For what it’s worth, Mauri Dark did spend two and a half decades biding his time within the music industry, allowing his contemporaries to catch up before he released a solo album of his own. He tried to give others the leg up but waiting that long proved futile for anyone trying to go up against him — Dreams of a Middle-Aged Man is a total, resounding success of an album and that isn’t something I’ll contain to just other debuts; DoaMAM is an album that boldly draws a line in the sand and gives Dark’s peers two options. Either get with it or get behind it.
Opening with the rip-roaring “Poison Woman,” the concept that Dark helms from Finland felt like a near impossibility. Here Dark is, with his music repping influences as deeply rooted in classic American rock music (hello, blues and jazz icons) as anything that would have come out of the 1950s music industry’s underbelly in the form of Southern outlaw rock. There’s a specific image painted in the minds of listeners as the first three songs (“Poison Woman,” “Worst Enemy,” and “X-Renegade”) narrate a bad boy aesthetic, with the final song in that trilogy feeling like a swan song attached to the duo in a way that fleshes out the less glamorous sides of the criminal lifestyle.
There could have been a fantastic concept album fleshed out from these three tracks alone, but the way they kickstart the project only furthers the bittersweet themes of Mauri Dark’s unrealized dreams. The outlaw mindset falls aside as “Love Will Prevail” reveals a softer side of Dark’s lyricism. as he holds himself to the mindset that love will ultimately prevail, even in the face of total evil. “Love will prevail, over time, over change. Love will prevail, and breath its eternal light to these dusty dark pages of mankind.” Contrasted back-to-back with the three opening tracks I like to think of as a “renegade trilogy,” there’s a softer, more human approach in the composition from Dark with this ambitious love song.
Each song that follows offers the same variety and mixed bag in tempos, themes, and instrumental accompaniment but the core songwriting never falters. There’s beautiful auteurism at work with Dark’s musical knowledge, and he makes each song work above and beyond until it’s virtually impossible to choose a favorite.
Dreams of a Middle-Aged Man positions itself to be an album that will slowly but certainly gain a mass following, as the slow-burn aesthetic that tracks across all ten songs requires patience and an open mind. The metal community coming over from Dark’s prior outings might be cold towards it, and the community of rock fans might feel it to be a little dry but with time, DoaMAM will open up and function as a crucial piece of music in the arsenal of anyone willing to take a moment and check it out. The life experiences written about within the record are very pointedly about Dark’s own life, but the dreams and ambitions are as universal as ever. Don’t sleep on this one.