Tuomas Holopainen – The Life And Times Of Scrooge
Reviewed by Andrew Senkus
Tuomas Holopainen is a name that shouldn’t be too foreign to any symphonic metal connoisseur; in fact, it’s a name that is pretty synonymous with said genre. In the event that you aren’t familiar with Mr. Holopainen, however, I will provide you with a brief, one-sentence backstory: Tuomas Holopainen is the driving creative and compositional force behind Finland’s successful and much-beloved Nightwish. All right, now that I’ve mentioned the N-word once, I won’t be doing so again, because this review has little to do with, umm, that group and a lot to do with its own core essence.
I will admit that my reactions to the first-unveiled details of Tuomas’ solo album The Life And Times Of Scrooge were mixed. Sure, I’ve always believed in the compositional qualities that Tuomas possesses so, in that regard, I was very much looking forward to this release; on the other hand, though, I was a bit weary of the album’s theme since I am admittedly not really a fan of Disney and wasn’t sure how the whole thing was going to come across. The album’s first single, “A Lifetime Of Adventure”, was a good, ballad-esque piece that got progressively better with subsequent listens and, thankfully, it wasn’t chock full of lyrics about ducks and mice. Now, before I go any further, I’d like to address the album’s theme a bit more since I’m sort of on the topic at the moment anyway. This album, despite its lore being rooted in the Scrooge character and comics created by Carl Banks and later nourished by Don Rosa, could very easily be just about, well, anything. What I mean by the aforementioned is that the lyrics are penned from a rather internally-driven and sentimental angle that is not particularly representative of specific characterization, save for a few location references so, rest assured, even if you’re not a big Disney fan (like myself) you can still enjoy this album.
Okay, now that that business is out of the way there is another matter that should be rather immediately addressed: this is not, in any way, shape, or form a metal album. There’s not one heavy guitar riff, let alone note, to be heard throughout the album. Traditional metal instrumentation is virtually forsaken on this entire release, save for one guitar solo on the aforementioned single. In other words, if you’re looking for metal music you’re looking on the wrong side of the Klondike.
Phew, with all legal warnings taken care of, we can finally dip into the depths of The Life And Times Of Scrooge. As one might reasonably and hypothetically guess, this album is driven by (real, not synthetic) orchestration and, to a lesser extent, Gaelic folk instrumentation. About half of the album’s pieces are instrumental, and even a couple of the songs that do have vocals aren’t particularly driven by them – as is made evident by the opening piece, “Glasgow 1877”, for instance. Because of this dynamic, the album may come across as a bit monotonous to some listeners: lacking particularly intense or distinctive ups, downs, lefts, rights and the like. The aforementioned monotony is not emotive, mind you, as this album is saturated in Tuomas’ heart and soul and it shows – think of The Life And Times Of Scrooge as a canvas beautifully painted, albeit with only one or two colors instead of the whole spectrum – it is up to you, after all, to decide whether or not you like the chosen colors.
The Life And Times Of Scrooge has some remarkable pieces of music on it. “Cold Heart Of The Klondike” (featuring vocals by none other than Mr. Tony Kakko) and “The Last Sled” are such stunning, vivid, and moving pieces that I’d consider them to be amongst Tuomas’ finest vocally-conscious compositions. Both Johannas (yes, there’s two) sprinkle the album with their seraphic, lovely voices, and the results are most favorable. If female vocals are your thing, then you’re definitely in for a treat here. Even some of the instrumental pieces are quite adventurous and interesting; take “Into The West”, for example – it’s a song that, like its namesake, is very representative of the barren yet fulfilling landscape of the American frontier and, yes, it’s even got some mighty fine banjo to boot. Yee-haw! “Goodbye, Papa” is also worth mentioning, as it has some of the most distinct and delightful Irish-sounding (yes, I know Tuomas is Finnish) melodies you’re likely to have heard in a while.
Tuomas Holopainen’s The Life And Times Of Scrooge is a solid and enjoyable album that is certainly meant more for dreamers and imagineers than stone-cold metalheads. The album does lack a little bit of variety, as there isn’t much to differentiate the tracks from one another (at least at first), but whether this is truly a positive or negative is going to depend heavily on the listener. After all, how many metal albums are really that full of variety and diversity? As a fan of you-know-who, I found there to be a lot to enjoy throughout the duration of The Life And Times Of Scrooge and, as such, I recommend this piece to those who consider themselves fans of Tuomas’ distinctive style, in addition to those looking for an album to provide them an escape into the breadth and beauty of the American wilds.
3.0 // 5