Inspiration Through Music: Akira Yamaoka

When it comes to the world of soundtracks for horror video games, there are very few at are as well-known and prolific as Akira Yamaoka, the composer for the Silent Hill franchise as well as other games. Silent Hill evokes an energy charged, haunting aura that always makes one uncomfortable and looking over ones shoulder. With a blend of rock, trip-hop, and ambient that is unlike most anyone’s music out there, he has effectively created a world that we can lose ourselves in when we listen to some of his breath-taking and chilling scores. My personal favorite soundtrack of his comes from Silent Hill 4: The Room, a playthrough that my favorite LPer, HarshlyCritical just finished up. The story line and the twisted antagonist for this title really engaged me as did the various themes heard throughout the various worlds of the game.

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve listened to Yamaoka while working on writing projects. I was introduced to his music by a friend in highschool who burned me a couple of the soundtracks to listen to. I knew very little about Silent Hill then, but was still amazed by the music and knew it would be an excellent inspiration for not only my horror titles, but also a historical fiction I was working on and an incredibly secret project which has been in development for several years. Today, I’m going to pick five songs to share with you and tell you what I see when I listen to them. Enjoy! [Just so you know, I had the WORST time trying to pick just five. I had thirteen listed here before…]

Wounded Warsong (from Silent Hill 4): He picked up the closest weapon he could find; a piece of rebar with a chunk of concrete still stuck to one end. It had heft but he worried about how quickly he could act with it if danger appeared. He walked closer to the burnt out apartments, staring up at the black flares that traced the walls outside like a mad artist’s work. Why had the letter led him here? There was nothing left here but the memory of a terrible event. As he looked up to the windows above, he gasped and nearly lost his grip on the rebar. Standing in one of the windows was the outline of a man. It was hard to see beneath the glaring light of the sun but he almost could have sworn that the man looked just as charred as the burn marks on the walls around him. And just as soon as he’d been sighted, the man was gone. For a few moments, he stood there, wondering if he’d been seeing things. Then he started toward the building. There was something here that someone wanted him to find. He had to follow through.

A Stray Child (from Silent Hill 3): Ruins. He stared, his mouth hanging open. Lost within these woods. He’d never expected to see anything that might remind him of civilization so far out here. What were they? He examined the symbols on the outer walls, the columns at the door, and the vine-covered windows. It looked a lot like a mausoleum. If that was the case, who had been interred out here. Who had been long forgotten in these woods that didn’t seem to have an end? He had no other options. He had to find out. His mind warred with him to keep going. His curiosity outweighed his security. He worried that if he continued walking through the woods, he’d leave this place far behind, the only place that had been different in this forest since he’d found himself here. He couldn’t let it go.

Breeze in Monochrome Night (from Silent Hill 3): She tightened her grip on the wheel as she drove. She felt her memories drifting back to a time that everything was okay, a place where the horrors that lurked outside her windows couldn’t touch her. The warm summer wind touching her face and blowing her hair down into her eyes. She heard Brody laughing nearby. She glanced up and saw him, a wide grin on his face, his dark eyes filled with a light that she had nearly forgotten about but craved. She opened her eyes and slammed on the brakes. A bear had wandered into the road. As her car screeched to a halt, the bear grunted and ran off into the trees. She put a hand to her heart, trying to calm herself. That time she remembered could only ever stay a memory. It would never be that way again. (From my apocalyptic novel in progress, Cold Walls.)

Theme of Laura (Reprise) (from Silent Hill 2): In her dreams, she saw a two story white house. There were shuddering pipes. The roof leaked when it rained. And sometimes, they’d hear mice in the walls. But it was home. There was a man standing on a ladder in the front yard, smiling down at her as he wiped a fresh coat of paint over the primer on the second floor of the house. She ran, hair tossing behind her, a smile warming her cheeks as she followed the little body in front of her. Squeals of laughter rose up into the wind and soon a joyous face looking over a tiny shoulder sent a bloom of warmth through her. She reached her hands out and caught the little girl and pulled her into a tight hug. They collapsed on the ground together, their laughs rising up over the neighborhood. She opened her eyes. She lay on the ground on the same front lawn where she had imagined this future happening. The grass was no longer green, autumn draining its life into the earthy brown she saw everywhere else. The house was unpainted, and probably still had the same quirks that she remembered about it. It had never been hers. Oh, how she’d wanted it to be.

Creeping Distress (from Silent Hill: Shattered Memories): He’d heard a noise. He couldn’t be sure where in the house it had come from, but he knew he wasn’t alone. He froze where he was, too terrified to move for fear of being heard. If you don’t move now, you’re going to die right here in your bed. Go. He stood and slid to the wall, flattening himself to it. It took all of his courage to peer out the door. Creaking in the hall downstairs. And then a worse sound. The stairs, one by one, cracking and groaning. Whoever was inside was coming up. There was no way out.

Interested in learning a little more about Akira Yamaoka’s work? Check out his official website here!

Next week, I’ll be bringing you some fun indie tunes from a wonderful husband and wife duo that I just discovered. Amarante is next week! Stay tuned!

~KSilva

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