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Thursday, October 05, 2006

CD REVIEW - Dark Skies

Dark Skies
Music by Michael Hoenig and Mark Snow
Perseverance Records PRD 012 (U.S.)
27 Tracks 70:06 mins

Dark Skies was a comparatively short-lived imaginative American TV Sci-Fi series that debuted in 1996, which explored a shady covert group's involvement with two kinds of aliens, one species more benevolent, the other parasitic and out for supremacy, all set against the backdrop of historical world events. Had the show debuted today, with modern CGI effects as they are, it could have had a lot of fun with the inclusion of historical characters in its plots. As it is, the show was sadly cancelled before it had the chance to explore its full potential.
Mark Snow, who was heavily involved with composing scores for the popular The X-Files, composed the music for the show's pilot. For reasons explained in the colourful and informative accompanying booklet, which includes a note from Snow, he didn't continue the scoring when a series was given the green light. Instead, Canadian composer Michael Hoenig got the gig and provided a predominantly synths and keyboard score, with subtle use of sampled voices and trumpet.
This 10th Anniversary Limited Edition release of music from the show will be much welcomed by Dark Skies fans, who have long waited for a soundtrack release. For my own part, I very much enjoyed the show, particularly after the introduction of Jeri Ryan's character. Ms Ryan single-handedly saved Star Trek: Voyager when she was introduced as the Seven-of-Nine character and did a similar job here as a character who may be working for the greater good, or may just have her own agenda. Nothing was black and white in this show, with the covert organisation Majestic-12 being headed up by the ambiguous Captain Frank Bach (the much-missed J.T.Walsh).
Hoenig's music makes up the majority of tracks on this album and is largely mysterious, suspenseful and otherworldly, with just a few exciting moments of action. It all worked well enough in the series, with his main theme actually receiving an Emmy nomination, but really makes for difficult listening away from the screen. Following an opening trumpet fanfare, the aforementioned, fast-moving main theme does a good job of propelling the viewer into the show and indeed the album, but is not really utilised throughout the scoring. The principal theme utilised in the scoring is a dark and timpani-driven theme for Majestic-12, which crops up here and there; his contributions to the album concluding with "Epilogue," which begins with bluesy synth trumpet and keyboard and ends with a melancholy variation on the main theme. He too has his own note about his music in the accompanying booklet.
The album appears to conclude with a 12-minute suite from Mark Snow's pilot score, which is a much-better listen on disc, with its sad piano opening and close and some violent, jagged action music. I say, "appears to conclude," because there is in fact a hidden track, a beat-driven, steady mover, which brings the disc to a foot-tapping close.
In addition to the Hoenig and Snow notes already mentioned, the extensive booklet notes tell the history of the show and its music, with comments from Dark Skies creator Bryce Zabel. Certainly a collector's item for fans of the show, this release is an impressive labour of love from Perseverance.


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