Metal’s greatest frontmen have always been singer/songwriters at their core, bringing all of the passion that sparked the likes of Bob Dylan to life inside of a thunderous arena environment (in the best of circumstances, mind you). Enter Mauri Dark, the new handle for Mystons’ Mauri Kosonen, and his new album Dreams of a Middle-Aged Man, due to become available everywhere good music is sold and streamed this December 18th. Rather than going off and making his own heavy music apart from the band he’s been fronting through five albums, Mauri is committing himself to the foundations of his craft in Dreams of a Middle-Aged Man and reminding us that, even in the darkest of moments this life creates, there’s always reason to keep pressing forward in the name of relief.
One of the first things I noticed about Dreams of a Middle-Aged Man was its patient tone, specifically with regards to “Thin Line of Understanding,” “Love Will Prevail” and “Worst Enemy,” three of the record’s most endearing tracks. Instead of doing what too many of his peers would have done with material essentially identical to this trio of song, Mauri Dark is rejecting the very notion of overcomplicating the construct with a lot of useless fat and synthetic filler here. There’s nothing that brings down a good track like an element (or two) that anyone from the most novice of critics to a professional like myself cringes over, and I think this is something Mauri was considering when he recorded this solo debut.
“Thin Line of Understanding” and “Poison Woman” are two of the most powerful ballads I’ve heard in the year 2020, but part of the reason why they affected me to the degree they did is the content they’re surrounded by. The title track, “Shades of Gray,” “Up to Us” and “Hymn for a Wanderer” alone add to the way the other songs are interpreted in Dreams of a Middle-Aged Man, and for me, this is why I’m not able to hear it all the way through without thinking of high concept stuff on the left side of the dial. This is definitely a piece I think you need to hear all the way through to properly appreciate, but it’s nonetheless something you could cherry-pick for specific emotional desires as well.
If there’s only one debut you hear this year, it needs to be Mauri Dark’s Dreams of a Middle-Aged Man. Produced and released just in time to warm up an icy winter season, Dreams of a Middle-Aged Man feels like the autobiographical poetry session its creator needed to advance to the next stage of his storied career properly, and for what I look for in a rookie solo effort, it hits all the marks and then some. Mauri Dark still has a lot of room to play with his sound and experiment with the faceting we find in such brilliant shape for this first record, but as of this moment, I recommend hearing his music the next time you’re looking for something new.