Silent Hill Downpour Original Soundtrack
Silent Hill Downpour Original Soundtrack
March 13, 2012
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Silent Hill is one of the most well-written and best-produced psychological experiences in gaming. Although it has gone downhill for some fans, one aspect of the series that has remained consistent is its music, thanks to Akira Yamaoka. But with his decision to leave Konami for Grasshopper, Yamaoka was not available to score Silent Hill: Downpour. As part of a shift from East to West, he ended up being replaced by experienced film composer Daniel Licht, best known for his excellent soundtracks for Dexter. The replacement caused mixed reactions among the game community — some welcoming change, others suggesting nobody could ever surpass Yamaoka. Regardless, Licht succeeded in producing a score for Silent Hill: Downpour that was impressive in its own right. The soundtrack was released both physically and diigitally through Milan Records.
The main theme for Silent Hill: Downpour first gave me confident in Licht’s vision for the game. Its initial build, entitled “Stalking for Dinner”, was actually previewed prior to the game’s release. Series’ staples such as hammered dulcimer and processed beats made their return here within a vibrant blend of horror and western stylings. Its slow development yields plenty of tension, while the moody soundscapes and melodic fragments keep listeners fascinated. However, the full version of the main theme — entitled “The Downpour” — is even better. It grows from its solemn beginnings into its hectic percussive climax. The big surprise is its conclusion, however, where Licht incorporates some epic orchestral sounds more reminiscent of classic horror scores. Despite such elaborations, the simple creepy elements are still there for the people who have grown attached to them.
Licht complements the scenes of Downpour perfectly using a mixture of new and familiar features. “Intro Perp Walk” manages to keep alive the series’ tradition of using memorable openers to suck gamers into the world of horror. Licht incorporates — and personally performs — mandolin and guitar parts reminiscent of the series’ foundations. When mixed with some compelling bass lines, the final sound is very attractive. What’s more, beautiful innocent vocals of series’ favourite Mary Elizabeth McGlynn are suitably incorporated and hel players relate to the protagonist. They’re not a major part of the track this time, though. Another stunning scene-setter is “Meet JP”. which blends horror elements with a fantasy quality. Transient features such as the textured strings, waltz rhythms, and music box passages all give a sense of an innocent child trapped in a terrible scenario.
Licht’s approach to setting scenes is often much more minimalistic than the aforemnetioned tracks. Tracks such as “Don’t Go in the Basement” and “In the Ravine” are dark ambient soundscapes that blur the boundaries between music and noise. While such tracks continue to the tradition of Yamaoka’s soundtracks, they have a somewhat more cinematic feel that testifies to Licht’s years scoring horror films. They do an excellent job of creating uncomfortable silence in context, though will have a mixed reception on a stand-alone basis. A more impressive hybrid “Cablehouse Blues”, which subtly incorporates reassuring elements, e.g. brief piano motifs and ethereal vocals, into such barren soundscapes. It’s a great way to create the feeling of being temporarily safe in a worsening situation. A much more superficial entrant is “Clowning Aroujnd with Monsters” with its samples of incessant laughter.
Despite these examples of continuity, Licht often shifts away from the distorted and ominous sounds of previous games in favour of an action-packed sound. With its fast-paced string descant and edgy percussive elements, “Railcar Ride” tastes a lot more like Hollywood than any of Yamaoka’s creations. “Monastery Otherworld” and “Jump Monster” likewise are filled with ferocious rhythms and piercing leads from start to finish. These tracks still have some extraordinary features — particularly “Monastery Otherworld” with its highly experimental choral stylings — and are by no means derivative. Nevertheless, it’s clear that Licht has shifted away from the introspective focus of earlier scores in favour of capturing the feelings of panic and desperation. For better or worse, Downpour is just as much an action score as it is a psychological journey.
While several tracks feature vocal overlays, for example “Intro Perp Walk” and “Bus to Nowhere”, returning artist Mary Elizabeth McGlynn sadly does not receive an opportunity to sing a fully-fledged theme song on Downpour. Instead, the main theme song for the game is “Silent Hill”, written and performed by Korn’s Jonathan Davis. While this choice was likely brought in the mainstream, many series’ long-timers were rightfully skeptical about Konami’s decision to hire the band. But thankfully, this track is no metal mashing disaster. While Davis incorporates Korn’s trademark sound into the track, he combines it with exciting hooks and appropriate lyrics relating to the main character. It’s completely different to previous songs featured in Silent Hill, but still formidable in its own right.
Licht achieved the optimal blend of new and old when scoring Silent Hill: Downpour. Clearly having listened to Yamaoka’s scores, Licht ticks the right boxes by focusing on experimental stylings and memorable themes. Some things are surely missing that fans have come to love from Silent Hill soundtracks, such as Mary Elizabeth McGlynn’s vocals and gritty industrial ambience. However, new components such as the percussive focus, action-packed hybrids, and even the metal theme song are potentially refreshing. It’s worthwhile giving this soundtrack a chance with an open mind.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Harris Iqbal. Last modified on August 1, 2012.