World of Warcraft: Legion Original Soundtrack
World of Warcraft: Legion Original Soundtrack
August 30, 2016
Purchase on iTunes
With each new World of Warcraft expansion comes a soundtrack by some new permutation of familiar Blizzard faces. This time, Russell Brower worked with Neal Acree, Sam Cardon, Glenn Stafford, and Edo Guidotti to score Legion, the latest expansion to the legendary MMO. World of Warcraft has a rich, if uneven, tradition of music behind its many expansions. How does Legion compare to its predecessors?
The soundtrack opens with the now-customary ten-minute medley of themes from the expansion. Several of the tracks in “Kingdoms Will Burn” are notable – about a minute in, the bombastic introduction pauses to allow a beautiful melody through – a simple string melody with Julie Elven’s vocal additions, and a pizzicato bass. The melody, which some fans have been referring to as “Anduin’s Theme” (although the name shows up nowhere on the album), quickly swells to a more triumphant version, but within a couple of minutes into the introductory medley, the new musical theme of the expansion has been set. On the other hand, “Azeroth’s Last Hope” seems to be a sort of secondary opening piece, with a dramatic choral buildup and both militaristic versions of “Anduin’s Theme” and softer versions sung by Elven.
The soundtrack doesn’t feel quite as strongly selected as Warlords of Draenor, for which each track felt self-contained enough for the entire album to work as a single varied collection of high-quality pieces. In retrospect, that was one of its strengths as an album. At no point did I feel as though I needed to understand the content of the game’s expansion to fully enjoy each piece on the album. Legion, on the other hand, has some stand-out themes, but they’re alongside tracks or moments within tracks that feel as though they’re missing something. “Tomb of Sargeras” opens with haunting, drawn-out chords, some eerie harp sequences, and whispered vocals, but then seems to sit on a few ominous brass notes before ending on a confusing crescendo. It might work in the game, but on an independent album, it doesn’t function well as a stand-alone piece. It’s not the only piece that has that issue, but it’s the most prominent one.
On the whole, Legion is a darker album than its predecessor, often in incredibly beautiful ways. Tracks like “Passages” and “Mire” don’t have the action that some of the others do, but they’re chock-full of rich performances, unique chord progressions, and slow movement that carry the listener from the beginning to the end of the track. “Passages” has moments where it sounds almost sweet before a surprisingly unsettling chord disrupts the seemingly peaceful nature of the piece. “Mire” opens with a few phrases of clarinet and pauses for a moment before entering a large choral sequence, peppered by French horn.
The album ends on a strong note. “A World Divided” brings back “Anduin’s Theme” from the introduction and “Azeroth’s Last Hope” for the last time, although it only lasts for about half the track. Acree brings back Elven as the main soloist in the piece, and the melody repeats several times over, each time in a different musical setting, until the piece transitions over to a more warlike second half. “Ley Lines” brings in Edo Guidotti for a mysterious, otherworldly track that utilizes harpsichord and vibraphone to provide an eerie accompaniment to a low, somber pipe solo.
Finally, “Canticle of Sacrifice” is a solemn closing track. Vocalist Nella sings on this track against a steady, dotted percussive line and bagpipes for a militaristic, Celtic sound. Despite the addition of the choir as the piece continues, the track is largely performed in unison – something I generally don’t take to. However, Nella’s voice carries a lot of weight, and “Canticle of Sacrifice” is a powerful closing track to the album.
I had a difficult time choosing a highlight, as there are several. One is Acree’s Anduin melody that unfortunately only shows up sparingly (I’ve seen more than one fan-made Youtube video of expanded versions of that theme – I wish one had been on the official album!). Another is “Canticle of Sacrifice,” which is notable for its uniqueness among the rest of the Legion tracks, and Nella’s fantastic performance. The last highlight is Glenn Stafford’s main contribution to the score: “Highmountain.” The track surpasses seven minutes in length and features an exciting array of phases that make for a wonderful orchestral listening experience. The first part is an introductory Eastern-influenced section with pipes and chimes; the second is an imposing and majestic string section with trill-like ornaments accompanying a low, dramatic melody. The third part pauses the musical action for a brief choral interlude until the final, brassy fourth part takes over, bringing in themes from previous World of Warcraft expansions. Certainly one of my favorite tracks to listen on the score, “Highmountain” gives me something new each time I hear it.
Legion didn’t strike me like Warlords of Draenor, which I thought was one of the best albums in the series. So much of the content on Legion is well-executed and worth multiple revisits, but the album as a whole just doesn’t reach its full potential. Too many of the tracks seem to be excerpts rather than pieces, and the more action-packed sections are forgettable. On the other hand, the highlights of this album are absolutely top-notch – I’m still going back and listening to them regularly after almost a year with this album. Legion is available on iTunes for 10.99 USD.
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Posted on September 12, 2017 by Emily McMillan. Last modified on September 12, 2017.