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It’s all a haze.  One minute I am with my friend Joey Villescas; the next, I am waking up on his floor lying on a bag of Blow Pops.  Joey is close by, and so are two more of his friends. Strewn half-empty bags of chips and warm sodas are everywhere; all of us asleep on this cold marble, none of us eager to leave the vicinity of Joey’s new Nintendo Entertainment System. It was early July 5th, 1987 and in one afternoon, Joey had altered my life’s landscape, and had allowed what is essentially the criminal element into my brain.  From this point forward, video games were in control and my personal balance was merely a pawn in their schemes.  Imagine playing Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, Kung-Fu, The Legend Of Zelda, Super Mario Brothers, and Duck Hunt all in ONE sitting and for the FIRST time ever.  It’s a cocktail that will knock you flat, and here was the proof, all of us plastered against tile, face down, in a mountain of Doritos. I have to say though, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out carried its narcotic straight through to the vein via its meticulously corrupted musical score.

Punch Out 1

Listen: Here Comes the World Circuit

It’s about beating the brain, lulling it into a paste, molding it to the desired response.  Composer’s Yukio Kaneoka and Kenji Yamamoto have spent time with their hands elbow-deep in your grey matter, measuring your synaptic response with prods, and cackling as you exhibit symptoms of the possession they have suggested to you through the archaic bleeping, white noise they have constructed.  You have been compromised.

Punch Out 2

Listen: Inside the Ring

It’s simply not enough, though, that you walk away without their branding in bold letters.  You must be the vessel to carry their scripture to the outside world.  These men want this invasion of your senses to be lasting and permanent.  You will wake up and hum this music to disinterested pedestrians.  You’ll stop people at work to describe the chiming in your head, the ringing.  There will be no need for the placebo group once you make rotten the world around you with this duo’s brand of monotonous heroin.  Once it hits the open market, the competition will become scarce and the populace will come screaming.

Punch Out 3

Listen: TKO

True masters can work their medium to a glossy finish despite constraints. With Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, Yamamoto and Kaneoka took the primitive, noodling, synth innards of the stone age Nintendo and created an operatic Cthulhu – a beast who will wow you with his vocal range, then devour your torso as you have been sufficiently hypnotized and possessed by its disease.  One of the greatest musical achievements of the Nintendo era.

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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.

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 A

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.

Silent Hill 2 B

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.

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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.

Bermuda grass, it’s all I see when I think of survival of any kind: crawling slowly across it on your belly as toes curl tightly inward, the next encumbrance hazily meeting the eyes.  It’s an exercise of methodical, deliberate pacing.  Of all things in a virulent, pestiferous zombie pandemic, why is fertilized verdure the first thing my mind illustrates? Simple, when I was 12 my friend John and I equated readiness with fitness, and fitness with crawling across high school football fields.  If we could do that, then as Morrissey posits on his 1987 single Everyday is Like Sunday “Come Armageddon come!”

Dead Island 1

Purchase the soundtrack here

It’s a pity then that we would find ourselves at the inaugural luncheon greeting the newly athirst stampeding masses, our exits swiftly clotted, those final moments screaming at each other as to whose idea that whole field business was about, and perhaps why had we not chosen to eat leaner.

Amidst the crest of this ravenous tableau, Pawel Blaszczak, composer for Dead Island: Riptide,is likely having problems of his own.  Blaszczak, unlike myself, will share no comfort in the contiguous life-long friend.  His deck of Tarot cards insurmountably focused on towers and swords, its major Arcanum anchoring far below the surface.

Riptide’s descent along its knotted, grease-soaked rope begins without regular sunlight “Two Six Heave” only hints at the coming famine, taming its persistent, inevitable collapse with a false sense of strength.  The group gathered around this fire will fall, then be eaten, then eat the yet to be eaten!  Just because people make chest-heavy speeches at noon does not guarantee a diminished appetite.  Zombies are not known for their sense of portion control.

“Delusions of Anchors” and “Death Floats” craft panic through its slothful, near comatose steps banging its drum, pulsing its gong until its jaws slip around whatever lazily follows behind you, be it legs (you must really learn to pick up your knees), or hands resting, nestled in your back pants pocket.  Blaszczak incomparably trickles his poison on Riptide.  “Fever Dreams” and “Solace In Swells” wobble inside you, their throb thickening as it travels outward from its center, reverberating its toxin, closing pathways.

Dead Island 2

Blaszczak’s fetid marriage of sloshing salt water and piles of seeping, azoic corpses reaches maturation as he delivers the stoical hindmost move of his rook, bracing the door (“It Can Last”) in preparation for his final moments of cognizance (“Treading Blood”).

Dead Island: Riptide is a score so enveloped by the malevolence of blood and the morass of a labored, tenuous sentience that long term exposure is certain to debilitate and compromise its listening audience, and that’s the point.  Fear is meant to subjugate, to corner, and Blaszczak’s meticulous cursed scripture aims to drown you in its opaque crimson sea….Best you stay low on that grass.

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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.
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