Retrospective Review: Silent Hill 2 Soundtrack
Review by John Lennon
Composer: Akira Yamaoka
Every couple of years I feel a desire to revisit a place I first visited back in 2001. That place is a small quaint town called Silent Hill. While I’m a huge fan of the first in the series, the second instalment holds a special place in my heart. I’ll begin by saying it’s extremely hard to quantify my experience of playing this game, but there are certain aspects that can be discussed to better understand the impact it had on me (and no doubt countless others).
Fear, loss, desire, jealousy… some of the emotions experienced in the game. Why was this game so effective in driving home such deep-seated emotions in the player? Looking back on it now (after multiple play-throughs), I realise it was the music that provided that invisible layer, without which the loss wouldn’t have been quite so sad, the monsters wouldn’t have been as terrifying, and the personal hell depicted would not have struck a nerve so deeply.
I recently ordered the soundtrack to Silent Hill 2. As it turns out, the copy was a 2001 Japanese import (https://www.discogs.com/Akira-Yamaoka-Silent-Hill-2-Original-Soundtracks/release/1142815). This soundtrack contains 30 tracks, the majority of which are atmospherics used in-game. The rest are more fully fleshed-out tracks, some of which don’t make it into the actual game, apart from the opening/closing credits.
Now, a complete dissection of the soundtrack, track by track, (apart from bore the reader to tears) would do an injustice to its composer. I feel with any soundtrack, the work should be considered in its entirety. Having said that, there are some (lesser known) tracks that really stand out for me in terms of their impact.
Track 2 entitled ‘White Noiz’ sets the tone beautifully as we are first introduced to our protagonist, James Sunderland. We already get the sense of uncertainty on the part of James as he stares into a mirror at a rest stop after having arrived in Silent Hill. The tune acts almost like a calling or a summoning at the beginning. It then moves to what I can only describe as a haze of sound, which complements the foggy area James finds himself in. This scene would have been nothing without this track.
Track 19 entitled ‘Silent Heaven’ has for me the most disturbing atmospherics, specifically around the “1:20” mark, where upon you are greeted to a pulsating low-end sound which repeats incessantly. I can recall the very moment I heard it in-game - after entering one of the apartments. Upon hearing this, my heart sank, for I knew this was the game’s way of telling me I was in for a rough ride. And it wasn’t lying..
What stood out for you in terms of the sound in Silent Hill 2? Leave a comment..
Written by John Lennon
John got his degree and masters in Computer Science from Trinity College Dublin in 2015 and is now working as a professional software engineer. His other self enjoys making music and watching 80's horror.