Yes, yes, yes! Oh god yes! I think we can forgo all the detailed analysis and jump right to the conclusion: Silent Hill 2's soundtrack owns you, your family, and everyone you have ever known. But I guess if you're gonna be twisting my arm, I suppose I can drop some specifics for you. After all, you wouldn't trust a review that didn't prove its final rating, would you?
Opening tracks are always strong openers for the Silent Hill series. "Theme of Laura" presents exactly what it claims to, and it actually comes up a few times in the album. It's an instrumental rock piece, not too hard, not too poppy, with a little classic rock flair to it thanks to the strong bass. Always moving and changing, this track doesn't leave you a moment to get bored with it. My favorite part comes at about 1:40 with an unexpected secondary theme, with the addition of a violin backup later on.
Moving into the second track, we enter our journey into ambience, and immediately you can tell that this is going to be a completely different creature than the Silent Hill Original Soundtracks. Thankfully, it's for the better. "White Noiz", it is called, and rather than being of the "random sound effect" or the "pounding chaos" variety like in the prequel, it's a moody song with atmospheric droning that creates unusual harmonies. The following piece, "Forest", follows the same tone but in a different manner, combining echoey strings with a synth psuedo-melody that flutters around the keyboard with the delicacy of a Debussy piano piece. Next is "A World of Madness", which uses unusual harmony again, with some seemingly random chimey sounds that echo in and out of the musical darkness. Do you see a pattern here? No? Well good, because other than the fact that they're all ambient, they're all quite different! Yamaoka definitely learned his lesson from the overly-repetitive Silent Hill soundtrack.
Now that I've made my first important point, there's no reason to go track-by-track anymore. Let's look at some of the new styles of Silent Hill introduced by this soundtrack. Track 18, "Love Psalm", could very well be a clone of the first track, at least in a stylistic sense. It's a little harder and sadder than the first, though, but still very cool. "The Reverse Will" starts with a few seconds of background ambience, and then seems to go into yet another rock song. But it turns out to be more free-style, layering some backward voice effects and a really awesome flute melody on top of a drum rhythm. The voices turn out to be children saying their bedtime prayers — not exactly the traditional backwards satanic voices, but creepy nonetheless. That's not all; "Overdose Delusion" and "Promise", a couple of the last tracks on the disc, put out more good rockish vibes. What I really want to talk about though is a the most surprising addition to the soundtrack, and one of my favorites, "Angel's Thanatos". It's bona fide hard-rock, not just in the game music sense, but it really does sound like it was put out by a real heavy metal band. Every second of it oozes distorted goodness, and although it's kind of repetitive, the hardness makes up for it.
Silent Hill 2 also has a soft side. The various piano pieces are a welcome addition; for example, "Promise (Reprise)" and "Magdalene" are fairly minimal and use the piano as their main focus. Other tracks like "True" and the ambient "Fermata in Mistic Air" make use of piano but have other stuff going on in the background. Finally, there is "Theme of Laura (Reprise)", which is every bit as cool as the original, but on piano. While a violin takes the melody, the piano and chimes weave some interesting counterpoint, making for a beautifully chilling track.
This soundtrack has it all. Yamaoka did everything right with this one, without losing the legacy created by the original. He even has a couple tracks like "Ashes and Ghost" that capture very nicely the style of the prequel. There is a wonderful pick of non-ambient tracks too, only this time the ambient tracks match them in their quality. It's also interesting to note that the ambience line is blurred for a lot of the tracks, and even in the strongly ambient ones there is a sense of individuality. The track ordering could not have been better, and it makes Silent Hill 2 one of the most fascinating soundtracks I've heard. Unless ambient music is a total turnoff for you, you're highly encouraged to check it out.
Barely two years after the release of the original Silent Hill, was Konami hard at work with its sequel. The composer, Akira Yamaoka, had concocted a new soundtrack which would be considered his best effort from his fans worldwide. What makes the Silent Hill 2 soundscapes stand above the rest? Let's find out.
The first track one hears is "Theme of Laura", which begins with an acoustic guitar playing a melody in a similar fashion to the first Silent Hill opening theme. Barely 20 seconds into the piece, an electric guitar joins in, but plays a smooth rock ballad instead of head bangin' rock. This great opener shows Yamaoka's affinity to rock elements in a majority of his works, past and present. After "Theme of Laura", we are plunged into a collection of sad, depressing themes. "White Noiz" is the usual bizarre ambient piece only Yamaoka can pull, flowing steadily as it progresses; it sets the tone for the majority of the soundtrack, a depressing and somber one. "Forest", while being initially beautiful, contains the feeling of loneliness and does its accompanying FMV sequence wonders.
While most of the themes here are from FMV sequences, the several in-game tracks present are equally as gripping and disturbing. The first one to come to mind is "Ashes and Ghost", which sounds like a boss theme. The rapid and constant drumbeats gets the blood pumping as eerie sound effects come into play, which sounds like gargling and dashing altogether. At 1:40, it quiets down and gives way to a sound effect which sounds like a malfunctioning machine ripping through something, as you hear cries of torment and pain from creatures, which makes it one of the most disturbing themes.
"The Darkness that lurks in our minds" is another freaky theme. It's hard to tell what I'm hearing, but the best way to describe it is hearing someone going through a factory, scratching his nails on the wall as he slams metallic doors, and finally starting some form of machinery, which sounds like it's malfunctioning. To get the feel of desperation, "Noone Love You" is the one that represents the emotion best. The flowing synth and slow, depressing melody is enough to get you down even when you're cheery, even for a short while.
"Betrayal" is the theme which plays before the final showdown; metallic clangs and an eerie choir gives the scene it's playing at so much impact. What follows is the final boss theme "Black Fairy". It starts off in the same fashion as "Betrayal", but the choir is replaced by a distorted female chant, which makes it one of the most bizarre if not frightening battle themes for a Survival Horror. The Ending Theme is a reprise of "Laura's Theme", but instead of going out with guitars, Yamaoka chose to use a melancholic violin and piano. It certainly works well with the climactic finale.
While I've only discussed a small part of the soundtrack, I think my thoughts cover what's to be expected to this soundtrack well enough. If you are a fan of scary, ambient, and depressing music, this CD is for you. Given Silent Hill's decent success, the CD is still being printed and should be relatively easy to find.
The Silent Hill 2 Original Soundtrack is yet another collection of Akira Yamaoka's brilliantly bizarre ambient creations and trademark rock works. Some tracks are catchy, melodic rock through and through, whereas others are pure eerie ambiance. No matter your preference in music, there is something to catch your ear on this album. Those that you may not be too fond of can still be appreciated as solid pieces of music.
First, let's cover the trademark Yamaoka rock pieces. Probably the finest on the entire album and arguably the gem of the entire Silent Hill series is "Theme of Laura". Catchy chords lead into a very strong and bold melody about two minutes in on this rock track very well known in the video game music world. Skipping ahead to track number twelve, "Angels Thanatos" is the next composition to catch your ears with a distorted guitar and heavy drums. This time around, however, we're treated to a very hard, less melodic rock. The same catchy rift repeats over and over, which makes for some traditional head banging. The next rock track, number 18's "Love Psalm," is similar to "Theme of Laura" in construction, however sounds a bit more like "Angels Thanatos." There's a memorable two minute build up to a very bold and powerful melody with great rock synths. "Love Psalm" is one of my personal favorite tracks on the album, mainly because I find it very underrated. Track number 28, "Overdose Delusion", is an ambient piece, however its still very much rock. The piece has a subtle melody and a consistent sound that makes for a great atmosphere. And finally, the slow rock ballad "Promise" wraps up the traditional rock pieces. Very untraditional to what we're heard thus far, Promise uses varies synths and a slow tempo to create a beautiful piece that redefines rock and roll.
Next, we'll be moving on to the instrumental tracks and ambient pieces with clear melodies. Your first taste of what I mean can be found on track number 3. "Forest" uses a soft electric piano and strings to create a piece that's very free and dynamic; for the best listening experience possible I recommend listening to it on a windy day. Following right up next is "A World of Madness," a more ambient piece with random string chords. Not my favorite track, however it does create quite an unexplainable atmosphere. Up next is "Ordinary Vanity," an eerie piece that uses a blow glass synth to give off an atmosphere that can only represent Yamaoka's twisted view on vanity. "Promise (Reprise)" is a very beautiful piece of music; it is a simple piano melody accompanied with a string synth that fades chords in and out. It's a perfect example of Akira's range as a composer. Another perfect example is track number 24's "True," another one of my personal favorites. A very catchy piano all back up with a cello and celestial bells. A very strong melody makes this track a real gem. Another personal favorite, wrapping up the recommended three piano tracks, is "Theme of Laura (Reprise)". A beautiful piano loops as a cello plays the main melody, soon followed by very emotional bells.
Moving on with instrumental tracks, "Null Moon" uses a bright piano and strings to add some ambience. Adding more ambience are the subtle distortments. It's getting harder and harder to label Akira Yamaoka with a particular strength or weakness. Track number 15, "Magdalene," begins promising however quickly disappoints with its development into nowhere. Now into something more exciting, "The Reverse Mill". Probably the most experimental on the entire album, Yamaoka utilizes real voices and effects in such a way I've never seen before. "Laura Plays the Piano" goes back to the typical the piano style accompanied with odd ambience; it's not bad, but there's certainly better. Similar in sound is "Pianissimo Epilogue," however it has a much more classical feel and is constructed in such away that makes you appreciate the background ambience. Now back to an experimental track, "Terror in the Depths of the Fog" is yet another amazingly catchy ambient track. It takes awhile to get into, but I promise you won't be disappointed as the 2nd half rolls in. I'm going to end with section with the final track, "UFO Ending Track". It begins with the recognizable flying saucer sound effect, however soon moves into a brilliantly distorted and brass section.
I would like to apologize ahead of time. Up next are the pure ambient pieces, a genre I have difficulty covering. Among them are "White Noiz," "Ashes and Ghosts," "The Darkness that Lurks," "The Day of Night," "Blacked Mind," "Fermata in Mistoc Air," "Prisonic Fairytale," "Silent Heaven," "No One Loves You," "Betrayal," and "Black Fairy". All are pure ambience and are directly sampled from the game. Odds are, if you've played and enjoyed the game, these tracks are going to have a deeper meaning. However if not, it's going to be difficult to get into them. Don't get me wrong, most are brilliant; some of the best ambience I've heard. However, musically, they are just not up to par with the tracks already covered. If you're debating about buying the album, odds are none of the above will convince you. I just am not able to put them in words good enough to do justice.
The Silent Hill 2 Original Soundtrack is a great soundtrack. Akira Yamaoka is a good composer with a wide variety of styles, this album containing a lot of them. From rock, to amazingly eerie ambience, there a little something for everyone. Buy it if you're a Silent Hill fan, or buy it to discover more about one of video gaming's most talented composers.
Following up on the success of 1999's Silent Hill, Konami soon started work on a sequel for the PlayStation 2. Silent Hill 2 retains the titular setting of its predecessor, but with a new protagonist and an increased focus on atmosphere and story rather than shock value. It was a remarkably mature game, and is considered by some a high point, perhaps the high point, of the series as a whole. Akira Yamaoka returned to create both score and sound, developing elements that had been merely glimpsed in the first game's atmospheric ambience, and the resulting score has become the most popular to date in the series' history.
The score for the first Silent Hill was predominantly ambient, without defined "pieces" of music as such, and on disc the tracks were merged into a coherent (if somewhat chaotic) listening experience by fading bits of one into the next or by contrasting loud pounding with quieter synth chords. Silent Hill 2's soundtrack maintains this approach, at least in part, but the pieces are much more easily defined as such, and fitting the game's movement away from immediate shocks, there are fewer loud tracks and thus fewer immediate contrasts. The album feels more well defined as a result, and its story mirrors that of the game, drawing the listener in more deeply as it progresses.
The influences of rock and trip-hop hinted at occasionally in the first game's score are prevalent here, and there are only a handful of ambient noise tracks reminiscent of the first game's score. Stylistically, however, this marks a progression rather than a complete change of direction. The opening, "Theme of Laura", is in many ways a direct successor to the first game's "Silent Hill", and even though it fits into genre of rock rather than the latter's trip-hop influenced hybrid, it retains the same expressive and melancholic qualities that made its predecessor stand out. Its instrumentation is just as unique as the first, including vibraphone, mandolin, and violin in addition to the standard electric guitars (played with heavy reverb) and drum set. It is both hard-hitting and melodic, and that forms the principal source of its broad appeal. The theme is to this day the most famous and well-remembered piece of music from any game in the series, and Yamaoka has referred to it in later scores from time to time. In "Theme of Laura (Reprise)", fragments of the melody are played by violin and then vibraphone over perpetual piano ostinati.
This minimalist flavor appears throughout, inspired as the score is by the generally repetitious genre of trip-hop. "Promise (Reprise)" builds up its ostinati (piano, synth, and vibraphone) in layers, with the occasional interjection from synth choir. "Terror in the Depths of the Fog" opens with a simple drum loop, to which layers of synthesizers and guitars are added. A bass line eventually gains prominence, as the percussion is reduced and then removed. Then it comes back and the line repeats until fade out. The following "True" also builds from a simple rising piano line, which is repeated throughout, adding a drum loop, then another piano line with vibraphone accents. Following a contrasting section, cello and vibraphone intone mournful melodic fragments. The whole is carried on a background of two quiet chords for synth choir. The composition shines not in its basic construction (which is simple) nor in its harmonic progression, which in its repetition serves to ground the other elements, but in its handling of all of these and its use of sound to achieve the greatest results from the simplest of materials.
The material of any music begins at the level of instrumentation, and Yamaoka fills Silent Hill 2's score with echoing, reverberating synth pads, vibraphone, electric piano, bell-like sounds, and anything else that gives the impression of a wide open space, contrasting wildly with the game's claustrophobic corridors and enclosed rooms. The entire score attests to Yamaoka's sensitivity to timbre. In "Null Moon", the detuning of what sounds like electric piano reveals a set of bells. "Ordinary Vanity" features a lurching 5/4 electric piano ostinato, with other elements in other meters layered on top. "The Reverse Will" opens with a quiet synth chord that suddenly bursts into a trip-hop inspired piece with a driving, if downtempo, beat with record scratching, synth, and flute. A backmasked voice that sounds much like the scratched record is of a girl reciting bits of the Christian Lord's Prayer. "Ashes and Ghost", one of the relatively few ambient noise tracks here, combines what in the first soundtrack would have been several different tracks, each developing out of the preceding in a sort of stream of consciousness. Also ambient noise, "The Darkness That Lurks In Our Mind" opens with a loud drum stroke, and some lurching sounds that gradually grow closer, then breathing and a pounding drum akin to the first game, all in polymeter. Then it cuts off suddenly.
It is immediately followed by the heavy metal track "Angel's Thanatos", distorted and grungy with its repetitive riffs and rhythms and its hollow-sounding drums. The next rock track, "Love Psalm", is much more akin to the first game's "She", using a much cleaner guitar sound and the same 70s aesthetic. In later games the same style would be adapted for McGlynn songs, particularly 4's "Your Rain". "Overdose Delusion" is harder hitting, but still melodic. In its last section, the various riffs are gradually layered one over another in a thick cloud. The finale, "Promise", is as close as anything in the entire soundtrack gets to being in a major key. Another rock-based track, it feels like a reflection of the main theme, and indeed refers to it during a transitional section. Despite its generally positive feel, its tone is ambiguous, and it closes on a suspended chord.
The Silent Hill 2 soundtrack is the perfect sequel, building upon its predecessor's strengths and improving its weaker aspects. Yamaoka crafted a polished, cohesive, and diverse album that draws one in deeper and deeper as it progresses. Although based on elements of rock, metal, ambient, and trip-hop, its music tends to defy classification more often than not. The sound of the album on disc is top-notch, and this serves to accentuate Yamaoka's impeccable aural design. Whatever tracks here that are not impressive on their own still further the disc's overarching development, putting it into the rare category of video game soundtracks without any filler. It is and remains a milestone in video game music.