Silent Hill 4 Original Soundtracks
Silent Hill 4 The Room Original Soundtracks
Konami Media Entertainment
June 17, 2004
Buy at CDJapan
Silent Hill 4: The Room was released in 2004 for the PlayStation 2, the series’ third installment on the platform. Originally developed as a separate title entirely but altered partway through development to fit into the series, The Room’s gameplay functioned very differently from the preceding Silent Hill games, with an increased focus on inventory management. The game was released to mixed reception, and it would be the last Silent Hill game produced by the series’ original creative team. Akira Yamaoka again provided the soundtrack, calling upon the same vocalists who had worked on 3, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn and Joe Romersa.
Silent Hill 4‘s soundtrack develops elements from the preceding two games in the series, although it represents a further step away from the style of the first game, with its utter absence of purely atmospheric tracks. Yamaoka’s attention to sonic detail is as keen as it was in the first two games, and easily more so than 3. In addition to the songs (and their singers), The Room inherits the structure of its tracks from 3. Instead of simply a rehash of its predecessors’ styles, however, The Room’s soundtrack presents a refined version of them. The individual tracks are longer, and this gives Yamaoka more space to let his ideas unfold in a deliberate manner.
As usual, he finds unexpected potential in very simple ideas. “The Last Mariachi” comprises nothing more than a guitar improvisation, but the atmospheric noise surrounding it threatens to drown it out and gives the whole an oddly ominous quality. The bells in “The Suicidal Clock Chime” reverberate across a seeming expanse. In “Resting Comfortably”, the outwardly placid surface of echoing chords belies the track’s odd sounds, its movement in fits and starts. And all of these are short, with about a minute of the disc allocated to each.
The longer tracks develop in much the same manner as 3’s, by establishing a pattern — melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic — and subtly altering it as the track progresses. The method is never predictable, and while the rhythm usually stays consistent throughout, with the melodic/harmonic content changing, in the first section of “Waverer”, this is reversed, with a steady ostinato over a dragging drum beat, the latter changing its accents with every reiteration of the basic pattern. It eventually dissolves into synth static.
The three-bar synth ostinato of “Silent Circus” seems like an echo of the preceding track’s distorted bells. Improvisatory synth lines comment on the whole and after a section filled with them becomes filled with static interference, the drums attempt to reappear a beat early only to be artificially cut off, and again, but then to come back on-beat after one iteration of the ostinato. “Wounded Warsong” matches up to the best of Silent Hill 3‘s score, with its driving, descending rhythm and perpetually ascending ostinati clashing to create an impression of climbing upwards and being dragged down simultaneously. Synth choir enters for a more grounded, if ambiguous, middle section.
The electric guitar features more prominently in the main score in The Room, used as yet another repeating element rather than for melody or harmonic progression. The repeated bare fifth (power chord) to tritone in “Confinement” is treated like any bassline, although in the middle section a cleaner guitar sound takes center stage to great effect. In “Traversing the Portals of Reality”, an echoing tritone on guitar repeats underneath another guitar playing broken chords. “Underground Dawn – Never Come -” simply uses the guitar to create a harmonic cloud surrounding its other elements.
Of course, electric guitar plays an important role in several of the songs as well. Joe Romersa sings “Cradel of Forest” (sic), a hard rock song which opens with a string of guitar arpeggios influenced by “Stairway to Heaven”. The pseudo-poetics of the lyrics are banal bordering on inane (They laugh, whispering hand in hand/Just like children like to do), but Romersa’s performance lends them an odd sort of conviction that makes it all work. “Tender Sugar”, the album’s opener, is a slower song with a quite active bassline and a tritone-dominated pre-chorus. McGlynn’s breathy, emotive performance is perfectly attuned to the song’s tone. It closes with its opening guitar arpeggio slowing down and coming to a halt. “Your Rain” opens ambiguously, drifting back and forth between F-sharp minor and A major, only conclusively settling on the former after the verse. The first part of the song is played with a clean tone, and the second with heavy distortion. The return of the B section in the latter half is the emotive peak of the song.
The game’s theme song, “Room of Angel”, is dominated by electronic ambiance and piano instead of guitar. Slow, meditative, and repetitive, its simple harmony and spare arrangement accentuate its haunting melody. A dark, morbid lullaby sung from the perspective of the game’s villain, it once again shows Yamaoka’s talent for expanding the simplest ideas to their limits. The following bonus track, “Waiting for You ~ Live at Heaven’s Night”, is a well-executed song, but it doesn’t stand up to the other ones on the disc, and the overdubbed crowd noise is unbelievable when McGlynn can clearly be heard singing both lead and back-up vocals.
Silent Hill 4: The Room as a game took the series in a new direction, and although the score does not depart quite as radically from tradition, its adaptation of the series’ sound differs enough that it entirely holds its own against its predecessors. The songs in The Room are more polished than 3’s, and, like the underscore, given more time to expand and develop. Even without direct links between tracks, the score moves fluidly from one piece to the next, without sacrificing variety. Both as a separate album and within the context of the series as a whole, it is an excellent soundtrack.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Ben Schweitzer. Last modified on August 1, 2012.