Thursday, January 07, 2010

My Top Eleven Video Game Soundtracks Part 4

#6. Quake

The music for the game was programed by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. Need I say more? The rich ambient industrial works composed for the game are eerie as hell and show no lack of attention. I can't help but detect some of Aphex Twin's influence on Reznor, notably with his album Selected Ambient Works: Volume 2. My favorite composition for the game, "Castles of the Damned" with it's saxophone-like wailing, also evokes a rather unappreciated David Bowie track entitled V2 Schneider from the album Heroes, his second collaboration with the godfather of ambient music, Brian Eno. To be drawing from Trent's own musical heroes like this should indicate explicitly that this is as much a work of art for him as any of his albums. As a NIN fan, it's a wonder I don't place this higher on the list. It opened the doors for just how disturbing horror game scores could be. And the next entry illustrates one artist who perhaps more than any other walked through those doors to unnerve the hell out of gamers.

#5. Silent Hill (I-IV)

Normally, I'd feel a little cheap listing four game soundtracks in one place, however, the music for the entire Silent Hill series (at least the official games) has been done by the same composer, Akira Yamaoka and as the series has experimented in its approach (in later games changed developers' hands) his aesthetics have held as the consistent spine of the series. From the classic original's opening theme, to the fourth chapter's Room of Angel, he's a chameleon!

One of my favorite works comes from Silent Hill 3, again, an opening theme, You're Not Here. I just love how effortlessly he seems to make an angsty emo-goth girl pop song that is so much better than... well... the angsty emo-goth girl pop songs that angsty emo-goth girl pop bands like Evanescence and Nightwish produce. But seriously, when I suggested Yamaoka was the follow up to Trent when it came t0 unsettling ambient scores for games, I didn't mean these opening songs, nor the emotional umph he adds to the dramatic moments within the games (though that might be what I love most about him). No, there's another side to Yamaoka, a much, much, much darker side, and god bless him for it. For a game series praised for its stretches of dead silence that put you on edge at 3AM after hours of playing... the spaces between those patch of silence are quite powerful as well.


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