Review Summary: Daniel Licht attempts to fill the shoes of giants.
The legacy that Team Silent left behind is insurmountable. Words really can't convey the importance of the art they created together. And that's exactly what their four games are. Art. Since the disbandment of Team Silent, Silent Hill games have left much to be desired; Western development has clearly shown we don't get what it's all about. But in spite of the games themselves ranging from awful to average, Akira Yamaoka remained through it all, being the last remaining member of Team Silent to oversee the decline created by third-party developers. Despite the lack of quality from the games, Akira brought an engaging score to each of the games, and was the dim ray of hope in what seemed like a trainwreck in motion. However, after Shattered Memories was released, Akira had decided he had done all he could for the franchise and wanted to move on to different projects. This left 2012's Downpour
entirely in the hands of several different third-party developers, and without Akira composing the score for the game.
After Akira's departure from Konami, and the series, Daniel Licht was hired to compose the score for Silent Hill: Downpour. Daniel Licht is larely known for his work on the TV show Dexter, as well as various films like Hellraiser IV and Children of the Corn III. But the projects he has worked on, besides maybe Dexter, have hardly been A-list creative projects, and, as a composer, he goes unknown to most. This was a wise decision in my opinion, as it leaves out any preconceptions for as to where he'll take the score. Filling the shoes of such a beloved composer as Akira must have been a daunting task, and one would assume it wise just to imitate Akira.
As with the game itself though, Daniel takes a leap of faith and puts his own spin on things, creating a soundtrack that manages to hold some essence of Akira's sound and make a stamp of his own on it. This makes it feel like a natural and organic process that let's the ears feel at home with what you're used to, but at the same time sounds quite different to anything that has been previously done. Firstly, Downpour
has been stripped of its rock influences, that have progressively become more prevalent since Silent Hill 2, and goes back to a sound more akin to the original game. Ambience is the order of the day: droning and repetitive structures with scuttling electronics; slow and atmospheric rhythms with melodic piano. It's a sound that has been well accustomed to the series, but still comes out very fresh and interesting.
The score lets the listener feel at ease with tracks like "Intro Perk Walk", a track that features all the hallmarks of a Silent Hill score: acoustic guitar tremolo picking, filled with melody and all the beats you'd expect from a Silent Hill soundtrack; as well as the industrial sprinkles of the ambient "Bus to Nowhere" and "Don't Go In The Basement" bringing all the fan pleasing elements needed to disturb the player. But the score throws in a few odd surprises along the way: "Meet PJ" and "Stalking for Dinner" sound like a mixture of depression and optimism mashed together -- tracks that sound like they belong in Dexter, but somehow works here.
It has to be said that while all this sounds too good to be true, there are a few mistakes made. While Downpour
brings the right ingredients to cook a great horror soundtrack, the truth is, it doesn't feel scary or disturbing. Licht hits the same mistakes Akira made in later years, with a production too clean and well presented to put you on edge, and a large slab of Hollywood influence that makes the album feel like a cross between a movie and trying to deliver the goods to disturb the player. And it's this mistake that rears its ugly head more often these days -- something I feel disconnects the player a lot from the overall experience. He goes for the down and dirty approach of the original SIlent Hill score, but brings a more polished experience that in turn hurts its overall intention.
The most important thing about a Silent Hill score is its emotion. Though it is debatable that Akira's output has declined, albeit at a lot slower rate than what the games have, his soundtracks have always maintained a melancholy that few composers possess -- always bringing pure emotion to every track he makes. And this is something fan's worried about the most. How could anyone bring that level of melancholy and emotion to a game that thrives off it the most? To Licht's credit he smashes the pressure into the ground and brings a score to the table that proudly stands tall next to Akira's works. Though the production does little to help it, Licht's ideas are the refreshing injection the series needed, and is a score the man himself should be very proud of.
Packaging: Standard jewel case.
Special Edition: N/A