When you’re forced to journey through the terrifying, sobering world of Silent Hill, it’s not the grotesque scenery or even the grotesque-er monsters that should terrify you. 

It’s the music. The grungy, hopeless, endlessly soul-destroying music. Once it digs its claws into your tender flesh, it won’t let go. And that’s a good thing.

In its various installments over the years, the Silent Hill series has become hallowed ground for horror fans. After setting itself apart from the banal jump scares and pedestrian level design endemic to the genre, its eerie set pieces, surrealistic narrative design, and dreamlike landscapes have attracted a disturbing number of fans who can’t get enough of how…disturbing it feels. 

The haze of fog veiling the cold, steely atmosphere invites curiosity. Once you’re in the game, the absence of in-your-face shockers or classic horror creatures both puzzles and captivates. The third-person controls don’t always work the way you need them to but add a sense of urgency to an already unsettling atmosphere that doesn’t openly announce its intentions.

But back to the unsettling music. The likes of psychotic nurses and Pyramid Head himself wouldn’t be half as scary without the aural cues that contribute to Silent Hill’s cinematic brand of horror.

Like the Final Fantasy series, which owes its singularly excellent music to the singular skills of one Nobuo Uematsu, the music of Silent Hill is almost all thanks to one man. Composer Akira Yamaoka is single-handedly responsible for most of the series’ auditory nightmares. (He’s also responsible for contributing some absolute bangers to Konami’s Bemani dance-based music series.)

Yamaoka uses a mixture of guitar tunes, prayer chants, and simple ambient noise to chilling effect. The Silent Hill soundscape also includes distorted voices, dissonant chords, howling winds, sirens—if you’ve heard it in a nightmare, you’ve probably shivered along to it in a Silent Hill game. 

One particularly harrowing track is Silent Hill 3’s “Prayer,” which will catch you off-guard every time. It’s what music theory professors would call “messed-up guttural drone chanting in an unknown language.” You don’t know who the chanters are, what they’re saying, or who they’re praying to, but maybe you don’t want to, either.