Thursday, October 18, 2012

Four Reasons You Should Listen to a Warcraft Soundtrack

“Four Reasons You Should Listen to a Warcraft Soundtrack”
By Thomas Midena

Since the first Warcraft game debuted in 1994, Blizzard’s fantasy universe has spanned 4 computer games and 6 expansion packs. Featuring the fictional continent of Azeroth, these games see the player assume roles as various races such as humans, orcs and elves, and fight to claim the world from one another. This unending war has been immortalised through the legendary music of Warcraft, which has, over the years, set the standard for orchestral video game music. You don’t have to be a gamer to immerse yourself in the humbling scope of Warcraft music, and here’s why you should.

1. Pure Epicness

17 years ago the Warcraft franchise was already proving its audio prowess. 1995 saw the release of Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness, a real time strategy game for DOS and Mac OS. This music might not be backed by the power of a full orchestra as we expect today, but the way it develops and has fun with its themes foreshadows Warcraft’s glorious musical future. No long term Warcraft fan can help resist feeling sentimental in a Warcraft II piece like “Human Level 2”.

Human Level 2 by Blizzard on Grooveshark

Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos released in 2002 with a soundtrack that was less melodic than most music in the franchise. The soundtrack by Derek Duke builds an ethereal soundscape which was excellent in the context of the game, but struggles to stand on its own.

2004 saw the launch of the juggernaut online game, World of Warcraft, which took Warcraft music to another level. The first track from the game, “Legends of Azeroth (Main Title)” sets the stage for a huge fantasy game. The power of the orchestra is used to full effect, the rhythmic drums and swirling strings are pure fantasy adrenalin.

Legends Of Azeroth by Warcraft on Grooveshark

It doesn’t take long to fall in love with some of the musical themes throughout World of Warcraft. Notable pieces that highlight this include “A Call To Arms”, “Seasons of War” and “Stormwind” - a beautiful world-building track. In general, Warcraft music has a very romantic perspective on war and the world. Pieces like these make me fantasize about magical lands with castles and heroes. These pieces spark my excitement on every listen, proving that the music can stand on its own with no visual accompaniment.

Stormwind by Warcraft on Grooveshark

2. Fantastic Composers

Over the years many incredibly talented composers have worked on Warcraft music. Some big contributors over the years include Russell Brower, Tracy Bush, Derek Duke, Jason Hayes, Matt Uelmen, Glenn Stafford, Neal Acree, Sam Cardon, Edo Guidotti and Jeremy Soule - renowned composer for the Elder Scrolls and Guild Wars series of games. These are some of the best composers in the video game industry, and the vast range of creative talent comes together to form unique styles in Warcraft.

3. Copious Quantities

Four games with six expansion packs means a ridiculous amount of music. Each expansion to World of Warcraft has built on the title track. And these pieces are long, with Cataclysm’s stunning title track reaching 12 minutes in length.

The Shattering by Blizzard Entertainment on Grooveshark

There’s so much to appreciate in these title tracks alone. From the audacity of “The Burning Legion (Main Title)” to the valiant mystery of “Wrath Of The Lich King (Main Title)” to the destructive madness of Cataclysm’s “The Shattering” to the beautiful Asian influences of Mists of Pandaria’s “Heart of Pandaria”.

Heart of Pandaria by World of Warcraft on Grooveshark

The latest soundtrack release, “Mists of Pandaria” is arguably the best Warcraft score of them all. “Way of the Monk” is a heroic piece which succeeds in inspiring. A confident new theme triumphs in “Serpent Riders”, which has the fingerprints of Jeremy Soule and the emotional satisfaction of a blockbuster film.

Serpent Riders by Russell Brower on Grooveshark

Due to the long period of time that Warcraft has been growing and evolving, recurring themes and motifs have been allowed incredible amounts of room to develop and expand. Themes from Warcraft 3 were brought into World of Warcraft, as demonstrated in one of my favourite tracks, “Echoes of the Past”.

Echoes of the Past by Blizzard Entertainment on Grooveshark

The mood and style of the music is allowed to change quite drastically from game to game, album to album and even track to track. An excitingly dark new sound appears in the “Wrath of the Lich King” soundtrack, exhibited in the understated heroic piece, “Assault On New Avalon”.

Assault on New Avalon by Russell Brower, Derek Duke, Glenn Stafford on Grooveshark

4. Recklessly Original

The composers on Warcraft have demonstrated that they are willing to try new things. The very broad and lively fantasy lore of the Warcraft franchise has assisted them in this, allowing them to flex their creative muscles in a variety of unexpected ways.

Occasionally these soundtracks verge on the side of utterly ridiculous. Mists of Pandaria’s “Stormstout Brew” is a playfully silly piece which plays to stereotypical Asian sounds. Also from Mists of Pandaria, “The Traveler’s Path” features a dreamily deep male voice singing an enigmatic Asian song.

The Traveler's Path by World of Warcraft on Grooveshark

Last but most certainly not least, a piece which has become incredibly popular amongst fans of World of Warcraft. Released as a part of downloadable content, Russell Brower’s “Invincible” is a haunting piece featuring a breathtaking choir. The track marks a significant moment in the Warcraft storyline, which I won’t spoil here. “Invincible” is a perfect example of the best of Warcraft music: splendidly majestic and delicately personal at the same time.

Invincible by World of Warcraft on Grooveshark

Warcraft soundtracks have led the way in regards to video game music for many years, proving that a game can sound just as good as a film. Don’t miss out on some of the greatest fantasy music of the last decade - delve into a Warcraft soundtrack today!

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