Review Summary: Magnum opus? It's damn close.
Before Konami became Public Enemy No. 1, and before Silent Hill's slow, slipping death into obscurity, there was a simpler time when, out of the Team Silent masterpieces, Silent Hill 4 was considered the "bad egg" of the series. At this point in the series life, Team Silent had almost completely disbanded; Silent Hill 4 was produced by long time composer Akira Yamaoka, and the game was also originally meant to be a stand alone game titled "Room 302". When it was released people criticised it for the fact it wasn't set in Silent Hill and its repetitive level design, that saw you going through previous levels more than once. However, I thought Silent Hill 4: The Room was fantastic; these days I see it as the second best game in the series. The reason? It's graphical design was uniquely bleak, and created such an unpleasant feeling that no other game previous touched on. It's far more traditional Japanese influences were a far cry to the previously Americanized elements of the series, but developed an alien atmosphere with unprecedented uncertainty. But, the biggest asset to the game was, of course, it's soundtrack.
At this point in Akira's career, Silent Hill's soundtracks began to take a much more rock n' roll approach to its tracks; electric guitars and drums were here to stay after Silent Hill 2 but, it was Silent Hill 3's introduction of vocals from Mary Elizabeth McGlynn and Joe Romersa that took the bar further. Silent Hill 4: The Room
takes everything that little bit further and the added features previous are predominantly focused on here. "Tender Sugar"'s injection of melancholy and macabre from Mary's vocals is both emotionally electric, ominous and exciting; but couple that together with the slow, swaying drums of the track that build up to the slide of an impassioned guitar solo is one that makes for a brilliant opening track and a key indicator this is more than just an "Official Soundtrack".
Yes, this is easily the album that reads more like an Akira solo project and a compliment to the game, than a score specifically designed for the game if you look at the likes of "Tender Sugar", "Your Rain", "Room of Angel" and "Cradel Of Forest"; all the tracks are bleak, beautiful, and catchy as hell. These tracks are placed at intervals where someone with even the shortest of attention spans couldn't become bored of all the instrumental tracks inbetween; it puts the pacing of the score in a perfect position, where 21 tracks feels like 12. But the instrumental tracks on here are some of Akira's finest compositions to date, and rarely dull the experience. The aesthetic of the score is best described as blurry confusion: a feeling that sets you right into the mind of the games confused protagonist; not knowing what the hell is going on or why. And this is why it works so well with the game, that hazy feeling is prominent throughout all of the tracks and forms an extremely cohesive listening experience that correlates with the game, and clearly shows thought was put into making it work if you're listening to it on its own. It feels like an actual album, than just an extension of the game.
Silent Hill 4: The Room
utilises an array of instruments throughout, such as string arrangements, piano, guitars, acoustic guitars, synth and other electronic ambient elements that bring all manner of dynamic undertones to the album. But it's also this open-minded thinking that brings the fruits of variety; it's consistently dark and disturbing, but pulls on different ways of bringing you this same emotion. I think it's hard to pick a flaw with this OST, because it does little wrong. It's up there with Silent Hill 2
as Akira's finest moment -- and I'd even say his best if you look at the album in its context. It's far more accessible than Silent Hill 2
, and just as emotional, but they're completely different LPs to really compare. But, make no mistake, this is one of finest game OST I've ever heard; it works at optimum power at terrifying the player during gameplay, and it works at just the same efficiency when you pop this LP into a CD player, and that is a rare thing to come by.
Editions: MP3, C̶D̶
Packaging: Standard Jewel Case W/Slipcase
Special Edition: It comes with various bonus tracks depending on which version you buy.