If you’re a fan of Silent Hill, you’re probably a fan of Akira Yamaoka. The cult composer’s artfully atmospheric music is an integral part of what makes the much-loved earlier games in that franchise so unsettlingly immersive, and though he has gone on to work on a varied range of games – from Shinji Mikami and Suda 51’s Shadows of the Damned through to the latter’s Lollipop Chainsaw and into the realm of shooters with Sine Mora and Liberation Maiden – Silent Hill remains the property that Yamaoka’s name is most closely tied to.
All of which makes the news that he will be touring the UK with a live band this Hallowe’en, playing music from Silent Hill, incredibly exciting. Beginning in Bristol on October 29th, the tour will move through Cardiff, London and Southampton before finishing up in Manchester on November 3rd, and the bill promises “guest DJs, audio-visuals and more”
So what better time to celebrate some of the man’s music for the series that made his name? Let’s take a look at some of the most iconic music from one of horror’s most iconic franchises.
1. Silent Hill Theme
The song that prefaced a thousand nightmares. That opening jangly guitar riff sends a shiver down the spine even now, more than fifteen years since it first snaked its way along our nerves. The soundscapes created by series’ composer Akira Yamaoka have lost none of their potency in the intervening years, and if anything it’s more effective with the familiarity of experience; it’s the first thing you’ll hear when you boot up the game, and it’ll immediately force memories of that foggy town back to the forefront of your mind.
This piece is the first example of a feeling that is threaded through much of Silent Hill‘s music – it’s not what you might expect to hear soundtracking a piece of horror media. Sure, it’s brooding, atmospheric and haunting, but it’s also subtly beautiful and possessed of a sense of fragility – surely befitting a series that’s as much about what’s going on within its characters as it is with what’s happening around them.
2. Theme of Laura
This one may be more well-known than the theme of the original game. Theme of Laura again displays similar themes to the previous track, but this one brings with it a massive helping of isolation and loneliness. What’s distinctly odd about this song is just how damn listenable it is; it feels sad, though more maudlin than melancholy. It seems to portray a sense of both longing and tragic inevitability, which is rather fitting considering where Silent Hill 2‘s story goes – Theme of Laura is effectively Silent Hill 2‘s arc in a thematic nutshell.
3. Rain of Brass Petals
Another Akira Yamaoka instrumental work, though this soundtrack entry doesn’t actually appear in the game at all; but what a fantastically evocative name for a piece of music. It’s another piece that displays those Silent Hill motifs of strange, restrained beauty and isolation, yet this one is of a more darkwave bent. It definitely has an ‘end credits’ feel to it, as if it exists to solidify in your mind the thoughts and feelings of what you’ve just experienced – almost like a kind of aural bookend – and that’s exactly where it was used in the awful 2012 film, Silent Hill: Revelation 3D, making it one of the very few things that film did right. Like Theme of Laura, this is another wonderfully listenable piece of music, and it’s especially good to listen to at night with earphones for that added layer of atmosphere – it’s almost calming, in a rather moody kind of way.
Of course, there’s another name that’s become almost as synonymous with Silent Hill‘s music, and that’s Mary Elizabeth McGlynn. Since her first appearance with You’re Not Here, she’s become a series mainstay, providing vocals all the way up to the latest title in the franchise, 2012’s Book of Memories. She also voices Maria in the HD version of Silent Hill 2, but the less said about the HD Collection the better, quite frankly.
4. You’re Not Here
Akira Yamaoka/Mary Elizabeth McGlynn
Much like the first game’s introductory piece, You’re Not Here doesn’t really set the tone for the horror to come, though this one is a somewhat different proposition; a fairly catchy, up-tempo pop-rock song, Silent Hill 3‘s opening isn’t particularly evocative of death cults, twisted theme parks and killer bunnies, but that jangly guitar is still unmistakeably Yamaoka, only this time with the addition of McGlynn’s powerful, emotive vocals, singing lyrics that tell of dependence and longing. And it’s still got that trademark atmosphere and that strange sense of yearning threaded right through it.
The event’s flier promises more to come at the shows themselves, and we can but hope there might be a surprise appearance by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn.
Yamaoka’s tour promises to be a real Hallowe’en treat for fans of all things Silent Hill. And what better way to experience the darkly claustrophobic aural atmosphere of the series than in a stark concrete basement in Hackney? Tickets for the events can be bought here.