It’s 2001 and there is something indefinite, mildly uncertain as Akira Yamaoka thrusts his hands deep into Silent Hill 2’s murky consistency. Yamaoka was never one to court or linger below its tenebrous soil for a moment longer than required, but this morning is different. His curious nature has led him away from the safety of the mud’s shallow end. He paces… visibly unsatisfied by the limitations placed upon him while probing its grounds. In frustration he turns to his tools to cobble and to disseminate the vision he sees… the droning ever louder and the instability of mind harder to contain.
Akira Yamaoka’s take on the world of Silent Hill 2 disassembles that formulaic and ordinary chromatic scale of horror soundtracks: thwarting its symmetry and schlock. Removing both its rubber fangs and prosthetic wolf-man fur reveals something far more disturbing: the garish, the muted irreversible plain of desolation. Nothing will ever grow here; the rain is constant but never enough to soak the vegetation. The sun passes overhead, but its rays lack the ability to penetrate seedling. The four sides of its compass are void of companion, and empty of sentiment. It strands its single inhabitant to cycle through its colorless purgatory, the duration of which remains undefined. Yamaoka’s eyes, stern and unflinching, peer through its fog. For every nuance, Yamaoka is ready with red pen as the chords for Silent Hill 2 are written within the entrails of its character study.
Silent Hill 2’s score becomes something beyond the frames first set in motion by Yamaoka.
It becomes evident from piece to piece how far and how quickly the work escaped its creator. Theme Of Laura and White Noiz establish only a partial view of the trajectory downward. The initial weight and scope of lamentation of these two pieces seem obvious given the subject matter of Silent Hill. The compositions details get murkier though, more clouded with the haze of the world they inhabit. Null Moon and Heaven’s Night complete the record’s first cycle by finely sketching the menace of a tapping foot. Alone In the Town and Block Mind furthers the indefinable dread moving from the nervous energy of Heaven’s Night towards the pervasive sweat of knowing that each moment spent here guarantees, maneuvers you infinitely closer to something much more hideous among Yamaoka’s gallery of androgynous vapid mannequins and foreboding ruddy canvas.
Silent Hill 2 never quite prepares you for its caustic changes in atmosphere, its eagerness to draw fear, and its partiality to avarice. Angel’s Thanatos cripples with its lead, strumming your cheek violently along the bridge of its instrument. It is Terror in the Depths of the Fog though, that nails the indescribable paralysis of wading through something truly foreign: its thickets of sopping mold, streams running hot in one direction, the wind more akin to vapor than actual force.
It’s Yamaoka’s compromised lightness though, that actually builds the most vivid horror. Magdalene, True, Laura Plays the Piano, and Pianissimo Epilogue are built in mourning, plaintive measures to capitalize on the most universal of terrors: failure. His affixing of the personal, internal struggle of regret against the clamor of dragging scythes and blood curdle are what give Silent Hill 2’s score its rotting, corrosive power. The Reverse Will stands as one of Yamaoka’s most brilliant examples of this. Straining all of these ingredients, harnessing the collective misery, Yamaoka’s piece takes us inches from death’s gasp with the gruesome momentum of a fall from the light. He never once struggles to communicate, to emphasize that you’re past a point of reconciliation and outside the reach of benevolence.
Twelve years after the release of Silent Hill 2, there has been no equal to Yamaoka’s singular, clandestine recipe, and the realms of the survival horror genre cannot hold nor claim him. His innate abilities, his genius surpasses even the most celebrated of his contemporaries. This is my way of saying thanks to Yamaoka and a gentle nudge to Konami to re-release his incredible works in the U.S.
Having fallen in love only 4 times in his life, Geno counts Double Dragon as his second and truest love. He has worked in record retail since 2000 and believes David Hayter to be the one true Solid Snake. Currently, he is putting together a band which only perform songs from Street Fighter 3rd Strike.