Cry of Fear is a custom full-conversion modification for the video game Half Life 1. (I honest to God tried to explain this better in a paragraph but… I just confused myself. If you’re really curious, click this link.) The mod was created by Team Psykskallar. The story is about of a deeply depressed individual named Simon who awakens in a dark alleyway after being hit by a car. He spends the game trying to get home and evades several monsters whom have appeared on his journey. The game is very psychological and the character spends several moments of the game wondering if he’s gone insane. It was the music in this mod however, that truly had me engrossed.
The soundtrack for Cry of Fear was created by Andreas Ronnberg, Bxmmusic, and Muddasheep. (Muddy sheep?) The style of the album is dark ambient, minimalist, and industrial. What I enjoy about the music they’ve created is that it’s seamless. It’s not something that you notice as you’re playing and it doesn’t distract you when you are exploring certain frightening areas in the game. Likewise, when I listen to certain tracks from this game while writing, I feel as though I can see everything happening in a clearer way than I had before. The music evokes an uneasy chill, perfect for the scene where a character is negotiating through dank alleyways in the night, waiting for the last subway train to arrive in an empty station, or entering a rundown building from which strange noises are coming. There are 50 tracks in all on the original soundtrack. Today, I’ll be sharing 9 of them with you.
Most of these pieces have very dark (almost emo) titles. For that reason, most everything I see from them is dark and depressing… you’ve been warned.
Lonely: For some reason, I see wind chimes when I listen to this piece. They are hanging from the railing at the end of a deck on the front porch of someone’s house. There is a lone character sitting in a rocking chair and staring out across their front lawn. They are waiting for something or someone. They sit there through the day, ignoring the hot sun as it dries out the grass and makes the temperature jump. The night plummets the sky into blue and yet the character remains where they are sitting. When it’s to the point that the character can barely see a hand in front of their face, they stand up. They pick up a flashlight, turn it on, and step down off the porch. They set off into the darkness.
Death: This is one of my favorite tracks from this game. It is undoubtedly the eeriest and evokes a haunting feeling. I feel an overwhelming sense of isolation in it but also the safety that comes from being alone. This track plays a crucial role in Book 3 of The Monstrum Chronicles.
Sophie: This song reminds me a lot of the Downtown Theme from Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines. There is a repeating low tone that conjures images of a dark town, and a whistling wind. A lone figure walks through this city, and remarks on the things he/she sees. Some of them are heart-rending images such as homeless men and women, sleeping in the doorways of old buildings. Then, there are the deserted backstreets where odd noises are emitted from. There are the people who walk by with seemingly empty eyes and others with treachery and deceit carved on their faces. There’s definitely a sad undertone in this song as well, because this is the reality of where this person lives. At one point in time, the city had been a pillar to the surrounding towns, was upstanding, and beautiful. Now, it’s just a shadow of its former self.
Dark City: The delicate piano in this piece and the way it echos seems to hint at a happier time in the character’s past. As they reflect on this time, they remember what it was like to not have to worry about things as much. This piece is actually quite beautiful and has a calming effect.
College: Without a doubt, one of the most frightening songs on the soundtrack. You instantly feel as though you are being chased by something. The hallways you run through are cramped and confined. You try to open doors but everything is locked. There is no escape. The thing behind you gets closer and closer. Your desperation spikes. You turn around wondering where it is and it suddenly springs at you. This is an intense piece and can work wonders on speeding up your heart as you’re writing a spooky scene.
One Way Or Another: Survivor guilt. That’s the first thing I feel when I listen to this piece. The character is the sole survivor of a tragic event that claimed other’s lives. No matter how this character tries to flee from those past events, his PTSD sticks with him. When he sees ordinary every day events, they remind him of what happened to him and he has flashbacks. The music has a very raw and static feel to it which works alongside the ominous, cathedral-esque background music. The character feels like he can’t escape from it.
Thoughts: Post-climax song. This is the calm after the storm. So much has just happened to the character that they are in a daze from it. They know they should be relieved that everything is over but they can’t help but relive everything over and over again. This can work in several different situations but I definitely get the feeling that the character is unable to really concentrate, and doesn’t know what to think or do. They’re still in shock.
Heart: The beats in the background are like a beating heart. The notes in this song are repetitive but also minimalist. It gives me chills instantly. The character is traveling through a place that has completely changed. It’s a place they used to recognize and know but now it’s frighteningly different. They don’t know what to expect. And they don’t know if they can trust their own sanity.
Chased: This is the scariest song on the soundtrack. This plays when Simon is being pursued by the relentless Sawer the Clown (he had to be a freaking clown…). Likewise, the character is being pursued or is in battle with a person/creature/force of nature that they can’t combat. All they can do is run and pray that they are faster and smarter than whatever is chasing them. This song hammers on you and the longer you listen to it, the more your heart rate quickens. The youtube link isn’t quite the same as the soundtrack version of this song (I don’t think it has Sawer’s shiver-inducing howl). But it’s not necessarily a bad touch either if you’re writing a horror novel in which a non-human creature is hunting your protagonist.
Next week on Inspiration Through Music, I’ll be choosing songs from the soundtrack of a movie so iconic, it has defined the way we think of the horror genre. (Also one of my absolute favorite movies and an excellent book that has inspired some of my own writing.) Selections from the Jaws Soundtrack composed by John Williams will be next week! Stay tuned.