In 2006, a sequel for the original cult classic Siren was made. The first iteration hadn't proved successful in the US and the sequel was only released in Japan and PAL regions. While the game itself is largely similar to the first game, a new composer Kuniaki Haishima scored the music. Known for his works on famous animes like Macross and the critically-acclaimed Monster, Kuniaki Haishima was put in charge of Siren 2 as well as the loosely-based feature film adaptation Siren. Did he succeed in recapturing the horror that was established in the first game, or wasn't he capable of continuing the spirit of the series? Let's find out.
The soundtrack is a bit different from the earlier Siren. For one thing, many of the compositions aren't as individualistic and flow from one track to the next. While in dark ambient it's necessary to provide seamless transitions between various tracks, the first Siren didn't make compromises on giving each and every track memorable details that made the tracks stand out, yet be a mere part of a carefully planned construction. Also, because the first soundtrack was a collaboration between two composers, it offered a multifarious ambience of the dark realms of Japanese mountainside. In case of Siren 2, the compositions aren't clearly distinguishable and as such, it sometimes doesn't feel very rewarding. However, there's still excellent dark ambience to be found.
The setting of Siren 2 is an island off the coast of mainland Japan, and I find that the background ambiance of each track clearly illustrates it. In a general sense, it's like the vast sea surrounding the Yamijima island. It is difficult to describe in words, but when the first soundtrack was full of dissonance and anti-musical qualities, then Siren 2's aural depiction of horror is harmonious. In a way it's poetic and dreamy, but what it gains in beauty, it loses in edginess. It's rarely surprising, often feels too safe, and the demonic chants are gone. The pleasure of discovering new sounds has diminished. To put it simply, it has become predictable.
In a sense the soundscape is magical and mystical. The first soundtrack connected the reality and supernatural together, sort of like Silent Hill. It was a descent into madness, yet somehow grounded in reality, thereby playing gruesome games on a psychological level. Siren 2 feels like you've always been there, already admitted the dark surroundings and their part of your life. So in a sense it's not about finding yourself in an entirely unknown environment, but trying to see something new, escape. It's like a blind man would want to witness the beauty of the nature again, only in a twisted Siren kind of way. Stretching it further, it is a musical call for help from a shibito, who still has a thin connection with its former self and wants to be released from the eternal torment.
The album is divided into 2 CD's. When the first disc represents the meditative and calm side of the album, the second disc employs cacophony and loud sounds to the fullest. They betray their cinematic origins, but for those who find the first disc too boring and lacking in excitement, then it's offers a refreshing variance. "The Depths of Memory" even features violin play and "Drifting in the Red Sea" is like a juxtaposition of dark ambient and choral music. "Konagihishoka" is similar to "Hoshingoeika" from the first album. It's a children's folk song where a dull and tired voice of a young child is heard singing a sad song. The backing minimalistic ambiance contributes to the overall mood, making it one of the creepier tracks on the album.
Eriko Azuma's "Azteca Queen" is an exceptionally weird choice for a credits song. It's reminiscent of 80s Japanese pop, full of exotic beats and playful lyrics. Even more quirkier is "I Am Metango, Galactic Governor" which in a nutshell is a distant cousin of UFO themes from Silent Hill games. It's extremely cheesy and makes no sense whatsoever, but without a doubt that's a conscious decision on part of the designers. Topping off the album is "Happy Birthday!". It's sly male vocals wishing happy birthday over cheesy beats and electric guitar are a serious match for Haishima's contributions in terrifying the listener.
Bottom-line, Siren 2 is definitely a worthy successor to the first soundtrack, but fails to supersede the standards set by Gary Ashiya and Hitomi Shimizu. Haishima has sightjacked (for those not familiar with it, sightjacking is an ability of the human characters of the Siren series that allow them to see the viewpoints of the zombie-like enemies, shibito) the world of Siren and gained valuable insight into it's workings, but little details that made the first soundtrack shine with glorious decay feels lacking in this one. On a plus side, the dreamy side of it gives it an unique quality that might win over those who weren't satisfied with the original Siren. There aren't many albums like Siren 2 available in the scene of video game music, though, and even with its strongly subjective flaws that aren't as apparent to worshippers of the first album, the Siren 2 Original Soundtrack is a poetic descent into hell worth trying out.