Soundtrack Flashback: “Silent Hill”
By Ryan Goddard
Silent Hill is one of those games that doesn’t come around often. Hell, it’s downright unlikely we’ll have a franchise like this ever again. Back when it came out, it was the 4th horror franchise to show up outside of Resident Evil, Clock Tower, and Alone in the Dark. It had to do something to make it stand out against the competition and it did. With shocking visuals, absolutely gory enemies, and the ability to completely mess with your head every step of the way, it accomplished its goal. Not to mention, every WTF moment it threw at the player all the way to the end. Still, there was one aspect of the game that took over the whole experience, and there was one man responsible for it.
One of the most amazing composers in gaming history had the mind to create an absolutely chilling atmosphere by sound. Not only was he in charge of the music, he also was the main force behind the in-game sound effects. Akira Yamaoka had done something that no one had done in a video game before: He was able to turn the music into a character. It was there to drive you. It was meant to scare you. At the same time, it made you want more while being afraid to open any door or turn around the next corner. It was a mix of white noise, industrial sounds, and even at times something calming before it scares the hell out of you again.
If you take the theme of Silent Hill 1 alone, it was set to scare you right out of the box.
The low fidelity made the instruments sound tinny and old, something we all know works very well in horror situations. Just look at most of the horror flicks of the past couple of decades. To take that even further, Yamaoka’s music resembles the music that normally accompanies horror films of the silent era. They were normally composed in that particular way.
Another example of the genius that is the soundtrack, let’s listen to the theme of the Balkan Church.
We already know churches can be pretty scary. However, Yamaoka did something a little different. Without going overboard, he took the atmosphere and made it seamlessly eerie. It almost comes across as sad and lifeless. That works perfectly as Silent Hill’s characters and stories are just that: sad and lifeless. He took the church bells and made them sound run down and out of tune. You knew the Balkan Church was just as dead as everyone else around you. Again, you didn’t know if something was going to burst in the room or if you were about to have a nerve-racking encounter.
Another track I will bring attention to is a track titled Don’t Cry.
This is an example of the industrial sound I was talking about earlier. It also shows once again how different the tracks can be from one another. When you get down into the depths of Silent Hill this song will pop up. It also shows up in a couple different areas. It’s hard hitting and pulse pounding. Even more, there are a couple times this track accompanies you as you run like the wind out away from an enemy that you can’t beat down with your lead pipe.
To close this article out the right way, I will leave you with this song. It is called Tears Of… It’s the song you hear when you get the good ending of Silent Hill. It’s one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard from any game soundtrack. It also shows the diversity of the first game’s score. Subsequently, Akira Yamaoka did an amazing job on Silent Hill and its following games. He did a lot of work on many other Konami games, but this franchise in particular is the one which he will always be known for. If you haven’t played them, pick up a copy of Silent Hill from the Playstation Network and the HD Collection (Silent Hill 2 and 3). I promise you won’t be disappointed. Thanks for reading. If you agree, disagree, or just like the music, feel free to comment below.