What does Sebastien Skaf sound like?
Composer, arranger and pianist – this time turning his hand to a Halloween special.
The review of Sebastien Skaf – Piano Stories: Silent Hill
Just in time for Halloween, Sebastien Skaf has released a 12 track album arranging Silent Hill themes from the first four games into piano renditions. Whilst the arrangements stay true to the melodic roots of the originals, Skaf pours plenty of heart and emotion into the performances. This is a Silent Hill Piano Collection to savour.
Whilst the album rarely strays into creepy piano tones, the opening ‘Magdalene ~ Promise (reprise)’ is as close as it gets. Merging the two tracks Sebastien creates a tiny tinkle of melodies that could make the hairs on your neck stand up. Taking the rustic drama of the original funky ‘Silent Hill’ theme, Skaf leans into trembling arpeggios for the dramatic finale with prowess. Fantastic translations of ‘Tears Of…’ and specifically ‘Not Tomorrow’ also stand out from the Silent Hill original. These songs were guitar-led, created before Akira Yamaoka teamed up with Mary Elizabeth McGlynn for vocal tracks. Therefore the piano can power out the main themes and track the guitar perfectly.
The guitar-to-piano arrangements reach a fever pitch with a beautifully pitched performance of ‘Theme of Laura’. Sebastien Skaf moves from delicate to rousing to a powerful finale before returning to a dark melancholy with the theme. Piano was mainly used for ‘True’ in its original form so here Skaf slows things down a bit for a gothic ballad feel. ‘Forest’ was originally a misty keyboard synth and here Skaf probably takes the most liberty with an arrangement. The track feels lustful and longing as he tippy toes through the delicate arrangement. It is one of two tracks that sounds vastly different from the original performance and it works very well.
After a few quieter tracks, ‘Please Love Me Once More’ brings dynamism with its gothic arrangement. Here Sebastien Skaf leans into volume and power dynamics to shift from the quietest high note to a rumbling low register in the midpoint. The biggest surprise on the album is ‘Love Psalm’. In the biggest reinterpretation, the piano is almost a tango. The melody works superbly with this new jaunty and seductive vibe. Skaf leans into a bluesy element at times too and the whole thing could suit a gothic jazz bar. It’s an album standout and showcases the arrangement skills of Sebastien perfectly.
‘I Want Love’ taken from Silent Hill 3 is given a slightly pensive and muddied arrangement. It never really transforms from its lulling tone nor has a big payoff. It’s an arrangement that might get lost first listen through but the melodic complexity is there to enjoy on repeat listens. Instead, the drama is saved for ‘Your Rain’ from Silent Hill 4. The extended nearly six-minute arrangement has a dramatic final 90 seconds where Skaf lets rip on the lower keys and jams the chorus out. We get this with the original too but I wasn’t expecting Skaf to rock so hard. It is a welcome bonus. ‘Promise’ rounds out the album with another curious and emotionally charged finale.
It’s the way Sebastien leans into phrases of the melody to let them rest an extra beat for emphasis here and there that makes this album shine. Whilst the arrangements are excellent and true to the originals, it’s the emotional performance without overblowing the drama that sells every song. When Skaf does his own thing, it lands every single time too. If you are a fan of Akira Yamaoka’s classic soundtracks, you’ll truly appreciate this arrangement. If you enjoy piano arrangements of game music, you’ll love this too. This ticks all the boxes and will be my soundtrack for Halloween 2023.
Recommended track: Theme of Laura
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