This year only seems to have a few highlights left to offer, and ones of those for me is the sophomore album from Auri. I honestly expected their debut in 2018 to be a one-off work, and I was pleasantly surprised when a new album was announced. The record is called Those We Don’t Speak Of, and it releases on September 3rd.
Auri is something of a supergroup. The band is made up of Johanna Kurkela on voices, violin, viola, and keys; Tuomas Holopainen on keys and backing voices; and Troy Donockley on guitars, bouzouki, mandola, ulleann pipes, low whistles, aerophone, bodhran, keys, and voices. Kai Hahto provides percussion, which was mostly missing from the debut. That makes three members of Nightwish in this project.
Yes, they are named after The Kingkiller Chronicle series of books by Patrick Rothfuss (I got hate mail for not mentioning that in my review of the debut). I’m not overly familiar with those books, but the lyrical content is also based on the story in that series. I know the debut followed The Name of the Wind, but I’m not sure if this continues with The Wise Man’s Fear or not.
There has been some subtle changes to the band’s style since the debut. The music is still floating, ethereal, and ancient in flavor, with lots of vocals and harmonies everywhere. The debut boasted a grand mix of fantastical folk with grounded pop influences and gentle electronica, but the two latter sounds are basically gone here. With this album, the band is delving deeply into the dark, lush world of folk music, complete with plenty of shadows, eerie vocals, and celestial moments.
I have to admit that I miss the pop elements on the first record. They weren’t in every song, but I think most of the songs with vocals prioritized excellent choruses, while many of the instrumental tracks reveled in the folk thing. I miss the electronica, too, as it cut through the organic folk sounds to provide a great balance. For the life of me, I can’t think of one memorable chorus on this record, as beautiful and evocative as it might be. And, believe me, there is plenty of beauty, hypnotism, and splendor to be had here. It just feels like something is missing to take it to the next level.
One great example of this is “The Duty of Dust”. This song has luxurious strings, an amazing instrumental, and overall feelings of remembrance and beauty. Yet, the chorus is forgettable for the most part. Had this song had something more to the chorus, I feel like it would have been a masterpiece. “It Takes Me Places” and “Kiss the Mountain” could be described the same way.
I feel like some of the songs here follow this suit, besides certain songs, like the title track or “Light and Flood”, which are primarily in the track list to create uneasy ambience or darkened textures in our minds. “Fireside Bard”, the closer, would also fall into this list. They are gorgeous songs, and they do a great job of setting the mood.
I do appreciate many of the tracks here, though. “The Valley” probably has the best chorus on the record, and I love the playful, organic atmosphere; it makes the music feel alive. “Pearl Diving” has a similar effect, but this one is even brighter, more cheerful, and glorious. I really like it, especially the last few minutes with the soulful guitar solo and climactic vocals. It is probably my favorite song overall.
“The Long Walk” is an interesting track in its own right. It has a darkened pace to it, and while the chorus isn’t overly memorable, the second half of the song is a mighty march of percussion and cinematic feelings. “Scattered to the Four Winds” is also a terrific song. I do like the chorus here as it plays against hesitant strings and an air of mystery.
Overall, this is a good album. It isn’t as good as the debut, but fans of ethereal folk music will absolutely love it. So, while it doesn’t fully satisfy my expectations, there are certainly moments of serenity and sublimity that raise the hairs on my neck and gather my full attention. I’m glad Auri is continuing, and I have a feeling this record will grow on me as time progresses.
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