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Silent Hill Homecoming Soundtrack (US) :: Review by Resk

Silent Hill Homecoming Soundtrack (US) Album Title: Silent Hill Homecoming Soundtrack (US)
Record Label: Konami of America
Catalog No.: Promotional
Release Date: November 24, 2008
Purchase: Buy at eBay


Well, it seems like an appropriate name for a return to the Silent Hill franchise. Silent Hill: Homecoming is the second Silent Hill title we've seen this year, but the game continues the trend of Origins to fill in the Silent Hill canon. The good news is that the soundtrack from Akira Yamaoka is as good as ever. The recognizable style from previous soundtracks is preserved, while new elements are introduced to change things up a bit, including an atmospheric style that Yamaoaka describes as "a different kind of fear" to match the franchise's first appearance on a next-gen console. Additionally, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn makes her fifth contribution to the series with four vocal themes — some of which may be the strongest of the vocal themes to date from the franchise. All of this promises an exciting album, but does the Western promotional soundtrack deliver? Let's take a look.


Beginning with a set of atmospheric and melodic tracks, let's take a look at "Witchcraft". This is a great way to start off the album in terms of scoring, because it perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the album. Many of the recognized Silent Hill sounds and effects make an appearance, including the fuzzy and foggy piano reverb, the synth reverb, the background flute-esque effects, and the overall scratch to provide a little bit of haze. Short, repetitive melodic segments are featured throughout the track, giving just enough variation to give the piece some movement. A light rhythmic segment is also included in this track, bringing back the familiar syncopated rhythms through bass drums and associated drum synth. Of course, a track like this wouldn't be complete without a little improvised decorative piano, and the portions in this piece are minimal, providing just the right accent for the rest of the piece. Following up from this, "Cold Blood" brings many of these same elements, but presents them in a totally different way. Among the synth chords, there is a really interesting hint at thunder in the background. It's really just a large rumble, but with the scratchy synth in the background, gives the impact of rain. This piece features a stronger piano, but the volumes that it receives are perfect for showing off a change in mood. When it becomes stronger (and when the lower octaves get introduced), the background synth increases in volume, only to die away as the piano segment stops. The heavy rhythm in this piece is also fantastic, as it blends in extremely well in the second half of the track, with the melodic elements introduced in the first half. Throughout all of this, the piece stays within a relatively small range of notes — within one octave for the most part, which is really cool.

Next, we have "The Terminal Show," a slow and deliberate piece with a driving, repetitive, yet melodic piano line. Synth and scratch fill in the background, before changing gears and extending into chords in the piano. A rhythmic intro brings in the percussive elements of the track — a cymbal and snare-rim heavy rhythm that gives just enough variation to break up the melodic elements. A constant background synth in this piece also helps to add a sense of depth to the track. "Snow Flower" brings in a new element that I haven't heard very often in Silent Hill pieces, in the form of reverses. Throughout the track, piano chords get reversed, adding a really interesting element of depth to the track — the slow fade from almost nothing to crisp clarity is quite intriguing. This piece also offers a more constant rhythmic pattern — heavy on the bass drums, but still soft enough to only provide some structure for the track. Melodic synth elements give the piece some additional elements, coming in overtop of the reverses and the rhythmic patterns, altogether creating a nice variation of sounds and styles in one piece. "Voodoo Girl" takes a lighter approach, aiming for upper register noise and effects, while mixing in light melodic elements. It could be argued that the synth and piano of this track brings it more into the category of the atmospheric/melodic pieces mentioned above, however there is one added element: vocals. Now, I don't mean singing, but there is a presence of ghostly wailing that creates an eerie, almost ethereal quality for the track. Combined with the rest of the dissonance in the noise, it makes for a lot of interesting variation, which is why I've included it here.

The 'fear' themes are a new form of experimentation that has been added to this album, intent on providing a new sense of atmosphere that hasn't been seen previously with other Silent Hill tracks. For the most part, I think they're successful, although how truly different they are, I'm not quite sure. Beginning with "Attitude #70," this track has a brooding darkness about it. The entire piece is presented with deep synth and accompanying gurgles, scratch, and all-around murkiness — to most ears, this is probably mostly just noise. However, it is noise with a purpose, rather than just a melodic tinkering gone bad. I tend to imagine this piece coming out of high quality speakers — something that could be expected for the new systems, and from that angle, I can see how this piece would create a really interesting surround-sound experience. It's something to really put you deep within the halls of Silent Hill. In my opinion, this is what these 'fear' themes are designed to do; they're less about suspense as seen on previous albums and more about an immersive sound. "Regards" does this as well. For the most part, the track sounds the same, except this time there is a beat. It isn't anything spectacular, but it's subtle enough that it hides just under the noise, giving the piece a bit more structure. Sound effects are also used to give a sense of driving wind, and even malevolent laughing in the background. "Dead Monks" does much of what I've previously mentioned, bringing in a lot of noise, random vocals, a little rhythm, and lots of strange synth and sound effects, giving that overall 'fear' atmosphere that games like this demand to make a truly immersive experience.

Moving on to my favorite part of the album, we're going to look at the four vocal themes, each performed by Silent Hill veteran, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn. One thing that I've noticed about these vocal tracks compared to those from other games in the franchise is an emphasis on lyrics. The lyrics for these four tracks really seem to have a clarity about them that is somewhat absent in the other vocal pieces. Not only do they make sense and begin to tell a story, they relate more directly to the events of Silent Hill and its characters, while at the same time remaining abstract enough to exist on their own. Another familiar theme of the tracks is the idea of interrupted and fragmented thoughts. The lyrics in these songs bring this element into the spotlight, and really enhance the overall mood and tension of the tracks. We begin with "Elle's Theme," the first theme to be attributed to a character specifically since Silent Hill 2's "Theme of Laura". The piece is repetitive in melody and rhythm, and is one of the slower vocal pieces out of the set. A dissonant piano chord can be heard in the background throughout the entire track, while melodic elements are given through sweeping synth. An animated yet subtle rhythmic element provides some structure, while McGlynn's vocals keep the track flowing. One thing that particularly intrigues me about this piece is that, without the vocals, it sounds like a normal Silent Hill in-game piece that we might hear on the soundtrack on its own. This says a lot to the composition value of the track. On that note, however, McGlynn's vocals really bring the piece to life, particularly in the second half of the track where the vocals become layered, creating a web of melody that really draws you in.

The next vocal theme, "Alex's Theme," is particularly minimalist in terms of composition. The entire track consists of short, ornamental synth in-between phrases, a low sweeping synth in the background, and a fairly empty rhythmic element featuring a strong lead beat and a few filler beats. Further into the track, this rhythmic element expands, but so subtly that you almost don't notice it — a great device that I love, particularly with how the vocals are structured. I mentioned earlier the idea of fragmented thoughts or spoken segments, and this piece showcases this idea perfectly. Almost every line seems cut off, and yet you still understand how the lines are threaded together; the chorus, for example, shows this off extremely well. McGlynn's vocals in this piece also blend well with the overall minimalist sound of the piece, coming out loud and clear but in a whisper quality. The melodic phrasing is repetitive, but you don't really notice it because your attention is on the lyrics. Overall, I love how simple this piece is, but also how different, and yet similar, it is to other vocal tracks from the series.

Turning to the rock pieces, "This Sacred Line" takes us into the same direction as "I Want Love" and "Waiting For You" from Silent Hill 3. The rock kit and electric guitars that has become a signature of the franchise return, providing a great foundation for McGlynn's vocals. However, this is somewhat a "standard" track after analysing the previous Silent Hill vocal rock themes. As I've mention in other reviews, there are only so many ways to present a rock vocal piece and, while each new piece in the franchise does take a different approach, they eventually they begin to sound the same. This piece falls into this trap, and while it is a good piece, it isn't as memorable as I would have liked it to be. "One More Soul to the Call," on the other hand, ranks neat the top of my list of favorite themes from the franchise. The longest piece on the album, this vocal track channels elements from "I Want Love," "You're Not Here," and more prominently, "Shot Down in Flames". I really love how this whole track is put together. You have a strong rhythmic line, variation in the guitars and the bass, great volume balance all around, and a belting strong vocal performance. The lyrics also make this piece shine, as in the chorus, and the lines all merge together perfectly. When mixed with the music, it results in a real head-banger of a track that you can't help but get into.


After looking at so many Silent Hill albums, I'm very surprised that I haven't become bored by them. I tend to think this is because I have a strange fascination with Silent Hill, but perhaps more has to do with a 'variations on a theme' approach to the music. With each new album, we're presented with a different angle, a different perspective on similar and memorable themes that all have an essence of Silent Hill. I've mentioned the Silent Hill Sound (SHS) before in other reviews, and I think with each new album, I'm getting closer to finally giving the term a proper definition. This album almost perfectly represents the ideal SHS, both in presentation as an album, and the physical use of the music in the game. Everything has a mellow, otherworldly mood to it, that draws you in and welcomes you to the town's strange and horrific history. I've also noticed that, with each new album in the series, there are fewer and fewer striking pieces that stand out as sounding 'wrong' within the rest of the repertoire. This album has almost no serious flaws, but some of the pieces do sound too similar to one another. In terms of consistency, this album is probably the best in the series. In terms of variation, this album doesn't quite make it to the top. Altogether, I'm happy with how this album came out, and the vocal pieces definitely strengthen the album's overall appeal. If you're a Silent Hill fan, definitely give this one a listen.

Overall Score: 8/10