Happy Birthday, Mr. Yamaoka!

pyramid head

pyramid head

There are many firsts that stand out in a young man’s life: the first day of school, that first kiss, and the ensuing first love that seemed like it would last a lifetime, but in fact lasted seven months. Yet none compare to that most cherished memory of all: the first meeting of urine and leg.

For me, said (figurative) meeting took place during those sweet, innocent days of Jesus School my teenage years: when a chance happening found me in possession of that most lovely of dreadful loveliness: Silent Hill. Aside from the standard “demon children from the Ninth Abyss trying to murder you with a steak knife” business, its standout quality was, as my fellow gamers will recall, the music. 

Indeed, our humble master of noise, Akira Yamaoka, turned forty-five today. Though his career started in 1991 with the rather obscure Smart Ball for SNES, Yamaoka’s break (arguably) came in 1994, when he was served as sound programmer for Hideo Kojima’s cyberpunk adventure game, Snatcher. But of course, our dear Akira’s most popular work came in the form of the Silent Hill series. Team Silent disbanded after its fourth incarnation – a game that pioneered the “charging up one’s golf swing meter to hit an enemy that burps at the player with each hit” mechanic that would become a standard feature in all post-2004 survival horror titles – Yamaoka continued to provide music for the series, until Daniel Licht took the reins for Downpour.

Indeed, the Silent Hill composer holds a special place in my heart not only for creating the music for some of my favorite games, but for bringing an oft-ignored world of industrial, with his blend of atmospheric, spine-chilling whimsy that can’t help but remind me of the genre’s experimental roots, as well as more contemporary ambient/drone music, such as the dreadfully bleak Black Swan.

So happy birthday to you, Mr. Yamaoka, May your mind dwell, with due terror, upon this most horrific of days: an annual reminder of that harrowing moment when you emerged – naked, thrashing, and covered in blood – from the immaterial void that will one day reclaim you.

(Writer) Jesse Gmitro is the self-proclaimed “resident ally/lady-fancier” of gaygamer.net — a position he has held since 2011 – and a shameless fanboy of Metal Gear, pre-Homecoming Silent Hill, and Final Fantasy. He plays drums in a local post-rock band called “Between Two Skies,” and is currently working on a black comedy novella, “The Madcap Laughs.” He currently lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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