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Soundtrack review: World of Warcraft – Cataclysm (various artists – 2010)

“World of Warcraft: Cataclysm” is the third expansion set for the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) World of Warcraft, following Wrath of the Lich King. The central plot of the expansion is the return of the evil dragon aspect Deathwing the Destroyer (originally Neltharion the Earth Warder). Last seen in Warcraft II, which took place more than two decades earlier, Deathwing has spent that time healing himself, and plotting his fiery return from the elemental plane of Deepholm. His return tears through the dimensional barrier within Azeroth, causing a sweeping cataclysm that reshapes much of the world’s surface. In the midst of the world-wide disaster comes renewed conflict between the Alliance and the Horde, which is now under the rule of Garrosh Hellscream.  The usual suspects Russell Bower, Derek Duke, Neal Acree, David Arkenstone, Jason Hayes and Glenn Stafford contributed the score.

The score opens with a magnificent 12 minute long opus “The shattering”. I am having a hard time finding my words to describe this one. Should I say legendary? Should I say it’s a classic? Yeah, it’s the opening cue of a WoW game score but I could hear it in the score for an epic Golden Age movie. The composer really outdid themselves here; I could also imagine this theme in a Star Wars movie with this beautiful and powerful use of the choir and the way the orchestra paints worlds, characters and emotions. John Williams has got nothing on this team of wonderful composers. “The shattering” is a journey with peaks and valleys, with inspiration and love, with goose bumps and nostalgia. I could stop the score write here and be happy. As far as fantasy themes go, it rarely gets better than this.

After such a perfect start I thought it might be hard for the score to keep the same pace and level of emotion. Lucky for me I barely notice that I am already at the fourth cue because the music flows naturally and continues the journey. The choirs, the tender flute moments, the surges in energy are all elements of one of the most wonderful parts of the World of Warcraft music. A spiritual cue like “Depths of Vashj’ir” also feels natural and further explores the emotional side of the music. The violin in “Restoring the balance” just leaves me breathless.

As much as their lore relies on different race and armies fighting, the music of WoW explores more the setting in which everything takes place. This score as well spends a lot of time exploring the world, the nature, the terrain and the weather in “Cataclysm”. I enjoy it guiding me and I imagine the games will have an ever better experience. Both good and danger loom in this world and it’s up to me to find the right path.

The best “World of Warcraft” score for me next to “Warlords of Draenor”, “World of Warcraft: Cataclysm” is one of the very few fantasy scores that come close to the epic and intensity of Howard Shore’s “Lord of the rings” trilogy. I got the same rush of emotions and the same thrills from this one and I recommend it to anyone who loves the genre. Or anyone who just want to listen to a fantastic score.

Cue rating: 100 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 78 / 78

Album excellence: 100%

Highlights:

The Shattering

Xaxas

Tempest’s Wake

Depths of Vashj’ir

Castaways

Reforged

Restoring the Balance

Curse of the Worgen

Defenders of Azeroth

Eventide

Thaurissan’s Reach

Uldum

Breath of Al’Akir

Call of the Elements

Guardians of Nordrassil

Dominion of the Stonemother

Nightsong

 

 

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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