Akira Yamaoka – Silent Hill 4 OST Review

akirayamaokaSilent Hill 4 -The Room- once again see’s Akira Yamaoka throw himself and the kitchen sink at a bizarre mix of ambience, noise, haunting melodies and rocked out beats. This time round the ambience and noise have been put on a back burner however as we gear up for the most melodic assault yet.

Mary Elizabeth McGlynn returns with her achingly emotive vocals. They are first showcased with “Tender Sugar”, a slow but climactic almost darkwave piece with haunting guitars and a very low-res production – a trait that stays with us for the rest of soundtrack. At first I found the low-res approach a turn off and in some respects it still is – but if you listen to the whole thing all the way through, you don’t notice it after a short while. “Tender Sugar” is a stunning opener setting a new darker tone for the vocal pieces and sets up the listener perfectly for what’s to come.

“Waverer” is one of the more abstract tunes. A minimal drum, bass and warped echoing piano/guitar feedback hybrid swirl throughout the piece enticing you in further. “Fortunate Sleep -noone disturb her dead-” then slides in after a small noise interlude with a song that reminds me of “Forest” from Silent Hill 2 for some reason. It’s not very similar sounding but its in the same tone for me.

“Melancholy Requiem” begins the first real instrumental “song” with arpeggios of piano and some distorted keyboards and string implements. The whole piece has a dirty, edgy and uncomfortable feel to it – it encapsules the essence of Silent Hill completely especially as the song degenerates into discorded ambience – a trait again carried in many songs.

“Confinement” has a mean guitar and percussive edge to it and brings you back to the old guitar sounds of the original Silent Hill songs before “Drops of Shame” takes you on an eerie trip-hop ambient climb around the echoing room. “The Suicidal Clock Chime” is a short piece of humming noises and discorded clangs of a very broken organ by the sounds of things before “Silent Circus” returns to the trip-hop beats for a quirky tune that is actually quite funky and chilled out.

“Traversing the Portals of Reality” then returns to the more grungy guitar riffs of earlier tracks with a very b-movie stabbing organ sound that lends itself very well to rock music, as does the out of tune violins! Great work! “Into The Depths of Self Discovery” then gives us an unnerving “new age” track of keyboard delights that pulsates with echoing soft screams flying through the piece. It’s probably the closest the soundtrack comes to a properly laid out melody too in an instrumental song.

“Cradel of Forest” sees the return of Joe Romersa on vocals for an excellent song. His vocals came under a bit of criticism in Silent Hill 3’s Soundtrack however here they fit the song perfectly and actually made me appreciate “Hometown” much more. Mary gives us some backing vocals too in this catchy rock song.

“Resting Comfortably” is the only sub minute song but I adore it. Its just a circle of synthesized vocals (it sounds like it anyway) but my goodness I could listen to it for ages on end. Eerie and subtle it leads straight into “Nightmarish Waltz” with distorted vocals and drum loops before the essence of “Resting Comfortably” returns for “Pulsating Ambience” where the songs non-vocal parts are accompanied by disorientating percussive booming bassy boings, almost like an Indian Udu Pot but Silent Hill style!

Onto vocal track three “Your Rain” with Mary on full song with heartbreaking weariness before the anthemic chorus pounds through your heart. This one took a few listens before I really appreciated it but now its a firm favourite.

“The Last Mariachi” is a completely carefully mucked up song and shows genius is how to make something likeable out of non-tune before my favourite instrumental song appears. “Wounded Warsong” is all about building tension as the chords pull up further and further with grinding padded synths crawling you up with it. It gets me going every listen – pure class.

“Underground Dawn -Never Come-” is similar to the second track, trip-hop drum beats and random guitar ambience flows throughout before “Fever Chill” takes away the guitars for some banging around on vibraphones and keyboards. “Remodeling” is the last of the official instrumentals which takes you off on a fun paced tour de force of random sampling and noises which is what the series does best.

To finish the real soundtrack off we have two stunning vocal tracks. The first “Room Of Angel” is easily the most downbeat original vocal track for a game I’ve came across to date and for that it deserves a mention. The bond between piano, vocal and ambient background is electric and you can feel yourself losing your strength. Some may think its too miserable – I think its superb! Finally “Waiting For You ~Live at heaven’s Night~” is a bonus track that’s not live at all. Its unreleased and they have simply and somewhat pointlessly popped a cheering crowd in it – thankfully it doesn’t sound fake. The song is catchy and have great hooks – a good rock out grunge style with Mary giving it some welly!

The second disc features a spoken story in Japanese called “Inescapable Rain in Yoshiwara”. The reader speaks gruffy and performs voices for all the monsters leading to some quite bizarre and unnerving screeching and moaning! Of course it would be no fun it wasn’t set to all the noise that characterises the Silent Hill series.

Each chapter is given a note of the music scale and each one works in harmony with the next. The atmosphere is tense and I’m sure if it were in English, you could appreciate the disc a whole lot more. However even in Japanese you can immerse yourself as the reader gets well into the story and the ambience unnerves you.

So does it match the previous three soundtracks? In a word – Yes! This soundtrack took an awful long time for me to really appreciate. I instantly fell in love with 2 & 3, and the original soundtrack I believe deserves status purely on its bold statement of noise. It didn’t feel like collectively it held together as the balance of melody overcame the ambience and therefore lacklustureness random noises couldn’t hold their own.

Now however on a relisten while writing this review, I can safely say it deserves its place up with the first three soundtracks. A fine collection, a fine series – Well done Akira Yamaoka!

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Categories: ambient, composer, electro rock, indie, music, review, rock, VGM

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