I recently received an invitation to review an audio production called The Copper Cascades Chronicle. For transparency, it should be said that I was sent this by the voice over artist RJ Bayley, who I met (virtually), after he had written a delightful review of my short film for the Popcorn Horror website. Despite reading the press release I still wasn’t so sure as to what I was about to listen to. The experience of pressing play and diving into the unknown brings to mind a party that you arrive at late, knowing nobody and feeling slightly out of place as you are the only guest not wearing a cape to the superhero party. What you find is that you are listening to a series of taped investigations by a character called Dr Paul Nyman interviewing a series of other characters with names that lead you to believe that they are from a comic book universe that you’ve never visited before. You are somewhere in a secure facility, privilege to the investigation that Dr Nyman is conducting with these characters who have been drugged or shackled to keep their super powers/abilities in check. Despite references to future technology, like hover cars, Dr Nyman’s interviews are conducted on something with a decidedly warm, retro-tech thunk as the recordings stop and start. Despite this being a UK based production it is convincingly voiced by RJ Bayley in an American accent and the audio is clean, polished and professional. The story introduces us to Karl Cane; also known as Captain Photon, Sonic Shriek also known as Sandra Gibson, Pluto Boy, The Creeping Creeper and the other central character: Dark Deliverance, and no it’s not a fast food delivery moped driver who favours black leather. Dark Deliverance, despite being drugged, appears to be getting into Dr Nyman’s head and messing with it; to what end, I can’t really say…yet.
As the majority of the narrative appears to take place in a secure facility and all one is treated to are small snippets of interviews with the aforementioned characters, it is left to the listener to establish what links this disparate bunch together. The narrative only really moves forward in the thirty-second minute as Dr Paul Nyman is driving to work during a festivity called the Carnival of the Dead accompanied by a thunderstorm. Something appears to have happened at the facility and he recounts that a guard mentioning taking the prisoners “to the void”. This last chapter appears to be some kind of apocalyptic event taking place where computer and power systems are failing and somebody or something is coming for Dr Nyman. I have a confession to make. I don’t take seriously science fiction that takes itself too seriously… if you understand what I mean; so was delighted to hear that Captain Photon had punched somebody’s head clean off in the first few minutes. I was however, slightly disappointed that no other pugilistic decapitations were on offer. With very little description on offer one finds oneself drawing on a bank of remembered science fiction films trying to picture where one is and where you are. I wound up picturing a world that was, part Silence of the Lambs and part Brazil with a bit of Blade Runner thrown in. I haven’t seen Suicide Squad, but I understand that starts off in some kind of super-max jail for comic book super-villains; so I understood this could well be the beginning of a story where we will be drawn along in the wake of one or more of Kneel Downe’s characters. If you are missing a dark universe of mixed ability superheroes in a well-produced audio production, then don your cape, shake hands with the host and find the tray with the chicken vol-au-vents.