Monday, January 9, 2012

Soundtrack Suggestion: Silent Hill - Akira Yamaoka

The capacity for music to enhance ones gaming experience cannot be ignored.    Just as music helps carry the scene in movies and television, appropriate scoring can transform your game from a simple moment of gaming conflict, into an epic drama where life and limb are at stake.  A common question many Dungeon Masters/Storytellers ask me is: "What soundtrack would you recommend?"  This is the first of many Soundtrack Suggestions that I will share in this blog.

Every soundtrack I cover will have a track suggestion list afterwards.  The list will show what tracks I feel are best used in what kind of a scene.  Tracks will be categorized to the appropriate WITCHD area.
WTF moment: Tracks that are very jarring or different but can be used perfectly for scenes that catch players unaware.
Introspective/calm moment: For those scenes where the player characters are deep in thought or in a place where they feel secure and at ease.
Tense/mystery moment: For any investigation scenes, or scenes were dark, painful, or unwanted truths are revealed.
Combat music: Well, for combat.
Hopeful moment:  For those moments when someone helps them.  Or offers them assistance, whether it be physical or economic aid, or just some social scenes with NPCs about not giving up.
Drama/sad moment: For those heart-tearing moments, or those moments when love is admitted... or lost.
Best Used In: And end each one with a suggestion on what kind of games the soundtrack works best in.

Be aware, however, that a cool thing to try is to also use a track meant for one-scene in a totally different scene. But save such moments for when the players will never expect it so they retain their impact.

Anyway, on to the suggestion for this entry:

Silent Hill
Composed by Akira Yamaoka

For those unfamiliar with the Konami Playstation One game, here's a quick and dirty synopsis:  Silent Hill is a wonderfully frightening game of true horror about a man who is searching for his daughter after a near collision accident along a dark road.  His search for her brings him to a place called Silent Hill where strange things lurk in the fog and a siren heralds the coming of even darker threats.    The album has everything from melodic tunes to atmospheric tracks which combine panic-inducing industrial sounds with the brain-numbing feedback of a radio.  

There is also the main theme, "Silent Hill" which is the first track of the soundtrack and the opening song of the game that would be instantly recognizable to anyone who ever played the first game.

The soundtrack has forty-two songs in total, with some as short as nine seconds (The Wait, track 03) and some as long as six minutes.  One source you can try for this soundtrack is here.

Gaming-wise, this would be what I'd consider to be the weakest of the soundtracks to use from Akira Yamaoka.  The tracks are a tad too jarring and disjointed with many of them not being that easily loopable to leave running in the background.  While I have to say I really LOVE how the mood builds up in many of these tracks, given the fact they DO tend to be tracks that rise from near-absolute silence to the banging cacophony from hell in a single track, or have a great build-up that gets abruptly cut, they become harder to use in a non-scripted gaming moment.  If one were to successfully use the tracks, it would be an amazing feat of timing, familiarity of the music, and the ability to steer the players to hit the right peaks in the music.  But otherwise, the music has a tendency of becoming jarring and distracting instead.  Useful tracks however can still be found in it.

Silent Hill OST track suggestions
WTF moment: Killed by Death (track 13), Never Again (track 17)
Introspective/calm moment: Rising Sun (track 07), Heaven Give Me Say (track 20), Far (track 21)
Tense/mystery moment: Claw Finger (track 09), Hear Nothing (track 11)
Combat music: For All (track 08), I'll Kill You (track 22), Ain't Gonna Rain (track 26), My Heaven (track 37)
Hopeful moment: Only You (track 34), Bonus Track (track 44)
Drama/sad moment: Kill Angels (track 33), Tears Of... (track 38)

Best Used In: Games still set in a modern, or post-apocalyptic setting.  The tracks sound too clearly industrial and modern to work for medieval period games and the like.  They still can work in a futuristic or sci-fi setting, however, so long as the mood is dark and brooding.  More BSG than Star Trek, for example.

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