No, it is not Metal. And it is not Nightwish – for sure, whereas there are similarities as described further down below. Tuomas Holopainen‘s 2014 solo project The Life and Times of Scrooge is nothing more (and nothing less) than a soundtrack for a story. A graphic novel – that never quite became a film – kind of in waiting for a film project to emerge. And it is a great story, by the way.
When I first learned about The Life and Times of Scrooge way back last year, I thought this was just a crazy idea (I am suffering from an attack of diplomacy today). To tell a story is inherently difficult, as The Diary of The Gentle Storm can attest. And many people alongside myself probably thought the same. Yet, Scrooge McDuck was indeed a faithful companion all my life. But writing music about the life of Scrooge? He must be going goofy – gimme a break! Pun intended.
Now already the outside of the album piqued my interest.
Because the artwork is skillfully underlying the theme, mastered by none other than Don Rosa himself. Don is mostly known for his work with various Disney characters, Scrooge McDuck probably being the most prominent of them. And who actually illustrated the graphic novel himself way back in time. In this light, the record is like pulling out all the stops and giving it a go.
Now, to really enjoy these tunes, you need to put your metal brain out of action for a few hours and relax. This is not for a headbanging session. But for an early morning with the fire burning and foggy landscape outside. Perhaps with a nice comic book to read. And nothing will be rocking you out of your chair – this is to stay IN the chair and enjoy.
And now having listened to The Life and Times of Scrooge back and fro, up and down times and again on different types of equipment, I must say, I am impressed. The way Tuomas Holopainen imagined and realized the different themes is simply great. And you can almost see and feel Scrooge acting in there.
The tracks kind of sound like Mike Oldfield. But much more symphonic and – in some parts – a tad rockier. Then again you’ll get a whiff of the Titanic soundtrack for ducks. And whilst it is most definitely not Nightwish, it does sometimes also have the look and feel of it. Minus the metal part.
Troy Donockley, himself since 2013 a full member of Nightwish, contributes pipes of all sorts to this album. Together with the mastermind behind all things Nightwish. So, no doubt sometimes similarities arise, but only just. The album also features Tony Kakko from Sonata Arctica as a … storyteller. Well, go figure. Plus a number of contributing vocalists adding much and very nice flavors to the tunes.
The Last Sled and A Lifetime of Adventure, closely followed by Cold Heart on the Klondyke are the most outstanding tracks on this album. Those and all the other tracks all work together to provide one well-rounded product of an outstanding symphonic rocky journey of a mighty duck on a roll. Sometimes flowing like an opera of sorts – not just bombast. And then again moving towards more rocky shores always underlined with the theme.
And where are all the negative points we reviewers like so much to point out so ardently? Damn. I have not found much of anything. Apart from missing a bit of juice at times and being a tad too focused on the theme. But that is really it.
So, I stand corrected!
The Life and Times of Scrooge is good work and I am glad I got myself a copy. This is not the style of music I usually indulge in. But the records is nonetheless a remarkable piece of work. Tuomas Holopainen is a great storyteller. And courageous, too. Well done!
Ed’s note: The review made it onto the first ever Intermittent Best Of of the RockmusicRaider blog. Congrats!
Record Rating: 9/10 | Label: Napalm Records | Web: –
Release date: 11 April 2014