Game Music

Wrath of the Lich King Soundtrack: Meet Pedro’s Duduk and Cajsa’s Nychelharpa

November 21, 2008 | | 3 Comments Share thison Facebook Wrath of the Lich King Soundtrack: Meet Pedro’s Duduk and Cajsa’s Nychelharpaon Twitter

Seven hours of music. That’s a whole lot! If you read our interview with Russell Brower and the audio team last week, then you know that’s how many hours of music are featured in the latest WoW expansion, Wrath of the Lich King. We also told you guys that the collector’s edition shipped with a soundtrack album, and after being thoroughly impressed with the soundtrack album from The Burning Crusade, I was excited to get my hands on this one.

The album definitely does not disappoint. As one would expect from the harsh lands of Northrend, the score ranges from abstract and sparse to warm and epic. A slew of performers along with the Northwest Sinfonia Orchestra make their mark on Wrath of the Lich King, and show yet again that Blizzard doesn’t slack off when it comes to polishing every aspect of their games. Even more, there are three exclusive tracks featured on this album that are not available on the iTunes release, which has three exclusive tracks of its own.

So, what do we think of the Wrath of the Lich King Soundtrack? Hit the jump for our review.

Truth be told, I don’t think there’s a track on this album that I don’t like. Because I don’t want to trouble you with detials about each and every track on the album, I’m going to generalize here and say that while the album sounds amazing and provides a great sense of atmosphere, there’s no individual track that’s going to get stuck in your head and have you coming back for more. The album truly is an experience, from start to finish, complete with excellent compositions from Russell Brower, Derek Duke, and Glenn Stafford, as well as expert performances from the Northwest Sinfonia Orchestra, Pedro Eustache on woodwinds, Eric Rigler on Uilean pipes, and Cajsa Ekstav on the nychelharpa. A diverse set of instruments, yes, and they give Wrath of the Lich King a distinct sound that I can’t help but love. The tracks are arranged to flow into one another, literally, enhancing even further the cohesiveness of this album.

The album’s opening track is a nine-minute long opus from Russell Brower featuring references to both World of Warcraft and The Burning Crusade, which fans of the franchise will likely appreciate. This is immediately followed by Derek Duke’s “Dragon’s Rest,” sporting a sort of abstract piano progression alongside pulsing ambience, and seemingly random strings and flutes. The piece offers a lot of tension, and is one of the highlights of the album. “Path of Tears” by Glenn Stafford is the first track to feature woodwinds by Pedro Eustache, who is not only one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met, but also one of the most talented performers I’ve had the pleasure of seeing on stage. I’m absolutely estatic that Blizzard brought him on for Wrath of the Lich King after his work on The Burning Crusade.

“Crystalsong” is somewhat of an oddity from Russell Brower, in that it starts with a warm yet abstract belltone segment before harps yield a scattered melody with tense strings and crystalline sounds shimmering in the background. It definitely paints a beautiful picture in your head. “Dalaran” is another beautiful piece with Pedro’s woodwind work woven between epic string and choral phrases that create an image of a city of angels. “God Hunters” gets back to the gritty ambiance I was looking for, starting with a repetitive flute melody and a seemingly not-in-time rhythmic percussion beat that eventually gives way to a dusty sort of ambiance that is highly reminiscent of some of Matt Uelmen’s work on Act 2 of Diablo II, but comes via Derek Duke.

I’ll go ahead and talk about the three exclusive tracks here. “Secrets Long Forgotten” from Glenn Stafford features guitars along with a tense string melody and distant sidestick percussion, giving the piece a dark and forboding sound. “Borean Tundra” is another Derek Duke piece that is very minimalistic with distant and filtered percussion, quiet, icy pads, and harsh metallic sounds that are effective in conveying the imagery of a desolate tundra. Finally, one of the cutscene tracks, “The Wrath Gate,” makes use of the choir and heavy orchestral percussion to hint at the impending confrontation. The whole “exclusive track” idea is rather interesting, and I’m curious to hear the iTunes exclusive tracks now.

There’s more dark ambience in between, but later, “The Eye of Eternity” again mixes things up with some thumping percussion and twittering ambient noises that sounds like something out of Metroid Prime with its choral pad backing. “The Culling” provides a slow orchestral buildup from Glenn Stafford, leading into another geat moment that highlights the Northwest Sinfonia Choir with vocals written by Derek Duke, and a march-like brass and string melody that gives the impression that magic is stirring. Derek Duke and Russell Brower team up with “Howling Fjord,” which also sports some interesting piano bits, but emphasizes the use of uilean pipes by Eric Rigler. “Totems of the Grizzlemaw,” on the other hand, is the work of Russell Brower with Cajsa Ekstav on the nychelharpa. Russell allows a sort of back and forth between the woodwinds and the nychelharpa, as each instrument is highlighted alone, with the soothing sounds of a running stream in the background. The nychelharpa actually sounds a lot like the bagpipes to people like you and I, and the solo performance is another memorable moment, and the woodwinds are equally moving as the two combine at the end of the piece.

Alright, so I tried my best to avoid describing too many tracks, but I couldn’t help myself. In summary, this album is amazingly well-produced, and is a aural undertaking that you should experience at least once. I love Derek Duke’s ability to create a dark, unsettling ambiance, and Pedro Eustache’s touching performances that are featured throughout the album. It was also great to be exposed to the nychelharpa, which I had never heard of before delving into the music of Wrath of the Lich King. If you’re into the game, definitely spring for the collector’s edition, as this is a great album, and if you’re not into the game, check out the score on iTunes and pick up the alternate exclusive tracks in the process. Either way, I hope you’re able to experience this score.

Have you been playing or listening to the soundtrack from Wrath of the Lich King? Do you have memorable moments from the score that you care to share?

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