Silent Hill: Zero Original Soundtracks
|Composed by||Акира Ямаока|
|Published by||Konami Media Entertainment|
|Release type||Game Soundtrack - Official Release|
|Format||1 CD - 26 Tracks|
|Release date||January 25, 2008|
|Genres||Ambient / Ambient: Electronic / Electronica / Electronica: Downtempo / Electronica: Trip-Hop / Region: Japan / Rock: Alternative|
The fifth volume in the musical history of the provincial town Silent Hill belongs to the Silent Hill: Zero - the first game of the popular game series developed for the portable console, Sony PSP. The project appeared to be debatable, to say the least. Konami Corporation, the renowned Japanese developer and the largest publisher all in one, gave its baby for adoption to British studio Climax Group (it is noteworthy that the topic of adoption is an important story line of Silent Hill games).
Usually developers delegate to external studios only some part of the work, for example, composing the soundtrack or developing three-dimensional models of, let us say, monsters. Konami went further, wholly and entirely placed the responsibility for the famous horror on the British.
However Konami has remained faithful to only one, but very important point. Akira Yamaoka still was responsible for the musical part acting as an executive producer and looking after the development. Largely thanks to the music Silent Hill: Zero has maintained its atmosphere. Through the fault of tough people from the British shelter, it has lost much of what has made the previous Silent Hill series so popular, viz, the brilliant plot, direction and characters who whipped up emotions like the ones in a decent movie. A videogame for a pocket console is a tiny entertainment containing only a miserable one third of the full-value game. Nevertheless despite these faults Silent Hill: Zero has won the title of one of the best, or at least, the most beautiful games for PSP anyway. And a totally cinematic feel of a stylish entry gratifies even the angriest critics.
Origins is set seven years prior to the events of the first series entrant and revolves around Travis Grady, an American trucker, who just so happens to be suffering from insomnia and some other problems. He is driving his large, heavy motor truck through the dark night and is listening to the already classic Waiting for you, bonus track from the Silent Hill 4: The Room, so as not to fall asleep. Sadly, he decides to pass through Silent Hill on his way to another small town to save himself some time but as he approaches Silent Hill he sees a young girl cross the highway. Upon seeing this and trying to avoid hitting the girl he slams on his breaks and prevents the car from skidding on a wet road. Unfortunately for him, he has been dragged into the horror that is Silent Hill. An unplanned stop serves him right and he leaves the truck and goes to meet adventures along the only one deserted road. At this very place while walking to nowhere a game player receives a control and is fully immersed in the happenings: from time to time subtitles appear and at first charm keys loom up from the silence of the night (a minimal background is hardly distinctive) and then a familiar voice of Mary Elizabeth McGlynn emerges. Welcome to hell!
These very sounds relate to a trip-hop track O.R.T. performed under a last breath. Muddy beat, acid synth and smooth voice reconstruct the exact atmosphere of the eerie and foggy town of Silent Hill. The song is hazy either. Its text contains plenty of questions and none of the answers, e.g. «Maybe there on the edge is your hope, But you don't look down... Why?» But the album's opening song is Shot Down in Flames which reminds of Metallica playing acoustic guitars: (Yamaoka never concealed his love for this group) musicians gathered together in front of a fireplace like in Guano Apes’ music video or in small cosy pub full of friendly, welcoming atmosphere and performed this track at the average tempo with one can’t accuse Akira of a lack of originality. He was growing up listening to Metallica, PJ Harvey and Depeche Mode and now it’s he who is considered to be a cool teacher for lots of young composers and groups judging by a bunch of cover version YouTube videos.
It’s a third time in a row when Yamaoka’s first track is a cheerful guitar composition. The logic is rather simple. The melancholic O.R.T. with an ambient entry would only distract listeners’ attention and present the album in a slightly different way. The surprise effect is important after all in this case. Everyone is impressed with a successful idea of the opening titles and that’s why the same song is certain to be the first one on the tracklist (A hackneyed word “flashback” comes into my mind). However cunning and unpredictable Yamaoka doesn’t give up his habits so easily and shuffles the tracks at random, composes special versions for the album and throws away the very apt pieces of soundtrack from the CD.
But nobody promised a chronological order. The previous album Silent Hill 4: The Room opens with another gloomy track called Tender Sugar. Simply it appeared to be quite suitable for the occasion rather than an instrumental piece with the name speaking for itself Melancholy Requiem. By the way “Shot Down in Flames” greatly resembles “Tender Sugar” by the composition structure, i,e, not only the rhythm is the same but also the guitar performance in the entry is similar. However it has its reason. Yamaoka is using old, well-known motives though in a bit new way – without obvious self repeating. The soundtrack contains no more than 4 voice tracks and it makes sense. Such distribution allows to put all his skills and producing talent into these songs. Had Yamaolka written more tracks for the game, the result would have been common to many other composers, namely, 2 or 3 hits for the album and the other things unworthy of noting.
A very short but not less melancholy (“Mommy, am I dead now?”) song Blow Back follows the surrealistic line of O.R.T. as if hinting at soon action developing beyond the night. (you should be aware of Silent Hill 5 using the psychology of daylight fear)
By your leave this review won’t follow the chronology. Once we’ve mentioned the vocal side of the album (the strongest point of the O.S.T) let’s go on talking. As for the closing track Hole in the Sky Black Sabbath has the song with the same name. But what a man can do if in this case Joe Romersa, the irreplaceable series’ songwriter, doesn’t hide his love for Black Sabbath. “Hole in the Sky” is the final track on the album on purpose as it’s the most powerful and dynamic and probable the most driving track since You're Not Here (Silent Hill 3) was released. Miss McGlynn performs this song in an unusually aggressive manner of vocal delivery. Her gruffy voice even becomes hoarse when singing words “you’re sorry”. Or is Joe having mercy on her vocal cords and acting as a backup vocalist? No difference can actually be seen as Mary Elizabeth McGlynn as well as Joe Romersa is a skilled, experienced singer and if necessary can easily imitate a masculine voice changing different tones of voice.
Actually vocal tracks of Silent Hill were originally designed if not as a response to Rock n' Roll Monsters then at least like a tribute to then. Even if looking through the song names one can find some analogies. For instance, “Shot Down In Flames” is a well-known hit of AC/DC. Of course, it’s unlikely to be just a simple coincidence. And Yamaoka himself makes no secret of his trying to find PJ Harvey's notes in Miss McGlynn’s voice.
Yamaoka’s effort to retain the previous works’ atmosphere as well as broaden the style limits ended in a new chaotic sound: different instruments sometimes aren’t playing in unison but are leading their own lives. The clean, transparent sound is full of elements of the previous series: voices from the beyond in Wrong Is Right refer to Nightmarish Waltz, the mandolin melody in Don’t Abuse Me makes mention of the main theme of Silent Hill. Names of the two noisy tracks, viz, Not Tomorrow 3 and Not Tomorrow 4 link to the music of the first part (it’s the very place where you can find the first two fragments of this loop). The vintage keys used only in Silent Hill 2 are back only in this part. But if in Silent Hill 2 these keys were the element of fear, in this case they play a double game not only frightening but also playing some silly blues motives.
Remaining pensive and full of troubled sounds Yamaoka’s music for some reason loses here its unpredictability – trip-hop constructions being a base of the OST are resembling each other and don’t surprise with unusual tricks as formerly. Though the lack of hits among the instrumental tracks can be explained. A game for a mobile platform is designed as a small project of no great importance. Simultaneously with Silent Hill: Zero Yamaoka was working on Silent Hill 5 for new generation consoles and put all the masterpiece tracks for it. So it only remains to arm ourselves with patience.
An average 2-minute length of tracks is typical for the bulk of game soundtracks. Silent Hill: Zero hasn’t become an exception. Nevertheless Yamaoka can be excused for it as he assembles these small pieces for a solid plot, not to say a global view. And what is more important every this very piece is valuable and full of depth. It is for depth that Yamaoka is called a genius. It’s the thing we’ll be waiting for while listening, in that we’ll be looking for and finding deep sense and hidden signs.
An album booklet is worth mentioning singly. A music CD goes is in a DVD box on purpose. There are no traditional song texts inside the booklet but you can find a short comic strip from the Masahiro Ito, eminent Japanese artist, known for the monsters for the series “SH”. This comics is called “Белый Охотник”/ “The White Hunter” and is dedicated to the main fear subject - a Pyramid Head depicted also on the cover. The artwork itself relegates to the background and different conjectures start entering the listeners’ heads. Evidently, this knotty situation is almost impossible to understand for Russians without a vodka shot. As for Japanese and the rest of the world it’s frightful even to think about their reaction. Amen!
Here we are again! That's right, it's time to add another review to my Silent Hill catalogue. This time, we're looking at the score for Silent Hill Origins (aka Silent Hill Zero), a prequel in the series that reveals much about the past of the town of Silent Hill. Taking a bit of a change from the normal fare, I'm happy to say that this soundtrack definitely brings some new life to the otherwise redundant and repetitive albums I've already reviewed. The music still has that SHS (Silent Hill Sound) to it, but the score takes it in a different direction. A return to space and depth, air and echo, rhythm and a steady beat — all of which are twisted out of proportion in later scores (game chronology, of course). Sounds like what a prequel should be, no? As with every Silent Hill album, you can expect to hear a lot of atmospheric tracks, with a little decorative piano or other instrumentation thrown in for spice. You're sucked into rhythmic bass and hypnotic drum work, and treated to the occasional vocal selection. In this review, I'm going to follow a pattern that should be familiar from my other reviews, taking a look at the strongest pieces on the album. Let's take a closer look.
Beginning with "Meltdown," we're introduced to all the elements that compose the SHS. A drum kit rhythm keeps the track moving, while echoed guitar provides a bit of tension. The familiar keyboards are back, adding a synth layer while a mixture of notes create a repetitive chord of... well, discord. Later in the track, additional percussive elements are introduced to balance the original rhythm, before heading into held melodic synth segments, ever so often returning to the established sequence of patterns. This continuous resentment of the track gives it an edge, as even though we hear the same thing over and over again, it is sufficiently broken up to suggest an additional theme. I like the treatment, and I think it works well. In contrast, "Evil Appetite" is a primarily melodic track, using slow, drawn out piano accented by occasional synthesized echoes. The melody is very haunting and expressive and, although it isn't very intricate or particularly memorable, it is important to remember that these types of tracks in the Silent Hill repertoire aren't supposed to be memorable. They indicate mood and suggest illusions, adding a hint of memory for the player —for both the character's musings and the game's story.
Moving further into the album, we come to "Battle Drums." I really liked this track, because it has many separate elements that all seamlessly work together. There are three separate percussive lines, each with their own rhythms, and they match up perfectly throughout the track. Because of this, you sway back and forth between different swing rhythms, creating a really cool effect. Synthesized echoes are heard throughout the track, while a decorative and artistic piano line weaves inbetween. The end of the piece is a little strange, as everything but the synth cuts out, but I can't complain. I only wish it had been a little longer to really develop the piano a bit more. Another 'layered' track is "Snowblind." In the background of this piece, we're given repetitive guitar sets, while a mixture of hip hop rhythms and straight hits create an ever changing percussive element. A serene piano melody plays overtop, this time with a bit more presence. Noticeably absent from this piece is the standard synth sweeps, but I think this piece works better without them. Additional bass elements appear near the end, and help to add yet another layer to the mass. By far though, the rhythms are what drive this piece, and what make it so interesting to listen to. While we're on the subject of percussive elements and rhythms, let's look at "Behind the Wall of Sleep." In this track, we hear something that I think might be a first for the series — we get bongos. Many of the individual elements of this track remind me of those poetry reading sessions you always see spoofed around, but when you bring them all together, they create a very interesting track. In addition to the decorative bongo rhythm, we have a deep set hip hop rhythm, punctuated by a mass chord from the piano. Higher, slightly out of tune piano adds another edge to the upper register, while occasional scratches and echoes add the final elements to create a catchy, yet very eerie track.
Changing gears, lets look at some of the synth work found scattered throughout the album. Without question, the synthesizer-driven pieces are a signature of the SHS, and while it is sometimes too easy to say they all sound the same (hey, I've done that in a previous review!), I think two should be pointed out here. "Monster Daddy" has a very soft repetitive rhythm line that wavers between an echoed bass drum and a synth rhythm which resembles a heart beat. Haunting synth also populates the track in the first half, before becoming more focused in the second. Here, we're given more structure in the rhythmic lines, but the synthesized echoes also take on a different form, expanding and literally growing in sound with hints of shaker and 'zip' elements. I also like the suggestive city warning signal that plays in the background, adding a really great element to embody the town itself. This track really is a great example of how different elements, which otherwise seem totally out of place, come together to create a seamless stream of sound. "Real Solution" is another piece which shows this balance. Although a rhythmic element plays throughout the track, the synthesized echoes take on a more melodic form, playing structured, audible notes, and sometimes even chords. Many of the synthesized sounds in this piece resemble instruments, with various flutes and a low piano being easily recognizable. Altogether this is a very mellow piece, which the rhythms try to support. Although they are sharp and quick, they blend so well with the background that you almost don't notice their presence. This isn't to say that they are low in volume, but rather hidden in-between the synthesized elements.
Getting into my favorite part of a Silent Hill album, let's look at the vocal selections. This time we are treated to four very different tracks, all of which are voiced by Silent Hill veteran, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I simply love her voice (both as a singer and a prominent voice actress), but how it matches so well with this particular style of music is what I always find interesting. I love how varying degrees of intensity in her voice create an incredible array of reactions. "O.R.T." is a synth-driven piece, much in the same style as "Letter - From the Lost Days," but where that piece had a very prominent percussive line, this one is a bit more subtle. The entire track is almost a suggestive whisper from the vocals, while the instrumentation casually flows along. The same pattern plays over and over for the entire track, with subtle improvisations here and there adding some needed variation. The chorus brings in some additional synth for a little boost in volume, but other than that, the entire piece is more on the softer side. This is the first time that a vocal piece mimics a track such as "Real Solution," and I really like the addition. "Blow Back" is up next, and this one I'm a little less happy with. Another comparison (this time with "Tender Sugar"), "Blow Back" has an almost ethereal quality to it, featuring the signature echoed guitar work heard on the previous albums. A very simple rhythm plays throughout, while the vocals waver in intensity, mostly going from soft (but not the whisper of "O.R.T."), to medium volume. It's a nice song, and I really like the lyrics in terms of how the vocals support them, but it certainly isn't my favorite of the vocal selections.
You knew it was coming — every Silent Hill album has a rock piece. This time we have two, and both offer a different perspective which sets them apart from previous tracks like "You're Not Here," "I Want Love (Studio Mix)," and "Waiting For You." "Hole in the Sky" lets McGlynn rip through in the vocals, taking on an almost Janice Joplin sound at times. Although the vocals never enter the screaming register (which I'm grateful for), they aren't as expressive as previous tracks in the emotions that they convey. The instrumentation in this piece is pretty standard, returning to the guitar / bass / drums combination heard in previous vocal themes, but the volume has been turned up. At times, this causes the vocals to be slightly washed out, but I think that works for the way the vocals are presented — they aren't supposed to be crystal clear. Overall, it's an OK piece, but like "Blow Back" it isn't one of my favorites. "Shot Down in Flames" on the other hand, definitely is! This is the kind of track that I absolutely love to hear McGlynn perform. She gets to belt it out (and the lyrics actually make sense!), and the instrumentation really supports the vocal. This is also one of the more expressive vocal themes in the Silent Hill repertoire, in that the instrumentation has a lot more variation, and is much more 'present' throughout the track. From start to finish, this piece rocks its way to my favorite piece on the album, and has become one of my favorite vocal themes from the series.
I'm actually quite impressed with this album. I like how the music has captured the real essence of the game — that this is a prequel, taking place in an earlier Silent Hill when the tales of many of its prominent characters are only just beginning. Many of the tracks have been simplified which helps to mimic this shift in time, but the pieces also look forward in terms of experimentation and an expectation of familiar themes and styles. Of course, there some tracks on the album which have a few problems in their construction (i.e. repetition and a whole lot of nothing happening!), but as a whole there is a lot of good work here. If you enjoy the scores from Silent Hill, I certainly think you'll enjoy what this album has to offer.
Silent Hill Zero (known internationally as Silent Hill: Origins) was the first Silent Hill game to be developed by an external company. This prequel for the PSP was plagued by production problems, and finally released in 2007 after the disasterous Silent Hill movie. Konami published the game, which was developed by the UK-based Climax Studios. Although the production was outdourced, the music was not, and Akira Yamaoka was brought back to score the new game, bringing with him his usual collaborator, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn. Konami released the score through their own label, and again as a part of the Silent Hill Sounds Box.
The story of Silent Hill Zero fills in the background that proceeded the first and third games. Unlike Silent Hill 2 or The Room, it is closely connected to the series' overarching plot elements. The soundtrack is also connected to that of the first game, and the music here is certainly closer to "ambient" than the preceding two scores, but it is not simply noise music. In style Zero's music is closest to 3's, but it contains elements from all of its predecessors. The emphasis is shifted once again towards the synthetic, but piano is present surprisingly often. Most importantly, however, the soundtrack feels more connected than The Room's.
The soundtrack opens with a song from McGlynn, per tradition. "Shot Down in Flames" is a hard rock song, but the shuffling 6/8 rhythm is more more reminiscent of folk or country. This same rhythm makes a reappearance in "Murder Song 'S'", where it underlies a collection of synth pads. A brief but effective transition follows. A similar dragging rhythm appears in "Acid Horse", a mostly noise track. Electronic loops akin to Perfect Dark appear in "Meltdown" and "Battle Drums". Likewise, the improvisatory piano line that guides "Wrong is Right" through the swell and ebb of its atmosphere resurfaces in spirit in the similar line at the beginning of "O.R.T.", a trip-hop song with a sparse arrangement of electronics that seems never to rise above a whisper. When its last chord is sounded, and "Insecticide" begins, it feels more like an extension of the same atmosphere than a seperate piece.
In this way, many of the tracks are connected more by association than by shared musical material. The atmosphere behind the guitar improvisation in "Don't Abuse Me" seems to build directly into the harsh, cold opening chord of "Underworld 4". The fragmentation of the tracks themselves helps in this; while the opening rhythm loop of "A Million Miles" has little in common with the following "Battle Drums", the piano line at its end connects the two. As a result, the album feels spontaneous. Even the tracks in the middle of the album seem like organic extensions of the rest of the music. Notice how the opening rhythm loop of "Blow Back" is of a piece with the rest of the album's music. Unlike "O.R.T.", it features guitar, but everything else in the backing is synthetic, and even its form, cut off suddenly at its end, resembles the ambient tracks.
Of course, the music is intimately connected with the rest of the series as well. The complex interlocking rhythms in "The Healer" call The Room to mind, while the echoing guitar line in "Snowblind" recalls Silent Hill 2, as do the subtly morphing synth tones of "Theme of Sabre Dance". The emphasis on wandering piano lines resembles Silent Hill 3. The "Not Tomorrow" tracks are, in name and style, an extension of the first game's score, as is the sudden interruption of a synchopated rhythm loop with a long synth chord of ambiguous tonality in "Drowning". The album's closing song, "Hole in the Sky", is a rock song with some hints of metal that could have easily been sung by Joe Romersa instead of McGlynn, and it presages the opening track for the next game's score.
The development of Silent Hill Zero may have been outsourced, but the music was not, and its score is, along with that of Silent Hill 2, one of the most cohesive in the series. Yamaoka crafted a very fine album that stands along with the best of the series in its depth and breadth. The music is not very melodic and relies primarily on texture and atmosphere, but while the individual tracks are not as impressive as those in 2, 3, or The Room, the listening experience as a whole is just as rewarding.
All tracks composed & produced by Akira Yamaoka
Vocals by Mary Elisabeth McGlynn
Lyrics by Joe Romersa
Illustration by Masahiro Ito
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• 05.02.2008 Юбилей Акиры Ямаоки
• 09.12.2007 Анонсирован саундтрек к Silent Hill Zero
• 28.09.2006 Silent Hill Origins - Фрагменты новой песни!
Shot Down in FlamesMary Elizabeth McGlynn
Evil AppetiteAkira Yamaoka
Wrong Is RightAkira Yamaoka
Not Tomorrow 3Akira Yamaoka
Monster DaddyAkira Yamaoka
King of AdiemusAkira Yamaoka
Don't Abuse MeAkira Yamaoka
Underworld 4Akira Yamaoka
Acid HorseAkira Yamaoka
O.R.T.Mary Elizabeth McGlynn
Raw PowerAkira Yamaoka
A Million MilesAkira Yamaoka
Battle DrumsAkira Yamaoka
The Wicked EndAkira Yamaoka
Blow BackMary Elizabeth McGlynn
Real SolutionAkira Yamaoka
The HealerAkira Yamaoka
Behind the Wall of SleepAkira Yamaoka
Murder Song "S"Akira Yamaoka
Not Tomorrow 4Akira Yamaoka
Theme of Sabre DanceAkira Yamaoka
Hole in the SkyMary Elizabeth McGlynn