Editor’s Note: We are breaking up our “Castlevania Week” coverage with this one weekend post, because we know you readers can only handle so much Castlevania in a given time period. We’ll be back with even more from that series on Monday. Until then … check out the review and giveaway below!
The Lord of the Rings Online (abbreviated “LOTRO”) has proven itself a successful MMORPG, surviving for many years and with many expansions even as its peers have their servers shut down or languish in inactivity from the developer’s side.
Certainly, a part of this is that the power of the franchise is helping to carry it. Of course, franchise power alone won’t carry an MMO (see Star Wars: The Old Republic, which is facing financial difficulties, or The Matrix Online which shut down years ago). The rest is that the game is apparently very strong, and the variable pricing has been solid, and regular expansion content keeps coming.
The latest, the Riders of Rohan expansion, featured over 20 new songs from series composer Chance Thomas. The soundtrack was released digitally on such services as iTunes, Amazon, and even free to stream on Spotify.
After the jump, our review of this adventurous new soundtrack. And, stick around ’til the end for a chance to win a special promotional CD copy of this otherwise digital-only OST!
But first… TRACKLIST!
01 – LOTRO Legacy
02 – Theme for ROhan
03 – Urgent Errands
04 – Horse Lords of Norcrofts
05 – Shadow of the Argonath
06 – Boromir’s Last Stand
07 – The Éored
08 – Heart of a Hero
09 – Learning to Ride
10 – Learning to Fight
11 – The Entwash Vale
12 – Orc Encounter
13 – Corruption and High Treason
14 – Horse und Hererinc
15 – Roaming Free
16 – Calm Before the Storm
17 – The Conflict Comes
18 – Ecgbracu
19 – Fangorn
20 – Boromir Seeks the Ring
21 – Struggle for the Ring
22 – Fog of Wormtongue
23 – Moria Highlight Reel (Bonus)
That’s 57 minutes of full orchestra-recorded music right there. From the intense opener “LOTRO Legacy” all the way to the bonus medley from Mines of Moria, it’s all orchestrated. And honestly, it’s all good.
Hard as it is to do, I’m just going to pretend Howard Shore never wrote anything for this franchise. With that in mind, listening to a track like “Horse Lords of Norcrofts” or “The Éored” sounds like something that should have been in one of the LotR films. Notice I said “should,” which is one step higher in ideation than “could.” Think about it.
Anyway, those two aforementioned tracks strike a phenomenal balance between orchestra and choir. The vocals aren’t overpowering, but they are certainly not lost behind the booming brass or low strings either.
Another song I really love that’s up-front among the tracks is “Shadow of the Argonath.” It is one of the few songs on this album that is relaxing, holding a slow tempo and featuring Celtic whistles and pipes. Another “softie” is “Heart of a Hero,” though this features traditional orchestral winds and strings for melody, though a solo “fiddle”-style violin does get some time in the limelight as well.
“The Entwash Vale” does the whole ethereal/soft thing, with all-female choir, lots of other layers of treble music, but not necessarily all in a major key. There are hints of mystery and darkness. Entwash Vale is one of the longer tracks on the album (3 and a half minutes), and it makes me desperately want to play the game and visit the area.
Can you guess what the fourth and final soft track is? It should be obvious from the tracklist: “Calm Before the Storm” provides the necessary break before a series of intense musical themes. “The Conflict Comes” and “Ecgbracu” are minor-key by default and driven by some powerful brass and percussion, with winds and strings doing some punctuated decoration. And the former of the two tracks also features a mostly-male choir.
I could go on about every single track on this album, but I think I’m going to just sum it up by saying I love Thomas’ latest work; it is the most consistently enjoyable among all his work on LOTRO.
Furthermore… the onslaught of LotR-related media in the last decade may be overwhelming, but it’s important to remember that Tolkien’s work has been celebrated through music since the ’80s (Johan de Meij’s Symphony No.1). Of all the musicians who have contributed their time and effort to celebrate Tolkien’s legacy, few have done so with the quality and attention to detail as the team under Turbine and Chance Thomas. Whether in short musical cues like “Boromir’s Last Stand” or in the powerful and dynamically-mastered “Theme For Rohan,” the latest expansion to LOTRO is a blessing to any gamer with ears to hear.
And, actually, I suppose LotR music goes back before Johan de Meij. There’s technically that soundtrack for the animated movie of “The Hobbit” from 1977. Maury Laws’ soundtrack, as well as the style of the film, was lampooned in a very risque episode of a very politically incorrect cartoon. If you can name the cartoon and the episode, you’ll be in the running for a special promotional CD version of the Riders of Rohan soundtrack! 16 of the 23 tracks from the digital release appear in this super-limited, pressed CD from WaterTower and Turbine. Shipping will be limited to North America. Good luck!Tags: Chance Thomas, Choir, Lord of the Rings Online, LOTRO, Orchestral, Reviews, Riders of Rohan, Turbine, WaterTower