(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, Ho-rror Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)
Music and sound are equally important when it comes to any video game or movie, almost as much as visuals. Just about any John Carpenter film is a great example of a movie can really benefit and improve with an eerie soundtrack. It helps set the tone and amplify the mood while crawling under your skin and making its way to your brain where it will stick. The same can be said about one of the greatest survival horror games to make its debut on Playstation (where video game music really began to take off), Silent Hill from Konami. You know, back when they treated their properties with respect instead of trying to turn them all into Pachinko machines.
I can’t think of a more shining example of a soundtrack that captures the look and feel of the game it accompanies better than Silent Hill. The rustic, dried blood aesthetic is captured perfectly in sound by composer Akira Yamaoka that gives a dooming, oppressive feel to the overall weight of the game. Imagine the sound of old, worn down machinery, the banging of decaying, rusted metals with a piano that sounds like it’s been abandoned in an old house, covered in dust. That is the music of Silent Hill and it’s still chilling to the bone, even after eighteen years. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long since the game was first released on Playstation. I remember keeping up to date with it through magazines, like Electronic Gaming Monthly and Playstation Monthly (it was cool to add “Monthly” to your magazine back then) and I was at a local video game store the day it was being released. Being in upstate New York, the store’s delivery was late because of the winter weather, but my mom was cool enough to let me wait around at the video store and finally when the game arrived, I bought it right off the truck (literally) ran home, played it and was spooked out of my mind. Looking back, the music had a lot to do with it. It repeated in my mind and as it looped in my head at night, it would be the soundtrack to all my dreams, good or bad.
The soundtrack has an overall vinyl type of quality to it. Like, it’s meant to be played in mono with a warmer sound, that sort of thing. Now that Mondo has been releasing the Contra and Castlevania soundtracks, both of which are 8-bit and 16-bit, we move onto 32-bit sound. This may not sound like a big deal, but we were moving away from computerized keyboard sounds and making a giant leap into being able to use actual instruments. Silent Hill makes full use of this, making an odd variety of hip-hop stylized drum and bass with piano and stringed instruments, mixing aforementioned old machinery and rusted metals. I can’t praise this soundtrack enough. It’s the stuff nightmares are made of and I mean that in the highest regard. Silent Hill was the first soundtrack to really stick in my head and give me chills. It kept me awake at night when I was younger and I’m glad it’s now available from Mondo on a 2XLP.
Of all the images you could use to represent Silent Hill, I’m sure most of us conjure up the images of the nurses, perhaps the school or even Harry Mason, the game’s protagonist, himself. Artist Sam Wolfe Connelly brilliantly uses the subtle image of Harry’s crashed jeep abandoned in a white void. It’s what brought Harry to Silent Hill and it’s the last thought of something that was supposed to keep you safe. The thought of leaving it means you are on your own in unfamiliar territory. To me, it captures the unknown fear you are expecting to encounter that the soundtrack perfectly captures. The inside image captures more of what you would expect upon exploring the hellish place, Silent Hill. A goat’s head on a woman’s body that is partially missing… I’m not quite sure how to describe it, but that can be said about most of Silent Hill (again, that’s a compliment). The discs themselves are a translucent grey with white splatter, perfectly representing the fog and the floating ashes. Each one also has a label of the cult’s triangle symbol.
Silent Hill has always had a remarkable soundtrack, probably some of the best and most memorable and Mondo’s vinyl release is the best way to listen to it and remember how the games use to terrorize you. There are times that the music sounds like it’s warping or wobbling and I honestly couldn’t tell if it were my records or if the soundtrack was intentionally doing that. It doesn’t take away from the listening experience, if anything it heightens it. After all these years, the original Silent Hill soundtrack is still able to raise the hairs on my neck.