If there's one video game franchise that doesn't get enough recognition for it's soundtracks, it would have to be Pokemon, and as much as I would like to talk about that, I think I'll wait until Pokemon HeartGold/SoulSilver is closer to coming out. So instead, we'll talk about a franchise who has one of the best soundtracks period, rhythm games not withstanding: Silent Hill.
We're going to take a look at a few key tracks off the list of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, coming to Wii on Dec. 8. Overall I think this soundtrack, much like the game, is a visit to the roots of Yamaoka's work while applying all that was learned. The music ranges from his earlier works with Silent Hill 2 to his BeatMania days, which lead into his solo album iFuturelist.
The first track is "Always on My Mind" by Akira Yamaoka, featuring recurring vocalist Mary Elizabeth McGlynn. (You'll want to perhaps skip in about 40 seconds to get to the tune proper. It has an ambient opening)
This song is classic Yamaoka. It's a dark, electronic beat with a melancholy vocal laid on top. This song feels more reminiscent of his work on the iFuturelist album than the regular Silent Hill albums, which generally have physical instruments. But it definitely has that Yamaoka vibe. But those lyrics, ringing so familiar in the back of my head. A small piece of me knows exactly what they are...
That's right. Lyrics brought to you by The King, himself, Elvis Presley. Honestly, if you apply them to Harry Mason feeling like he was somewhat neglectful of Cheryl and now he's maybe lost her... well it just works.
Up next is "Blackest Friday." How timely is that?
This track isn't particularly special for any reason other than it represents, to me, that Akira Yamaoka still knows how to make a severely disquieting piece of ambient music. An educated guess would place this song at some sort of enemy encounter or maybe Silent Hill's trademark reality-flip, but I really don't want to be anywhere near the reason they would play a song like this. I'm a-scared to.
"Hell Frozen Rain" is what happens when Hell freezes over, I guess? It's also our next track!
This track is very reminiscent of Yamaoka's work on Silent Hill 4, it brings to mind "Waiting for You." Guitars, a heavy emphasis on the drums, and McGlynn's always sublime vocals tie together this track, and is that a piece of "Theme of Laura" I hear? Of course it is! That only ties this song even closer to "Waiting for You," which also sampled "Theme of Laura." I understand that this might be one of the credit tracks. Supposedly they're keeping the multiple-endings, which makes me hope that we'll see a new UFO ending. It's been far to long. (Did 0rigins have one? I never got around to finishing that...)
Another supposed credit theme, "When You're Gone," definitely brings to memory (shattered memory?) Silent Hill 2's music. This almost feels like if "Love Psalm" had lyrics. Have a listen.
Personally, this song is up there on my list of best Silent Hill songs. It feels strangely triumphant, which might be a bit counter-intuitive to the franchise, but it's still just a good song. Also something about there being the phrase "shattered memories" in the chorus kind of makes this feel like if the game were, instead, a TV series and this were it's opening song. Suck that, Twin Peaks.
The final look we'll take at the Shattered Memories OST is "Acceptance."
This track very clearly remembers "Room of Angel" from Silent Hill 4, but where "Room" was melancholy, this song is more haunting. It purposefully sounds like a music box tune gone awry, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear a music box somewhere in the game tote this song. The background piano also seems to be pushing a "Midnight Sonata" feel, but intentionally off-key for that creepy flavor.
Shattered Memories seems to be playing a "Best of" with the series' music, sampling flavors from the core series and bringing them back home, where it all began. But with that in mind, there is an element of the original Silent HIll's soundtrack that is missing from Shattered Memories. The original Silent Hill ended with a beautiful piece "Esperandote." It remains a favorite song, even though it doesn't quite fit with the rest of the series' music. Rika Muranaka had a hand in this piece, a melancholy tune in Spanish. As the original Silent Hill left me, I will leave you with "Esperandote," and a little gift after.