Plenty of music passes under my pen which sounds like it would be the perfect soundtrack to a film, music for which I turn to words such as cinematic, filmic, atmospheric, chilled, ambient…even ethereal. And these are all words that perfectly fit into a review of Apocalypse: The Doll Chronicles because, for once, this actually is the soundtrack to a film.
Although having its sonic birth in 2014 when the project was still in its formative and embryonic stage, the film never saw the light of day, much of it lost to dead hard drives and the music gathering digital dust throughout the intervening years.
Thankfully, recent years have seen the film restored and brought back to fruition and Franco Esteve has toiled diligently to rework, adapt and evolve the soundtrack to work with the new and re-edited film, now a more thoughtful, conceptual, music-driven, experimental experience more in line with The Doll Chronicles concept. With the salvaged footage featuring only three surviving musical pieces, Esteve returned to some of the original compositions which now features as bonus tracks on the album, doubling the amount of music found here.
So, The Apocalypse, The Doll Chronicles (Original Soundtrack), is not just the sonic component to a film, it is also, in its own way, the sound of the project’s evolution, the past and the present forming a musical arc between first thoughts and final realisations, births and resurrections.
The music is suitably dark and delicious, epic and expansive, perfect to drive a film about a woman living on the edge of reality and being chased across a desolate and dystopian landscape by the darkness and trauma of her own past. Across the first five songs, the original story plays out, three main pieces plus an end title and trailer, moving from the gothic-classicism of the opening theme to the grandiloquence and atmosphere of The Apocalypse to the brooding minimalism of The Space Between and the mix of ambient electronica and more ornate elegance of the end pieces. But it is in the bonus tracks that the album begins to take flight.
Perhaps because the music in these newly restored concepts is less directly tied to the final storyline, they reveal themselves to be more adventurous and experimental. Perhaps it is something to do with the passage of time and the fact that Esteve was revisiting these compositions seven years on. Whatever the reason, it is here that the music seems broader in its scope, heightened in its anticipation, deeper, darker, more decayed, more…well, just more!
The Meld may be a short piece of intensely brooding cello but it seems to have a similar vibe to it as the Jaws theme, simple, to the point and menacing, though here that vibe is stretched and subdued. If the sound of the Jaws musical motif is that of a natural menace rising to the surface, this is of an unholy, unknown and unnatural force lurking in the depths. Rebirth is another intertwining of dark designs; diabolical strings crawling one on the other and Struggling Inch By Inch relates to its title perfectly, the sound of Promethean struggles and glacial movements, continuous, unrelenting and perhaps even futile. The album rounds off with The Darkness Ends, a claustrophobic and catastrophic neo-classical piece woven of staccato strings and oozing energies.
Even without the film by its side, it is hard not to love this album, particularly if you appreciate the modern minimalist composers of the classical and avant-garde worlds. But it will also appeal to the broad-minded goths and accommodating post-rockers, the electronic underground and those who love dark soundscores. It paints brilliant pictures, conjures scenes and scenarios of future desolation and inner turmoil. And if this album can do all of that when not accompanied by the film that the music was written for, imagine the effect it will have when the two are witnessed together, as they were always meant to be.