Silent Hill Zero Original Soundtracks
Silent Hill Zero Original Soundtracks
January 25, 2008
Buy at CDJapan
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.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Andre Marentette. Last modified on January 17, 2016.