Review: Black Widow
2.5 / 5 Stars
In the 1987 thriller Black Widow, audiences were treated to story where the male characters were simply pawns in a woman\'s game. Catherine marries wealthy but lonely men, ingratiates herself into their last will and testament and summarily murders them in order to claim the inheritance. A woman named Alexandra, who discovers the devious machinations of Catherine, decided to pursue her and bring her to justice. The multi-talented but oft-overlooked composer Michael Small provided a score of both class and tension.
"The Widow" begins the album with a jolt, as col legno strings are echoplexed to provide a menacing atmosphere. Soon, smooth, understated strings enter, in an almost Herrmann-like guise, and a solo violin presents a melancholy line. These textures continue into "Ondine\'s Curse" with further assist by oboe and muted trumpet to deepen the ominous tone. Low flutes and mid-range strings then move in, mixed with some chilled synth effects. "Investigation" opens first in a warm manner, but soon the dark strings, synths and woodwinds glide in unobtrusively to dominate, in a somewhat removed manner, as the Black Widow herself is apt to do.
There is a but more earnestness to be found in the strings in "No Evidence", speaking more for Alexandra as she attempts to unravel the mysterious murders. The burbling synth textures return for support in a rising motif as timpani and rich horns open the score up, broadening its palette and range. "Chasing After Phantoms" begins in urgency before a nervous string ostinato propels the cue into more foreboding territory. Subtle, tense and probing strings close out the track. In "Hawaii" that same string ostinato returns, perhaps to represent a persistent yet restrained pursuit motif or sorts, with sympathetic support from woodwinds and horns. More ominous string and brass textures continue in "No Air", although the striking chords which opened the first track make an appearance and some cold, high range strings, evocative of Herrmann, highlight the second half. There is some atonal slicing string action to finish out the track.
"Seduction" features pizzicato strings and a slight optimism, though restrained, and some flowering string and flute textures around the halfway mark. The lengthiest track on the album, "She\'s Deadly", opens with mid-range strings and oboes, in a troubled yet sympathetic mode before timpani and cellos herald a return to danger as well as some striking chords. The cue continues on with the subtle, investigative atmospherics, which admittedly are wearing a bit thin at this point, as one might wish for a release in the form of outright action riffs or melody. The dissonance rises in "The Truth", though a brief sorrowful oboe breaks the murkiness, while understated, mysterious string and woodwind lines round out the track. The final selection, "Knowing When To Stop", begins in a similar guise, though surges forth with some intensity and evolves into a solid, melodic finish for strings, synth ostinato and woodwinds, the mood shifting between resolved and still troubled.
Michael Small fans should be happy with this release, but it might be a case where a little goes a long way in terms of atmosphere. The consistency of mood and instrumentation in the score lends a sense of sameness to the tracks and at times one cannot find much direction to the proceedings other than cloaking each sequence in the same musical fabric.
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