Akira Yamaoka - Silent Hill Original Soundtracks
Ahh, Silent Hill. How many of us have experienced the classic game series' thrills and chills? How many have lost sleep to it's twisted tales of lost, redemption and unspeakable horrors? How many of us have seen ourselves in it's universe? No other gaming franchise, in my mind, puts the player in the thick of it's atmosphere like Silent Hill. I can still remember first picking the original up so many years ago, and being so terrified of the first 5 minutes that I put it away for weeks before gathering the courage to continue (what can I say, I was an impressionable young man). What grasped me and so many others, more than anything, was the soundtrack. A collection of ambient soundscapes and industrial noise, arranged and produced by Akira Yamaoka. The man is a legend if you ask me, he's done work for about a million different games and none of it comes close to the effect gained on Silent Hill Original Soundtracks, an album you can put on and instantly feel returned to the foggy streets and world-gone-wrong shifts of dimensions that made the scenery of Silent Hill oh so intriguing..
Clocking in at over an hour and containing over 40 seperate "tracks", Silent Hill Original Soundtracks is a collection of all the notable aural moments from the original Silent Hill PS1 videogame. The highlight (and one of the only songs in the traditional sense) is the title track. Fans will recognize it instantly for the tremolo-riffed mandolin intro which segues into a melodic little pop-rock tune, braced with continued mandolin runs and a twangy fuzzed-out guitar. It's the song from the game's opening video sequence, and it's really the track that brought me to want to know who the hell Akira Yamaoka was. Over the course of it's many tracks, the album crosses through the depths of industrial terror, often creating a sound that feels lifted from Trent Reznor's worst nightmares (Until Death, Devil's Lyric, Don't Cry, etc) . At other times, an ethereal atmosphere is created, and the feeling is something like floating between a dream and a waking thought, lost there and never really knowing it (Claw Finger, The Bitter Season, Fear of the Dark, etc). Most of the time, however, you're just scared beyond belief.
Now, how this album translates apart from the game itself is another matter entirely. For those who've never played the Silent Hill titles, picking up one of their soundtracks and expecting to be impressed just might be a stretch. However, I feel the quality of these pieces stands up regardless. For a haunting ambient experience, and for a few strong examples of Akira's more traditional songwriting skills. When it's all said and done, you cannot deny the man's ability to create an overwhelming atmosphere, one that seems to choke the senses in much the same way Silent Hill's endless fog could or would if it really existed. The thing is, Silent Hill Original Soundtrack makes you believe it's real, and for the non-fans, it should give you a chill or two while listened to in the dead of the night, in a pitch-black room on headphones. As far as soundtracks go, this ranks as one of the best from any medium. It just might require some previous knowledge from the listener, but that shouldn't stop anyone from giving it a shot.
Although, these soundtracks would only improve with future sequels...
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