In the song “X-Renegade,” Mauri Kosonen croons “I regret some of the things that I’ve done / I’m ashamed of the roads that I took” mournfully, his words encapsulating a bit of misery the way few other verses I’ve heard in 2020 have. Under the moniker of Mauri Dark, this prolific half of Mystons shines not as a metal frontman but as a traditional singer/songwriter, and from where I sit, his performance in tracks like “X-Renegade” stands among some of the best in his career. There’s a deep sense of pain and retrospection that we find throughout the whole of his debut LP Dreams of a Middle-Aged Man, but unlike similar content from Mark Lanegan, Jim Clements or even Wilhelm, Mauri’s is a sort of angst that comes complete with a desire to break free of these chains in search of catharsis (no matter how unreachable it might seem).
So many of the stories told to us in this album are told through the fragility of the guitar strings, making for aching ballads in “Chains of Solitude,” “Thin Line of Understanding” and the powerful “Worst Enemy” that could have professed heavy emotionality to us even without the addition of vocals. Mauri never fails to find a compelling way of inserting his voice into the supple instrumental melodies here, and though his poetry is at times a bit suffocating – particularly if you’re not accustom to the darker side of alternative folk – it has a way of unearthing a potent bright light on the other side of every dark tunnel.
“Poison Woman,” “Love Will Prevail,” “Shades of Gray” and “Up to Us” each have an incredibly brooding feel to their lyrics and instrumentation the same, and never does any of the passion in these songs ever sound forced or fake in any capacity. Mauri is putting so much of himself on the line in tracks like the title cut that trying to shelter his own vulnerabilities with over the top theatrics would have been completely impossible. By choosing to leave the synthetics on the sidelines, he’s giving us more substance in his songcraft than many of his peers would be able to muster in an identical situation. It’s worth taking note of, but definitely not the only reason to examine this LP.
I just had a sneak preview of Dreams of a Middle-Aged Man ahead of its official release this December, but if this is giving us any sort of an indication as to what the Mauri Dark project is going to be producing on a regular basis, this singer/songwriter is in for a lot of success ahead. This is a very involved album that has a way of entrancing whoever gives it a listen inside of its first three tracks, and despite some of the grittier elements in its larger narrative, there’s something rather sweet about the mortality it boldly illustrates with its melodic banter. Mauri is already quite the accomplished player, but here he elevates himself to a new level of respect in my book.