipes, strings, and percussion from Nightwish drummer Kai Hahto making it the perfect soundtrack to Middle-earth’s The Shire. Closer Fireside Bard is the only
song with a lead vocal from Donockley and is a world away from the electronic elements and celtic flourishes that graced their debut album.

Those We Don’t Speak Of might not contain fireworks, epic solos or full orchestras, but it’s the perfect antidote to these troubled times.

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Natasha Scharf

Dark prog (and chocolate) fan Natasha has been a Prog regular since 2009. News Editor between 2014 and 2019, now Deputy Editor, she is the only member of the team to have appeared on Prog's cover.