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Sounds of Silent Hill

As part of my ever-revolving playlist of background music during working hours, I’ve recently begun listening to the haunting soundtracks of the Silent Hill video game series. A survival horror franchise of the most disturbing variety, Silent Hill has always had sound design to match, thanks to the unique audio styling of Akira Yamaoka.

In addition to crafting some truly haunting background music, Yamaoka has also worked closely with vocalist Mary Elizabeth McGlynn to produce a number of vocal tracks for various games in the series. I have recently begun counting two of her vocal tracks among my favorites and, having discovered them available on YouTube, thought I would share them.

Soldier’s Orders (Theme of Alex – Machine Head Mix) – from Silent Hill: Homecoming

As a big fan of the oft-maligned Homecoming, I was already familiar with the original mix of this song. It’s chilling, yet light, with powerful lyrics and a dream-like sound. But it wasn’t until recently that I heard the Machine Head Mix, which takes the same vocal track and weaves it into a plodding, heavy and almost rocking piece. It makes for exemplary driving music, incidentally.

When you consider the character for whom this song serves as a theme, the tune takes on a deeper and dangerous air. Here is the theme of a man whose thinking is so disturbed and abstract, he thinks he is fighting his own personal war yet is in complete ignorance of not only what he’s fighting for, but who he is.

I Want Love (Studio Mix) – from Silent Hill 3

It was the lyrics that first drew me to this song, and the studio variation presented above is a powerful and rocking treatment of the very subdued original. It’s a song of love, but also seems to be one of loss — as though the only person who can give the vocalist the love she needs is no longer with her. The guitar solo during the bridge is boss, and I especially love the refrain:

I need a miracle and not someone’s charity
One drop of love from him
And my heart’s in ecstasy
The high that is sending me
Is most likely ending me
I need a miracle and not someone’s charity now

Both of the above tracks, plus a great many more, can be found on the eight-CD super collection known as the Silent Hill Sounds Box.

Although I am excited for the release of Silent Hill: Downpour this March, it will unfortunately be the first in the series lacking both Akira Yamaoka’s brilliant sound design and Mary Elizabeth McGlynn’s vocals. They will be missed. Perhaps it wasn’t until I started listening to the soundtracks more closely that I realized just how much.