Album Reviews : Tuomas Holopainen – The Life and Times of Scrooge
Tuomas Holopainen is someone who likely needs no introduction. One of the key founders of symphonic metal band Nightwish and an established musician, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer in his own right, Holopainen has firmly cemented his name in the metal world.
I feel I should knock this out of the way now. As Holopainen has said himself, his debut solo album The Life and Times of Scrooge (based on the graphic novel The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck by Don Rosa; who also contributed the artwork for the album’s cover) isn’t neither a metal album nor a rock album. It is something that stands on its own feet as its own entity. There is a real beautiful classical and folk feel that runs through this album though, and from just the first twenty-odd seconds, it manages to effectively evoke the feeling you’re watching a Disney film; which is appropriate considering this is Scrooge McDuck of DuckTales fame and classic Duck Disney features and comic books.
I feel one of the great things about Tuomas as an artist is that he seems to be someone who is always willing to push the boundaries of music further than they’ve gone before and isn’t afraid to experiment; especially with ideas many bands or individuals wouldn’t go near with a ten-foot pole for various reasons. This willingness to experiment and push boundaries is especially evident through with his past work. For example, most recently with the dual release of 2011’s Imaginaerum and the accompanying film of the same name based on Nightwish‘s original concept, that served to tie into the themes and music of the album — this was also the first time a metal band had ever successfully attempted something as ambitious in scope as this. And in fact, Mr. Pip Williams who did the orchestral arrangements on Imaginaerum (as well as the Nighwish records Once and Dark Passion Play) once more collaborated with Tuomas to produce the amazing gem that is this record.
Chronicling the worldly journeys and adventures of Scrooge through late 19th century Scotland through to the mid 20th century, the album manages to successfully capture the diversity and sounds of the many world cultures and places Scrooge visits in his time. You’ll actually even hear a Didgeridoo on this album when Scrooge comes to visit our very own Australia in the song “Dreamtime”. And that’s only one of many cultural and musical references Holopainen has well fleshed out on this record.
This is one of those rare records where I feel it’s almost a necessity to listen to the album in full to completely grasp what it’s intending to deliver to you as the listener, and indeed for you to be carried away on this journey alongside the now wholesome and flamboyant Scrooge McDuck (keep in mind, this is post-Christmas Carol Scrooge, so it’s not the ‘Bah Humbug!’ version you may be expecting if you’re unfamiliar with the original Don Rosa graphic novel).
Backed by the beautiful London Orchestra and The Metro Voices (a London based choir), the arrangements to the song’s on this record are stunning. It features a number of guest spots including the likes of Alan Reid and Johanna Iivanainen, and a number of guest musicians; all of whom gave an enchanting and applaudable effort. To not put too fine a point on it also, one notable mention, however, is Tony Kakko of Finnish power metal act Sonata Arctica, who lends his incredible pipes to the track, “Cold Heart of the Klondike”.
“The Last Sled” would have to be one of the album’s many highlights for me. This track is so gorgeously produced, and the guest vocals from Finnish female singer Johanna Kurkela are just beautiful. You can’t help but be swept away by the epic choirs and orchestras, and Kurkela’s angelic verses float in softly under the sorrowful tones; coaxing their way gently into your ear and leaving a lasting impression.
Said by himself to be a project welling over in his mind for 14 years, there is such depth and emotional power to Tuomas’ debut release; and without trying to attach any bias here, it’s in all honesty very difficult to fault. The Life and Times of Scrooge seems to be yet another ambitious step in Tuomas Holopainen’s career. And one I feel has remarkably paid off in my mind.
Band: Tuomas Holopainen
Album: The Life and Times of Scrooge
Genre: Symphonic Metal / Classical / Folk
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
1. Glascow 1877
2. Into The West
3. Duel & Cloudscapes
5. Cold Heart of the 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 (Alternate Version)
Special Edition CD 2 (Instrumental)
1. Glascow 1877 (Instrumental)
2. Into The West (Instrumental)
3. Duel & Cloudscapes
5. Cold Heart of the Klondike (Instrumental)
6. The Last Sled (Instrumental)
7. Goodbye, Papa
8. To Be Rich (Instrumental)
9. A Lifetime Of Adventure (Instrumental)