Yes, I've had a bit of a preoccupation with scary things as of late but can you blame me? Stores are already putting out Halloween decorations and there are trailers for horror films everywhere. Hey, if we're gonna start celebrating Christmas right after Thanksgiving then why not start celebrating Halloween now!
But seriously, I've gotten into the spirit of the season and lately there hasn't been a better way to bask in the spookiness then by listening to some music fit for the mood. No I'm not talking about One Direction (sorry, it was far too easy), I'm talking about soundtracks. Whereas most normal beings have popular music in their library, mine is filled with soundtracks from all manner of films, video games and television shows. It's not that I think all pop music is bad (though some of it REALLY is), but to me music is supposed to inspire and speak to you in a way that nothing else can. Soundtracks do the trick for me. I know I'm not the only one, everyone within my geek clique owns at the very least several soundtracks, all of which they highly recommend.
Today I'm going to recommend a soundtrack perfect for the Autumn season, one that you'll want to listen to with all the lights on: Silent Hill.
Or if you're a glutton for punishment, listen to it with headphones on in the dead of night.
Silent Hill is a PlayStation video game that came out in 1999. It was helmed by Konami Entertainment and created by Keiichiro Toyama who is also known for the 'Siren' series. Silent Hill is considered by many to be the father of all current survival horror games as it brought new and creative ideas to the horror genre. Rather than simply throwing monsters and scary locations at the player (though it certainly does that as well), SH gets under the players skin by playing with the psychological aspects of horror. We follow a widowed father named Harry Mason as he traverses the small town, 'Silent Hill', to find his daughter, Cheryl. As he explores the not-so-abandoned town he stumbles into an occult plan to bring about a terrifying deity that my have some connection to Cheryl.
The game masterfully makes the player on edge during each second of gameplay. I won't get too far into why the Silent Hill game or the series in general is so amazing, as I'll probably go over it closer to Halloween, but I will tell you why the soundtrack is a huge part of it's success.
A huge component of horror is atmosphere. If you can't convey a sense of dread or unease then it'll be harder to make others feel anything, let alone scared. Akira Yamaoka composes a soundtrack that perfectly conveys what SH is all about. The opening theme sets up the game perfectly, the urgent strumming of the mandolin at the beginning has a haunting, creeping melody to it which goes into a more 'rocky' portion of the song that, while catchy, feels vaguely sorrowful and hopeless. When listening to the soundtrack on it's own you'll discover that most of the songs can't quite be classified as, well, 'songs'.
It is cold, hard ambient music that barely contains a melody. They're constantly riding the line between music and noise. Yamaoka relied heavily on industrial music as the influence for his music. 'Beats' and 'melodies' are made from clanging metal, disembodied growls, crazy rapid drums, static, ghostly cries and even rasping breathing. Imagine running from monsters all while that plays incessantly in your ear. Don't get me started on the theme in the final battle; the high-pitched static feels like it's trying to grind you into submission. I nearly had a real life panic attack when I tried to soldier on and beat the final boss!
'Oh God Oh God Oh God Oh God!' ~Me
However, like the opening theme, there are some normal songs scattered amongst the more terrifying tracks. The song 'Not Tomorrow' is a sad, guitar heavy melody that fits very well with the scene it's paired with. 'Killing Time' sounds like it should be in a grindhouse flick with a freaky as heck guitar. 'She' is a rather emotional ballad that reminds me of a certain famous folk rock song. While I swear that I've heard 'Silent Hill (Otherside)' in an episode of Twin Peaks.
All in all, the SH soundtrack is designed to make you feel distressed and paranoid and it does the job perfectly. I actually wouldn't suggest you listen to the soundtrack by itself too often, as it does it's job too well. You'll start seeing things out of the corner of your eye and swear on your grandmothers grave that someone or something is watching you from out the window. But for ambience at a Halloween party or even a haunted house? Definitely. Still, I encourage you to buy the album if only to appreciate the genius and importance this music had on a genre that's going strong to this day. If only the games they made today had this caliber of music...
Would you agree with my opinions on the game and it's soundtrack? Is there another soundtrack I should talk about? Let me know in the comments below! And please support these amazing artists by BUYING their songs and not downloading!