Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Soundtrack Suggestion: Silent Hill 2 - Akira Yamaoka

Silent Hill 2 - Official Soundtrack

Composed by Akira Yamaoka

I will this early admit a huge soft spot in my storytelling heart for the soundtracks Akira Yamaoka composed for the Silent Hill series of games.  As much as the first album was filled with lots of tremendously jarring and disconcerting tunes, the soundtrack to the second game has a much more melodic approach.  This approach seems apt given the second game explored the story of James Sunderland who visits the mysterious foggy town of Silent Hill after receiving a letter from his long departed wife who says she is waiting for him in their "special place."

A large number of the album's tracks make use of a synthesized tunes, occasionally mixed with various sound effects such as footsteps on broken glass and similar disconcerting things.    Silence was even utilized in some tracks to give stark contrast to the moments of unsettling explosive anger, making the soundtrack an experience worth visiting even outside the atmospherics of a role-playing game.
The soundtrack has thirty-one songs in total, and lends it well to mood and atmosphere build-up in games.    There are gems in this soundtrack however; songs that I have used in so many games, I at one point literally had to buy new music to force myself to play other tracks instead.  The soundtrack is a wonderful addition to any gamer's sound collection, and yes, I would not recommend any of you listen to it alone at night.

If you're interested in listening to some tracks, check them out here.

My personal favorites would have to be the following tracks:
Ordinary Vanity (Track 05) is a haunting melody that hints as something sinister just lurking at the edges of one's vision.  It is eventually played with the accompaniment of what I can only describe as a large metal pipe being banged at with a hammer, and the over-all effect is a definite heart-thumper of a calm beat.

Promise (reprise) (Track 06) is a delicious chime and piano tune that reminds one of an introspective moment just before the horror strikes.  Part of the genius here is how they kept this track as a loopable tune suggesting the protagonists were slowly uncovering the truth... and how if allowed to flow to the next track, Ashes and Ghosts (Track 07) the beat shifts into a horrific wave of percussions and drums to announce the arrival of danger.

Magdalene (Track 15) is definitely my FAVORITE track in this whole soundtrack.  I've used this lonely piano piece in so many games that it has become a staple song of choice I play if pressed to suddenly support a dramatic moment.  The song has a nursery rhyme quality to it, that almost sounds innocent and morose, but an underlying current of horror just awaits within its echoes.

Notably, UFO Ending Track (Track 31) is the craziest track in the game, being the audio of the spoof UFO ending from the Silent Hill game.

Silent Hill 2 OST track suggestions
WTF moment: Block Mind (Track 14), The Reverse Mill (Track 21), Black Fairy (Track 26), Pianissimo Epilogue (Track 29), UFO Ending (Track 31)
Introspective/calm moment: Theme of Laura (Track 01), White Noiz (Track 02), Alone in Town (Track 10), Prisonic Fairytale (Track 17), Love Psalm (Track 18), Laura Plays The Piano (Track 22)
Tense/mystery moment: A World of Madness (Track 04), Ordinary Vanity (Track 05), Promise (reprise) (Track 06), The Darkness that Lurks (Track 11), Silent Heaven (Track 19), Terror in the Depths of Fog (Track 23)
Combat music: Ashes and Ghosts (Track 07), Betrayal (Track 25)
Hopeful moment: Heaven's Night (Track 09), Angels Thanatos (Track 12), Femata in Mistoc Air (Track 16), Theme of Laura (reprise) (Track 27), Overdose Delusion (Track 28), Promise (Track 30)
Drama/sad moment: Forest (Track 03), Null Moon (Track 08), The Day of Night (Track 13), Magdalene (Track 15), No One Loves You (Track 20), True (Track 24)

Best Used In: Games set in a modern, or post-apocalyptic setting. A lot of the tracks have a very modern feel which can be jarring if used in games set in medieval or fantasy settings.  However, the tracks can be a good counter-point to the typical strings and horns used in fantasy games to represent infernal or daemonic influence.

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