20 Essential Albums of 2018 by Kev Rowland

No. 1
Yagull – Yuna
December 2, 2018

No. 2
Galahad – Seas of Change

January 22, 2018

No. 3
Michael – Alan Taylor Avalonia (The Sonnets of Guinevere)

Melodic Revolution Records
June 29, 2018

Bomber Goggles – Gyreland
Melodic Revolution Records
March 21, 2018

No. 5.
Tiger Moth Tales – Story Tellers Part Two
Self-releasedTalking Elephant
October 18, 2018

No. 6
Ashley Hutchings – Paradise And Thorns
Talking Elephant
November 9, 2018

No. 7
Soft Machine – Hidden Details
September 14, 2018

No. 8
3.2 – The Rules Have Changed
Frontiers Music SRL
August 10, 2018

No. 9 
Dream Aria – The Other Side
February 24, 2018

No. 10
Dave Bainbridge & Sally Minnear – Live in the Studio
September 16th. 2018

No. 11
Xavi Reija – The Sound Of The Earth
MoonJune Records
January 18, 2019

No. 12
Mystery – Lies
and Butterflies
Unicorn Digital 
Released July 14, 2018

No. 13
Damanek – In Flight

Giant Electric Pea
October 12, 2018

Dwiki Dharmawan – Rumah Batu
MoonJune Records
May 15, 2018

No. 15
Dialeto – Live with David Cross
Chromatic Music
June 4, 2018

No. 16
Mayan – Dhyana
September 21, 2018
Nuclear Blast

No. 17
Carpe Noctem – Vitrun
Aural Music
October 5, 2018

Ovrfwrd – Blurring the Lines (a democracy manifest ) ( 2018)
September 29, 2018

No. 19
The C Sides Project – 10 Days
October 26, 2018

No. 20
Ten Jinn – Ziggy Blackstar (A Tribute To David
Melodic Revolution Records
October 5, 2018




As I started listening to this album I was instantly reminded of Iona, and their classic Celtic stylings, but for some reason, I also kept thinking of elements of Nightwish, which didn’t make any sense to me at all. It was only when I finally read the press release that I realized what was going on, as what we have is in many ways a collaboration between the two. Troy Donockley has long been seen as the “go to “ person when pipes are required: I first came across him when he was in Iona, and since then he had made his name featuring with many great bands before becoming a member of Nightwish. Of course, Tuomas Holopainen is the musical mind behind that band, and he and Troy are great friends, seeing each other socially as well as when Nightwish are working. They are also both friends with Johanna Kurkela, and back in 2011 the three of them recorded a demo of Troy’s, “Aphrodite Rising” (the finished version of which appears on the album), which led them to believe that they should undertake some further work together. But, Nightwish was in ascendance and incredibly busy so there was just no time, although in 2017 when the decision was taken to have a break, it meant that they could get back together, write some more material, and Auri was born.

The trio of Johanna Kurkela (vocals, viola), Tuomas Holopainen (keyboards, backing vocals) and Troy Donockley (guitars, bouzouki, uilleann pipes) are joined by various unnamed musicians, and they have created a mostly acoustic album that can truly only be described as “beautiful”. Iona, Clannad, Enya and early Nightwish have all had their part to play. Tuomas plays far more piano than keyboards, while Troy has a deft approach to anything he touches, and Johanna’s vocals are simply stunning. No effects, just a little reverb, and she is always front and center – no need for autotune here. The music at times is incredibly simple, almost naked in its naivety and clarity, yet there are also layers of complexity and the arrangements are perfect in the way they combine melody and dynamics yet never detract from Johanna. I am a huge fan of Nightwish, and have pretty much all their albums, yet would be happy for that band to be on hiatus for just a little longer if that means that we can get another album from Auri as I could listen to this all day.


by Kev Rowland


by Kev Rowland

 There have been many attempts to blend rock with operatic styles over the years, with ‘Tommy’ being widely regarded as one of the most successful, but in truth that was much more of a rock musical than a real opera. Here Therion, or more accurately Christofer Johnsson, have created a three-disc, three-act opera, lasting somewhat over three hours. With some thirty singers, there are times when the music is opera, with or without some metallic influences, while at others it is more like symphonic metal. Overall, one has to say that it is an incredible achievement, totally subsuming metal into an operatic setting, and I am sure that they are incredibly proud of their achievements. It has worked so well that this is going to be performed in its entirety at various opera houses around Europe. There’s only one problem for me, I don’t like opera.

I can appreciate how clever this is, and if any band can claim to have moved more musically than Opeth it has to be Therion, but I just don’t like it. True, it has been well recorded, the production and sound are great, and the layers are rich and complex, but while there are a few songs such as “Never Again” which I enjoyed, they are very different to the album as a whole. I kept checking to see if the album was nearly finished, not initially realizing that there are 46 songs here!

There are going to be many who acclaim this as an incredible work, and in many ways, I agree with that statement, but just because it is incredible doesn’t mean I’m going to enjoy it. When the album finished I had to wash out my ears with some Agoraphobic Nosebleed and Napalm Death just to feel cleansed and ready to face the next one. Yes, this is a true metal opera or even an opera with metallic tendencies, but it just isn’t for me and I wonder how many of their fans will feel the same?