What do we do when our dreams haunt us in waking life as well as when we’re asleep? Often our nightmares stem from reality itself, the anguish, the heartbreak, the pain of tragedy, and it takes time to heal. Inspiring his debut album, Dreams Of A Middle-Aged Man, Finnish songsmith Mauri Dark has channeled the tragedy he succumbed to over a dark period of seven years in his life, and has created a cathartic, gothic rumination of his struggle and subsequent prosperity.
Despite Dreams Of A Middle-Aged Man being Dark’s debut outing as a solo artist, he has built an impressive résumé across a storied career of 25 years as one half of heavy metal duo Mystons who have released five full-length albums to both commercial and critical acclaim. But Dark’s new venture takes him down a different path, both spiritually and sonically.
Dark has transplanted his gravelly, baritone voice from the mythic metal of Mystons onto a sinister style of folk – reminiscent of raconteur Tom Waits, he’s slowed the tempo, but has amplified the macabre and madness he once felt during his unique temporal existence. Detailing his inspiration for the album, Dark said in a recent press release: “It is an emotional, honest and sincere acoustic album full of moods and stories in the spirit of Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake, and polished by the finest audio professionals and equipment in the spirit of the old times when albums were made to last.”
The album is exactly that – a document of his significant period of strife, bookended, bound, and placed on the shelf to last the ages. Though Dark self-produced the record, he worked with regular collaborator Jussi Vuola as well as Hiili Hiilesmaa (whose most credits include HIM, Apocalyptica and Amorphis) that both helped to flesh out his visions in the studio, stringing together fractured tales of Dark’s isolation through his mother’s tragic death and the collapse of a seven-year relationship. On the surface it may sound sparse and intimate, but delve in and you can feel the layers of dreamy guitar, glockenspiel, mellotron, acoustic drums, and organ, each lifting his dreamscapes to lofty heights.
“My worst enemy lives within me” Dark drawls on ‘Worst Enemy’, masochistically punishing himself as his life crumbles beneath him. He then turns his attention to his previous relationship on ‘Poison Woman’, detailing how two people could be poisonously destructive to each other. It’s seethingly autobiographical, but that’s how Dark intended it to be.
A new relationship with his life partner, and fatherhood beckoned after Dark’s period of tragedy, but he proclaimed “I wanted to hold on to my dreams”, which is likely where the album’s title comes from. As the video for Johnny Cash’s cover of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Hurt’ depicts, it signified that Cash was ready to reflect on his life and career in his twilight years. Dark has reflected, and rebirthed throughout his period of pain and turmoil, and his dreams as a middle-aged man are fulfilled. But you can expect plenty more tales from the Turka-based troubadour, no doubt.
- Tom Curtis