I remember playing the first Silent Hill game very clearly. I remember the hairs standing up on the back of my neck and refusing to come down. I remember handing the controller to my friend to watch him play a bit and the second the controller left my hand I grabbed a baseball bat because I was so afraid of whatever was beyond my peripheral vision. I knew there wasn’t anything there. But that didn’t stop me from feeling like I was being watched, no…hunted from just beyond the shadows of my darkest imagination.
With this being Silent Hill Week on Bloody-Disgusting in honor of the 15th anniversary of Silent Hill, I wanted to focus on my love of the game’s soundtrack, composed by the wildly inventive and ever fascinating Akira Yamaoka.
Now, I know that I’ve written a retro review of the Silent Hill 1 soundtrack (which you can read here). But this article isn’t a review. It’s a visit to an old friend. It’s me heading back into the fog and the rust to appreciate the phantasmagorical beauty that only a town like Silent Hill could offer. Please, join me if you dare.
There is something about Silent Hill that has always been irresistible for me. I don’t know if it’s the importance of creating and sustaining a psychological terror versus the empty, hollow satisfaction of a “jump scare”. I don’t know if it’s the characters, who feel a bit more real, a bit more raw, and who feel like they are grounded in reality, even if the world around them is crumbling away into insanity.
I just kept getting drawn into the world of Silent Hill, over and over again, craving it, needing it. It was as though it became a way for me to face my own twisted form of introspection. My need to play these games was like each character’s need to push forward and endure their individualized punishment to attain some semblance of redemption or absolution.
And yet it is not the game I’m here to wax poetic on, it is the music. You see, for some reason the music of Silent Hill 1 was just as instrumental to me as the story of Harry desperately searching for his daughter, Cheryl. I came back to the game repeatedly because the sound of the game was what hypnotized me into entering that foggy town, time after time.
Yamaoka’s music is not just the music of the game, it is the voice of Silent Hill itself. The metal grates are the vocal cords, the rotten hallways the bronchial tree, the streets the lungs… The music was the sibilant whisper that drove Harry further and further into the darkness. It was the piercing shriek that soared over his head, desperately trying to claw off his skin. It was the throbbing, pulsating heart the burned underneath the town, exhaling fog and ash only to have it settle down upon its cracked, aged body.
Never before had I encountered a medium that so intricately wove the aural into the visual. What was once background music that aimed to get stuck in my head was now an integral part of the story. It breathed with me. It screamed with me. It whispered seductively in my ear, its filthy, rusty nails scraping their way up my spine. And I relished every fucking second.