It’s hard to believe that it was over 13 years ago that Silent Hill for Playstation came out. Has it really been so long? Have so many years ticked away? It seems like only yesterday that I was playing the game with my friend in his basement, our eyes wide with fear, every creak the house made a warning that something, some THING, was after us.
It was also the time that my now obvious near-obsession with Silent Hill began. For me, Silent Hill was to The Shining in the way Resident Evil was to Aliens. And as much as I love Aliens (a WHOLE LOT), The Shining is the movie I go to when I want to get scared. Part of the appeal is the work of renowned composer Akira Yamaoka whose name became synonymous with the franchise. Yamaoka’s work was nothing short of terrifying, creating an aural horror that assaulted the senses even when nothing was happening.
So, in honor of March and the release of both Silent Hill: Downpour (OST review/game review) and the Silent Hill HD Collection, I decided to go back to my mid-teen years and revisit the OST to original Silent Hill, the one that started it all.
It’s hard to describe this as a music review because, and let’s be honest here, this album is more experimental noise than traditional music. But that was what made it so unique and interesting in terms of being a video game score. Up until that point in my life, pretty much every video game soundtrack I heard was built around traditional musical cues and themes. I had grown up listening to Matsubara’s work on Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest and Kikuta’s Secret Of Mana, just to name a few favorites.
But here was something wildly different. Rather than express emotion through traditional strings, woodwinds, piano, etc… (admittedly, all in 8 or 16-bit sound), Yamaoka created a landscape of pure fear by utilizing sirens, ferocious percussion, howling winds, and what sounds like pipes being banged from a great distance away. These were sounds that reflected the bleak, cold, terrifying world that Harry Mason had to traverse in order to try and find his daughter Cheryl.
For me, the tones on this album were a true reflection of the fog that enshrouded the town. Many of the instruments sound like they are coming from beyond a veil, as if I have to wander further into my own dark imagination to understand what might be causing these sounds. Other tracks are a reflection of the Otherworld, rusted and violent, shrieking metal grinding against gnarled grates.
The album also has this fantastic analog flavor to it, enhanced by the addition of vinyl record scratches sprinkled liberally throughout.
The Final Word: An album like this never really has an issue with losing its effect or edge. After all, the wind will continue to howl long after we die, sending shivers up and down the spines of children all around the world, making them afraid to look under their beds. Akira Yamaoka’s Silent Hill 1 OST proves that the greatest horrors are brought to life through our own imagination.
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