Review Summary: (..)a near magnum opus in creating atmosphere with careful, almost intellectual, approach to composition and use of sound(...)
Akira Yamaoka – the famed Silent Hill games soundtrack composer would, in my book, be one of the people, whom I’d put amongst musical masterminds, who would not only innovate, but also in their experimentation, channel their vision, supporting it with their tools of artistic expression, rather that exploit them as the gimmick they could easily become.
The soundtrack to “Silent Hill 2” is not a dark ambient per se – not in a strict sense. It comprises of a large fraction of ambient pieces with a sprawling, ethereal sound and, on the other hand; ornery, assaulting sonic barrages. Somewhere in-between there’s a space for anthemic, yet somber instrumental pieces of loss, desperation, self-pity, and martyrdom.
The ambient part of the album is lush, but not in the strict definition of the word, rather – in the very sound of the word. Minimalistic, the sounds resonate, merge. They span and meander in a wave-like fashion, and just like waves on a surface of a dark lake, they are punctuated by small signs of activity. The sounds interfere in an asymmetric manner, creating an uneasy monotony – a sense of anticipation for something to emerge. Unnerving, they offer a sense of comfort, while constantly reminding of the presence of something wicked and twisted below. Only a thin veil separates the serenity from madness.
Another constituent of the album are the contrarious, skewed and forceful pieces. Their calamitous tone is the logical conclusion to the build-up carefully constructed by the means of the calm preceding them. Everything from the composition standpoint is still present here, but the framework is distorted, as if the structure is falling apart. Sounds are piercing, industrial. Dehumanization is the key to this part. Sounds of church-bells resound, they’re thunderous. The music evokes imagery of an ill-conceived dogma – of something evil from the moment of its conception. A moral construct of a person or a thing, that cannot be stopped or reasoned with - something inhumane, dangerous and mean-spirited.
Lastly – the instrumental pieces. These have the most human touch in their emotionality. Rock songs and piano pieces, they were, in my opinion, to represent the struggle the characters go through with their feelings. Distress, rage, coming to terms with a loss, overcoming their guilt. These songs also are rough around the edges, give breathing space because of their sound. They feel organic and emotionally genuine. A piano piece conveying an image of a person hunched over the instrument, trying to express their dismay, shivering, pressing on the keys. The song is dissonant, sloppy and progresses from sorrow to anger.
All of the above: the atonality, skewed rhythmic juxtaposition, cold emotional detachment contrasted with deeply felt segments, ease and anxiety – they give rise to an album for ages, that doesn’t rely on cheap trickery and violent pulling on heartstrings. Rather, its emotionality rises form methodically lulling the listener into placidity, foreboding a pandemonium … and sometimes not delivering. Disjointed and frustratingly arrhythmic to some, lacking in complex song structure, a collection of pieces rather than an album some may say – to me it’s a near magnum opus in creating atmosphere with careful, almost intellectual, approach to composition and use of sound, rather than puerile amp frequency manipulation that plagues dark ambient.