Tuomas Holopainen is best known as the mastermind behind Nightwish, one of the world’s biggest metal bands. Formed in Finland in 1996, the band have released 7 studio albums, the last of which was the best-selling Imaginaerum in 2011 – accompanying their own feature-length movie of the same name. After undertaking such a feat and going through another change in vocalist (ReVamp’s Floor Jansen replacing Anette Olzon, who herself had been the replacement for Tarja Turunen) they understandably have taken a long break. But Tuomas has used this time to record an album that is something of a passion project for him – a soundtrack to his favourite comic book.
- Glasgow 1877
- Into The West
- Duel & Cloudscapes
- Cold Heart Of The Klondike
- The Last Sled
- Goodbye, Papa
- To Be Rich
- A Lifetime Of Adventure
- Go Slowly Now, Sands Of Time
Music Inspired By The Life And Times Of Scrooge (to give it its full title) might seem like an odd concept, but Tuomas is a great composer and is certainly up to the challenge. Those who have read the book say that the album enhances the experience of it, and vice versa, but those who haven’t read it need not worry – you can still enjoy the music. The album opens with Glasgow 1877, where we hear Alan Reid as the voice of Scrooge McDuck and a cascading chorus of Gaelic vocals from Finnish singer Johanna Kurkela. The use of Celtic instruments (courtesy of Nightwish’s Troy Donockley) and strings truly conjures up the moors of Scotland. The song ends with a hauntingly beautiful piano theme that reoccurs later on the album.
Scrooge then journeys Into The West where we hear the vocals of Johanna Iivanainen for the first time. This track is fun and happy, and clearly inspired by old Westerns. You can just imagine this song on a Disney soundtrack. Duel & Cloudscapes follows, again one that echoes Disney classics, particularly Fantasia. It’s also reminiscent of Nightwish’s Scaretale, with the strong use of the orchestra and choir, and how it segues from dark and scary into light and comedic. In Dreamtime Scrooge finds himself mining Down Under. It’s a repetitive track that uses percussion to build up the sound of the pickaxe and water dripping through ancient rock, and is wonderfully atmospheric with the didgeridoo adding an Aussie flavour.
Next there’s Cold Heart Of The Klondike, a stand-out on this already amazing album. Tony Kakko of Sonata Arctica is on guest vocals here (Tony supported the project since Tuomas originally told him of the idea, many years ago). This is one of the more Nightwish-style songs with an epic feel. The song has a climactic build-up towards the end that really feels like climbing a mountain peak in a blizzard. The Last Sled is a softer song, with spoken lines from Alan Reid and singing from Johanna Kurkela. There’s an air of both excitement and sadness to this one, especially when the piano theme from earlier makes a welcome return.
Goodbye Papa is another instrumental track and another that is strongly bittersweet. It tells the story of the passing of Scrooge’s Father, with folky Scottish melodies presumably remembering happier times, leading to an emotional ending with piano and choir. But the sadness deepens on To Be Rich, where harrowing wordless vocals cry out and the strings feel sharp and cold. The sole verse is beautiful and leaves you with an after-image of snow twirling from the sky.
Thankfully there’s a reprieve from the grief as lead single A Lifetime Of Adventure... takes a look back at Scrooge’s life. This song was chosen as it has the most typical structure of all those on the album, and was modified to add electric guitar and drums (the ethnic percussion used throughout was actually used instead of a drumkit) – you can hear the purely orchestral version as a bonus track. This song therefore sounds fairly different to the rest, but this is by no means a bad thing. The lyrics are wonderful and Johanna Kurkela’s voice sounds like a warm breath in the freezing night. The final track is a ballad titled Go Slowly Now, Sands Of Time. Alan Reid sings for the first time, in the unhurried, quiet way that an old duck just might. This acoustic song is incredibly poignant and meaningful, a stand-out part being the refrain “Home is the sailor, home from the sea, and the hunter home from the hill” taken from the epitaph of Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson. The only problem with this song is that hearing it means that your journey is over…
The Life And Times of Scrooge is a truly magical and evocative album. It is a must-listen for both Nightwish fans and fans of the original comic book. Anyone who enjoys Disney and/or movie soundtracks will likely enjoy this as well. Tuomas has really proven his talents, and it will be a treat to see what he comes up with next.
Highlights: Cold Heart Of The Klondike, Glasgow 1877, Duel & Cloudscapes, The Last Sled
Author: Sophie Cleverly-EdwardsRead the full story