The Silent Sounds of Akira Yamaoka

“Silent Hill 2” OST Review

If you are a close friend of mine, chances are you already know my affinity to the Silent Hill franchise. The blend of aesthetics and meaning behind nearly every aspect of the games in the series is something that I have always obsessed over. Especially as a psych major in college, there was so much about each game and its plotlines/intricacies that I loved so much (even in some of the not-so well received additions to the series). What has most stuck out to me over the years, however, is the masterful audio work done for (most) of the games by composer Akira Yamaoka. In particular, his work done on the game Silent Hill 2.

I can personally best describe the music in this game as having an intensely beautiful scope of emotion ranging from melancholic serenity to crawling discomfort. Songs like "Noone Love You" and "Pianissimo Epilogue" really portray the sadness that the plot's horrific origins involve. In an instant, you can catch yourself lost in thought about those agonizing truths of the story. Songs like "Laura Plays The Piano" - so damn good. It all exemplifies a really interesting point about Silent Hill 2: while it is horrific and disturbing, so too is it intriguing in its vague oddness.

Switch now to published songs  like "The Darkness That Lurks in Our Mind". It's reminiscent of rust and discomfort. Songs like "Ashes and Ghost", especially when implemented in the game, have the ability to make nearly anyone want to add a turbo function to the run feature in the gameplay. When I hear it, all I can see are Pyramid Heads, Lying Figures, and Mannequin monsters coming after me in that distorted-static movement they do.

The greatness of the sound doesn’t end there, though. The atmospheres and sound effects of Silent Hill 2 are something to admire as well. In the documentary “Making of Silent Hill 2”, Yamaota shows the patience spent in this project’s soundtrack when it is shown just how many footstep noises alone there are (hundreds of separate footstep sounds to avoid repetition). It is this attention to detail that really brings the essence of the game, in my opinion. With all of the audio this game has to offer, however, Yamaoka takes a very big aspect of sound that is often underappreciated but often felt: silence. As good as the music and atmospheric sounds are in the game, Yamaoka recognizes those intense moments where silence can do far more than any rusty squeak or ominous low synth can in the mind of anyone playing. In the doc, Yamaoka himself states that his intent as an audio engineer is to expand the imaginations of the player, to make their skin crawl.

There’s so much more I could say about Akira’s work or the Silent Hill franchise as a whole. Maybe another time? For now, I highly recommend anyone check out this soundtrack, or hell - play the game! It doesn’t just end with “Silent Hill 2”, the soundtracks for the other games are all great in their own ways - especially any moment where Akira Yamaoka is working with the great vocals of Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (“O.R.T.” from Silent Hill Origins has to be my favorite piece of art ever).

So, what are your thoughts? What’s a horror game soundtrack that you’ve appreciated? Leave a comment below!

#NeverDeadTalon

Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images

Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images

 
Photo from Silent Hill 2 game: James

Photo from Silent Hill 2 game: James

 
"Pyramid Head" from the Silent Hill 2 game

"Pyramid Head" from the Silent Hill 2 game