Black Swan 2015
Movie themes that never get old create subtext for a sprawling prog-opera.
If a five-album plan – each a season, as in a TV series – wasn’t enough to outline Douglas R. Docker’s ambition, his universe is expanding now with four “transitional” records that add detail and depth to the main storyline. More so, there’s a retrofuturistic twist to this development with “Book A” veering away from original compositions to integrate classic soundtracks into it, while new arrangements blend familiar melodies into the project’s overall picture. Given a delicate, yet powerful, touch by an all-female, except for the band’s mastermind, cast, pieces like the nicely orchestrated, and hardened, “Doctor Who” theme and “The Neverending Story” reveal previously hidden layers which enrich the listener’s perception of the cinematic lore, and moments of recognition make such an exploration a delightful experience.
Docker’s choices aren’t obvious, but his mischievous eschewing the “Star Wars” march in favor of the more vintage “Space-Patrol (Raumpatrouille)” and “Barbarella” – both playfully heavy and utterly captivating – results in an unpredictable and, thus, adventurous flow. This, of course, is an ultimate objective for a musical mission related to travels through space and time, but with the “Red Dwarf” tune getting a new grace and a groove, and “The Black Hole” sucking prog metal into its vortex, there’s a sense of purpose unfolding to direct the series protagonist Jack Heisenberg’s quest. So although it may seem impossible to boost the bombast of “Flash Gordon Suite” further on, that’s what happened here, with Amanda Somerville providing a vocal front for Docker’s vibrant compression of QUEEN’s OST and Nita Strauss laying riffs that also anchor the dry buzz of “Suspension” where Douglas’ voice waves collide with Elize Ryd’s.
Still, “Dune Suite” is where Docker’s method is most vividly refined, keyboards-wise, and his vision is at its clearest. He may hide behind borrowed melodies, yet Douglas’ personality shines through the aeons and nebulas on “Book A” for the old tracks to echo down the line.