Auri “II – Those We Don’t Speak Of” (Nuclear Blast Records)
Battle Helm Rating
Wow, the talent of Tuomas Holopainen knows no bounds! If you thought the work of this famed Finnish keyboardist / vocalist was to be awed in Nightwish, then this truly amazing side band will have you bowled over thanks to the breath-taking beauty of this incredible sophomore. Stylishly mixing folk with Celtic inspirations and epic film score soundscapes in a classic rock inspired envelope, the trio of Auri is completed by Nightwish guitarist, keyboardist and pipe player Troy Donockley and Finnish lead vocalist and violinist Johanna Kurkela, a Eurovision preselection finalist who has previously contributed vocals to two tracks on Sonata Arctica’s album “The Days of Grays”. Named after a female character from Patrick Rothfuss’ fantasy trilogy “The Kingkiller Chronicle”, Auri’s self-titled debut was recorded in 2018 at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios, which hints at more than a coincidence given how Kurkela resembles legendary British singer Kate Bush, whose multi-dimensional appeal is replayed in the spell bounding music of Auri. Through the irresistible appeal of gentle acoustic guitars, flowing piano, Uilleann pipes and whistles, Kurkela’s ethereal vocals reach out to you heart in hand on ‘The Valley’ as they whisk you off to a magical place of tranquility, complete with birdsong, that you will find hard not to resist from returning. ‘It Takes Me Places’ adds into this already wondrous soundscape subtle, if no less dramatic orchestrals in a song that besides its many eclectic sounds in the vein of Kate Bush’s musical aesthetic, transitions superbly from heart filled melancholia into the warmth and light of an all-embracing peace that I could not fail to be moved by. Opening to a wailing violin, the serenity of ‘Scattered To The Four Winds’ is carried beautifully by Holopainen’s touching piano work as Donockley’s pipes add in their Celtic passion along to church bells, choral harmonies and not in the very least, Kurkela’s overflowing soul. Quite possibly one of the best albums you’ll hear this year, Auri’s sophomore doesn’t just reflect the boundless talents of this performance, but equally the composing majesty and sheer courage to push the boundaries beyond music into the realms of beauty itself….