Siren Original Soundtrack
Siren Original Soundtrack
October 22, 2008
Buy at CDJapan
In 2003, Sony Computer Entertainment released a survival horror game named Siren (also known as Forbidden Siren). Spearheaded by the mastermind of the original Silent Hill, the game was set in a xenophobic Japanese mountain village Hanuda. Many innocent people find themselves in a horrible nightmare and must escape from the clutches of shibito, the zombie-like Japanese folks, and reveal the grotesque scheme of the local religious sect. To convey the horror and xenophobia of the rural hell Gary Ashiya, a composer mostly known for his work in Japanese horror movie industry, and Hitomi Shimizu were asked to create an unsettling, oppressive backdrop devoid of melody. Did they succeed?
Siren‘s soundtrack is very similar to Silent Hill both thematically and musically. Like the Silent Hill series, Siren‘s music is abstract, relying on cacophony. This means it’s quite an unique work in the video game music scene. But while Silent Hill‘s dark ambience is mostly industrial, raw, edgy and hostile, Siren opts for a different route. It is, like the setting, completely xenophobic and suffocating. It strays from loud shocks, crawls under your skin, and exhumes misery. When Silent Hill feels mechanical, then Siren is natural, as is evident in the individual compositions.
Gary Ashiya is responsible for the bulk of the album. Gary Ashiya is known for his scores on Japanese horror films, notable examples being the straight-to-DVD Ju-on flicks by Takashi Shimizu and many masterpieces of Kurosawa. Those who are familiar with his work can instantly spot similarities with Siren. “Mana River Construction Site”, one of the first pieces on the soundtrack, starts out a lot like his ominous tunes on Ju-on with low, barely hearable but still hostile strings. As the track progresses, haunting voices of Shibito and bell-like sounds come to forefront.
“Hanuda Elementary School I” and “Hanuda Elementary School II” are more mechanical due to the constant thumping, but even then it’s organic opposed to Silent Hill‘s artificial approach. Various layers of sounds closely blend together and monotonous chants build claustrophobia. “Hironotsuka” meanwhile features sparse Japanese instruments and bubbly sounds to paint an aural depiction of a Japanese shrine. With “Miyata Clinic”, the album starts to succumb more into the hellish depths. The presence of great evil is easily felt, and the low sweeping male chants contribute to the uneasiness. Moving forward, “Tabori” features distorted chants with cold and creepy piano notes scattered here and there. “Shibito Nest III” and “Inferno” are one of the culminating tracks where chants are both louder and meaner and the texture of sounds thicker, maximizing the xenophobic impact.
Hitomi Shimizu’s work is generally softer. But make no mistakes, in the case of Siren this only means a different face of evil. “Arato” starts out similar to Ashiya’s tracks, but soon introduces prayer beads, frog croaks and dripping water. “Janokubi Valley” can only be described as woman’s screams echoed in the wind. “Karuwari I” and “Karuwari II” are some of the best tracks on the album and showcase Shimizu’s skills. With different voices mixed together, especially noticeable being the sounds of a girl breathing and the overtone singing of a woman, the latter being the driving force of both compositions.
The first thing that comes in to my mind when listening to “Shibito Nest I” is a swarm of bugs trapping me in the black pit, slowly devouring my body in the process… It’s one of the more interesting tracks on the album, and also features rather shocking segment of someone being strangled and a woman chaotically panting. With such a powerful track you don’t even need imagination, as the horrors that are conveyed by mere sounds are enough to feel imprisoned in your worst nightmare. Certainly a tour de force not to be missed. Hitomi Shimizu is also credited with the main theme of the Siren series, “Hoshingoeika”. It’s a traditional Japanese folk song covered in a dark coat of paint. It always makes me really uncomfortable, but it has become a fan favourite of the followers of the series.
Kimitaka Matsumae contributes only one piece to the track, “Shibito Nest II”. It seems Matsumae decided to stick to Ashiya’s sound, but it fits nicely in. There are many cinematic pieces that are scattered throughout the album. Fortunately, they serve well as a transition between full compositions, even when they stick to the usual standards of cinematic horror music. There’s also a rather funny track in the end called “THE BUSTER!”. Basically it’s a crazy Shibito rocking his heart out. Yes, it’s ridiculous as it sounds. It’s not exactly fitting, but a quirky oddity nonetheless.
Siren is without a doubt one of the best albums in the world of video game music. The way it nails the spirit of the game is impressive. It’s even more scarier to foreigners because of the folksy approach; being trapped in a drastically different cultural environment revealing the rotting side of its core is a nightmare on its own. It’s perfectly listenable on a stand-alone basis, although a certain acquired taste is needed for full enjoyment. The tracks are full of nuances and variety of sounds, so listening to the album is itself a journey, how perilous it might be. This time, however, no amount of Frommer can prepare you for the underworld ahead!
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Raziel. Last modified on August 1, 2012.