Cataclysm Soundtrack: Reviewed

I don’t bring this up all the time because I know it’s not something that everyone shares with me, but I love video game music.

This started long before video game music was actually good enough to be worth of love. I’m the guy who settles in for long car trips by listening to music from the original Sonic the Hedgehog soundtrack. I love the soundtracks to the NES DuckTales game, Toejam & Earl, and Mega Man. I’m a big fan of the Descendants of Erdrick.

So with that in mind, about two years ago I wrote a blog about the soundtrack to Wrath of the Lich King. If you’re interested in reading it, you can find it here:

With this in mind, I’d like to talk a little bit about the Cataclysm Soundtrack. If you’re interested, you can join me after the break.

Those of you who clicked the link above know that I’m a big fan of WoW’s music—especially the soundtrack to Wrath. The original WoW soundtrack had some really beautiful themes in it but could have been improved by a little more variation—the songs all sounded a little similar to one another. The Burning Crusade soundtrack had some beautiful moments as well (especially the Silvermoon City Theme), but a great deal of it was made of up spacey, sci-fi sound effects with no real melody. The Wrath soundtrack represented a clear attempt to solve both these problems—it was both more diverse and more melodic than anything that had come before.

The Cataclysm soundtrack continues in this vein, and twists it in new and interesting ways. Where the Wrath music is distant and austere, Cataclysm is frantic and intense. The overture played on Wrath’s opening screen is solemn and slow, filled with a cold sense of inevitable menace—Cataclysm’s overture is frantic and off-kilter, dripping not so much with menace as with fear. Even the most serene themes in Cataclysm—like the new take on the Elwynn Forest theme, tucked away in the track Reforged—are still tinged with oppressive, dangerous minor keys.

The highlights of the soundtrack are inevitably the 12 minute long epic overture The Shattering, heard on the opening screen, as well as the 9 minute montage Reforged—a collection of reimagined music from old-world zones. A few others caught me by surprise, though—the track Castaways was surprisingly jazzy, featuring an off-kilter marimba rhythm and a whistled melody—you can hear parts of it in Kezan. Another unusual track was Breath of Al’Akir, which I noted was played entirely on wind instruments—only a little bit of percussion thrown in.

In fact, the soundtrack suffers from only one serious problem—there isn’t nearly enough of it. WoW Insider recently posted an interview with Cataclysm composer David Arkenstone, who composed all of the new tavern music as well as the new Orgrimmar theme and several others, and he indicated that eight full hours of music had been composed for Cataclysm. The Cataclysm soundtrack disc gives you a tantalizing sampling of these songs, but very few individual segments feel long enough to really draw you in. Arkenstone’s Orgimmar theme was one of the songs I was most looking forward to, but the soundtrack dedicates barely more than a minute to it, before it segues into another song in the montage. Likewise, a number of the songs that I was most looking forward to were missing—such as the new gnomish themes, which you could hear during the Battle for Gnomeregan.

As always, this is a gorgeous soundtrack, and you don’t need my review to tell you whether or not you want it. All we can do is implore Blizzard to give us more!

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