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Silent Hill Shattered Memories Soundtrack :: Review by Zane

Silent Hill Shattered Memories Soundtrack Album Title: Silent Hill Shattered Memories Soundtrack
Record Label: Konami
Catalog No.: Promotional
Release Date: December 8, 2009
Purchase: Buy at eBay


I'm fairly certain that Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is going to divide both the gaming community and Akira Yamaoka's fans right down the middle. A "reimagining" of the original Silent Hill title, Shattered Memories takes the familiar town and completely covers it in ice and snow, providing a familiar yet eerily different environment to explore. Harry Mason gets a psychological and physical makeover, while the title further changes some key gameplay elements that were abundant in previous entries (like removing combat altogether) and adds a psychological profiling element that changes the game's flow as you play based on decisions you make, even the minor ones. Oh, and just in case you were wondering, if you spend time looking at in-game posters of chicks in bikinis, Cybil will sport a low-cut shirt that shows off some cleavage. FYI. That said, a reimagining of the game means a reimagining of the soundtrack, and as far as I'm concerned Yamaoka has delivered on all fronts. For traditional Silent Hill diehards this may not be the album you've been waiting for, but those with an open mind will find more than they could have dreamed of with this soundtrack.


Let's cut the foreplay and talk about the pink elephant in the room. (What, you don't see it? Really? It's right behind you!) There are four Mary Elizabeth McGlynn vocals. Again. And, granted, they originally come off as painfully dark and forced, but after a couple of listens I got totally hooked on "Always on my Mind" and found that even the cheesy rock riffs of "When You're Gone" hit home. The final two vocals close out the album very well, with "Acceptance" bringing back warm memories of "Room of Angel", albeit in a less oppressive way, and "Hell Frozen Rain" is equal parts somber and rockin' with some not-so-subtle nods to previous Silent Hill melodies strewn around for good measure. These vocals might not be everyone's favorite types of tracks, so if you want to skip 'em, you should probably skip 'em. I don't. Whatever way you want to shake it, they're shamelessly better than the vocal tracks in Silent Hill Zero (save maybe "O.R.T.") and are worth checking out. Somehow keeping the four-vocals-per-album tradition alive feels fresh this time around amid all the new instrumental music. Dare I even say that the vocals reach back to the greatness from The Room and Homecoming? Oh, I dare say it doubly so.

Instrumentally, this is definitely not the Yamaoka any of us are used to. You're not going to find another "Witchcraft" or "Love Psalm" on this disc, nor should you want to, really. What you will find here is something quite different than his prior Silent Hill soundtracks, and this is a very, very good thing. I dearly love all of the past full CD releases from the series, but when it's time for a change, it is time for a change. I'm willing to bet that Yamaoka knew he would leave Konami after this project was complete, so it's hard not to look at this as his swansong, one last deathly hurrah for the town of Silent Hill before he moves on to greener pastures.

The exploratory chilling piano motifs of "Creeping Distress" set the scene for the album's more location-specific tracks, but Shattered Memories has some seriously intense moments. The sampled screaming in "Angel's Scream" keeps the track plodding along at a hellish pace before breaking into a full angelic choral outro that completely changes the mood of the song as it fades. To tie in with a new gameplay element, Yamaoka incorporated digital phone rings into "Another Warm Body", a piano-led track that hearkens back to "Creeping Distress" with its tone, yet gives it more of an apprehensive and tense vibe than its predecessor. Strangely, "Childish Thoughts" reminds me of a distorted version of one of Masakazu Sugimori's Gyakuten Saiban "Investigation" themes with a Silent Hill twist; it's something truly different than what I would have expected from Yamaoka.

There is plenty of mood-setting BGM like "Searching the Past", and the scattered and shuffled "Forsaken Lullaby", but Yamaoka knows that there needs to be terrifying ambient tracks for a Silent Hill title to be a true Silent Hill, reimagining or not. The relentless "Devil's Laughter" is equally claustrophobic and harsh, while "Raw Shock" brings in backbeats with its ambiance to give the tune a scary trip-hop feel. On the vividly white and cold side of things, "Ice" is as dark as it is beautiful, and the spacial drums and icy synths on "Snow Driven" bring forth the snow-capped images from the game perfectly. "Lives Wasted Away" belongs on a Twin Peaks soundtrack more than any of the other Angelo Badalamenti-inspired tracks from the series, with no small thanks to its tremolo-infused guitar and purposefully loose jazz drumbeats. At least Yamaoka still gives nods to his inspirations, even if the total end result is quite different than his previous efforts.


If you're looking for a quick Silent Hill fix or are expecting Silent Hill 2, part deux, you surely will not find it here, and I can promise you that you will be at least somewhat disappointed if you enter this listening experience with that mindset. However! If you are looking for a fresh listening experience that borrows the dark moods, but not necessarily the sounds, from the Silent Hill world with a cool twist (literally), Shattered Memories will suit you just swimmingly. The music makes me want to sit down and play through the entire game, and for someone who only plays video games when there is a penumbral lunar eclipse (true story), that says a lot. I wish Yamaoka the best in his future projects / endeavors / drinking binges, and I can't wait to see what happens with his music from here on in. Well, I guess we all have to wait to see what aces this king will pull from his sleeve next, but while I'm waiting I'll be gratefully listening to the Shattered Memories soundtrack and appreciating the changes Yamaoka has brought to the series' audio for what may be his final Silent Hill soundtrack. Give it a chance!!!

Overall Score: 9/10