Review Summary: More muscular than its predecessor, making for a more inviting initial listen but less useful album.
Of Silent Hill 3’s
many, many successes (Perfect sound design, possibly the best graphics to grace the PS2, endlessly detailed environments, being spine shatteringly terrifying) its key accomplishment is giving us Heather, a wonderfully funny, charming and, most importantly, believable teenager. Main characters in video games tend to be a cypher, blank slates that allow the player to project themselves onto them. Heather, on the other hand, is a well-rounded character, one who gives off the feeling that she had a life that isn’t limited to this game. She reacts convincingly to the horrors around her, showing fear and disgust to her ever-decaying environment. Instead of becoming Heather, the player is put into the role of protector, feeling responsible for her well being and developing a strong sense of empathy for her. All of this can be attributed to the way the character was based completely off her actor, the motion capture, the voice acting, even the name, is all from actor Heather Morris. She does a phenomenal job, contributing one of the best performances in gaming history. Because so much of Silent Hill 3 is grounded in it’s main character, Akira Yamaoka’s soundtrack is made up of more songs that play off her personality instead of the environment, including a few full band songs that she might have had on her iPod. It’s another great collection of music, one that is utterly perfect within the game, but a few decisions made for the album release hold Silent Hill 3 Original Soundtrack
from the heights of its predecessor.
Opener “Lost Carol” is composed of a half minute of haunted vocal runs, it’s notable only for how amazingly it was sampled by Burial for his song “Endorphin”. Following that is the game’s opening theme, “You’re Not Here”, which is the best vocal track in the Silent Hill series. It storms forward on a ringing guitar line and an impassioned vocal take by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (Who would later mangle the voice of Maria in the Silent Hill HD Collection). On “Float Up From Dream” we come across this soundtracks main problem, Donna Burke, Claudia Wolf’s voice actor, delivering a monologue about “blood stained hands” and other occult nonsense, interrupting the thick tones that eerily spin out of the mix. She pops up multiple times in the soundtrack to deliver more mood killing speeches about things that make sense in game but break up the momentum of the album. Ironically, her inclusions are most likely meant to provide a sense of immersion in the lore of the game world but they have the opposite effect, serving only to remind you that you’re listening to the soundtrack to a video game.
“End of Small Sanctuary” pulls open on thick guitar strums; hard knock drums lend a strong undercurrent to the song. It’s hard not to nod along to it. Anyone who’s played the game will recognize it from the only portion of the game that takes place in a completely normal world. While this song plays, Heather is simply wrapping up her day at the mall, heading home to see her dad. It’s incredibly poignant in context and still a killer tune without it. It also introduces a key difference between this and Akira’s work on Silent Hill 2
. The soundtrack to the previous game was far driftier, conjuring the desolation of the environments. Here, the songs are undercut with heavy drums, placing the focus on Heather’s urgent need to make sense of her rapidly dissolving life. Along with piano and guitar lines, the percussion anchors the songs to the character; the ambient washes are still present but now feel like accompaniment to the stress Heather feels.
It’s a thick album, but parsing Silent Hill 3’s
tracklist reveals its fair share of highlights. “Sickness Until Foolish Death” is a full on hip-hop instrumental that needs to show up in Raekwon’s inbox. “Never Forgive Me, Never Forget Me” dips back into the pure ambiance of SH2 for an echo laden sound that seems to come from the back of the brain, “Prayer” is an attempt to make the soundtrack as scary as the game and it comes frighteningly close to succeeding. Pulsing heartbeats sound from under a high synth line that moves about in shafts of light on “Memory of the Waters” while “Flower Crown of Poppy” seems to source its percussion from industrial machinery.
Aside from “Lost Carol”, the vocal tracks are the predictably weak parts of the album and, unfortunately, pop up more than they did on prior soundtracks. “Letter From the Lost Days” and “I Want Love (Studio Mix) are passable but “Hometown” is a hilariously awful attempt to write a song about the town itself. Perhaps the key issue with the soundtrack is it lacks that song, like SH2’s “Promise (Reprise)”, that seems to encapsulate everything about both the soundtrack and the game.
Many will argue that Silent Hill 3
is the best entry in the series and while I have not been affected by it like its predecessor, it is a phenomenal game. It’s soundtrack, while perfect in context, doesn’t stick as an album like its predecessor. Give it a glance if you enjoyed the game, dark instrumental music, or need to creep out your carpool on the ride to work.