It might seem like a strange combination: the brains behind a symphonic metal band making a solo album centered around a fictional character. However that is exactly what Tuomas Holopainen has done. He has made an album about Scrooge McDuck called The life and times of Scrooge. If the instrumental tracks of his band Nightwish are anything to go by, this should be a very nice concept album. Holopainen takes care of the keys here, but for almost everything else he has enlisted the help of some nice musicians.
In the first track ‘Glasgow 1877’ vocalist Alan Reid shows his storytelling talents with a very nice spoken word. The Scottish accent is very fitting and the female vocals of Johanna Kurkela and Johanna Ilvanainen are both beautiful and complement each other. The song is soft and atmospheric and builds up nicely with good orchestral arrangements. The song is heavily influenced by a Scottish feel and sets the tone nicely. ‘Into the West’ is more bombastic and features some guitar, but always in a tasteful, soundtrack way. There are creative elements of country woven through the song and the vocals of Johanna Kurkela are more mature here. The keys are very present as well, making it a well rounded out song full of surprises.
‘Duel and Cloudscapes’ has more tension and is probably the most reminiscent of Nightwish because of the featured choir and the bombastic sound. It is fast paced, with a change of tone toward a more comical style in the middle of the track. Toward the end epic dark sounds return however and they smooth out the road to ‘Dreamtime’. This opens with a real didgeridoo, giving it a strange, folky feel immediately. The keys are dreamy, which was to be expected. The drums build up tension and the soaring, haunting vocals by Johanna Kurkela add just the right touch of mystique. It is a bit repetitive though and doesn’t have a real climax to it. It is a suspenseful track, probably as suspenseful as ‘Cold heart of Klondike’ is emotional. The piano there is fast paced and the choir and strings build up in a bombastic way. The male vocals by Sonata Arctica’s Tony Kakko are emotional and powerful and they make the track stand out immediately. The added flute makes it even more beautiful and this track is quickly becoming one of my favorites. That is until ‘ The last sled’ takes it up a notch. This has to be one of the best tracks, with spoken word, beautiful female vocals and a finely interwoven piano. The song is very emotional and brought tears to my eyes the first listen. ‘Goodbye Papa’ is thankfully a bit softer and lovelier with a wondferful piano melody.
‘To be rich’ is again more dramatic with wailing vocals and a magical piano. Unfortunately it is too short for my liking. The long ‘ A lifetime of adventure’ makes up for this though and again features shining female vocals that pull on the heart strings as well as a soaring guitar solo. ‘ Go slowly now, sands of time’ also has a nice guitar and very fitting male vocals combined with female vocals. It is calm, soothing and it would have been a very fitting ending, were it not for the alternative version of ‘ A lifetime of adventure’ that actually closes the record.
Therefore the ending must be the thing I like least about this record. Repeating a song that is already on there feels unfinished somehow and it is not how I would end a record like this. That said The life and times of Scrooge is a very well put together album and it should appeal to a broad range of music lovers. Once again Holopainen shows that, not unlike Scrooge himself, everything he touches turns to gold. By listening to this album the world seems to be that little bit more beautiful and that is a true accomplishment.
1. Glasgow 1877
2. Into the west
3. Duel & Cloudscapes
5. Cold heart of Klondike
6. The last sled
7. Goodbye, Papa
8. To be rich
9. A lifetime of adventure
10. Go slowly now, sands of time
11. A lifetime of adventure (alternative version)
Tuomas Holopainen – Keyboards, piano
Troy Donockley – Uilleann pipes, Low whistles, Bodhran
Mikko Iivanainen – Guitars, Banjo
Dermot Crehan – Violin
Teho Majamäki – Didgeridoo
Jon Burr – Harmonica
Johanna Kurkela as “Glittering” Goldie O´Gilt
Johanna Ilvanainen as The Narrator and Downey O´Drake
Alan Reid as Scrooge McDuck
Tony Kakko as Storyteller
Website Tuomas Holopainen