game score

Soundtrack review: World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King (V.A. – 2012)

wow_lich

“World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King” is the second expansion set for the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) World of Warcraft, following The Burning Crusade. In the wake of the Sunwell’s purification, a period of suspicious silence swept over the world. As if on cue, the undead Scourge launched a massive assault against the cities and towns of Azeroth, this time extending its reach far beyond the Eastern Kingdoms. Under pressure to respond with a full army, Warchief Thrall deployed an expedition force to Northrend led by Overlord Garrosh Hellscream. Meanwhile, the missing human king Varian Wrynn at last returned to Stormwind City and reclaimed his crown. He sent an equally powerful Alliance army, commanded by Bolvar Fordragon, to defeat the Lich King—and any Horde forces who would stand in their way. Russell Brower, Derek Duke and Glenn Stafford wrote the score.

For all the atmospheric content that charmed me in other “World of Warcraft” scores, “Wrath of the Lich King” wastes no time in starting big and loud. This is an unforgiving area of the continent and the majestic choirs send shivers up my spine. The music also tells me this is a beautiful place. There are moments during the massive main titles when I think I’m in a fairy tale. This is orchestral game music at its best. Derek Duke opens his involvement in this score with a mysterious and dense piano theme “Dragon’s rest”. It sounds like an improvisation at times and this helps with the feeling of discovery and wondering.

The mood of this score is different from the others in the franchise. I can tell this is a separate land or a separate story. The music feels darker and mistier and I feel the shadow of evil and black magic. Somehow the powerful male choirs and the suspense in the music that feels like lava bubbling inside a volcano just waiting to erupt plus the eruption itself make me feel like a mighty warrior ready to take the sword. But when “Wratch of the Lich King” gets epic it goes beyond even trailer music in how inspirational and awesome it gets.

I am fascinated with the many layers of this composition. When I need to catch my breath after a thunderous choral moment I get a delightful ambient interlude like “Crystalsong”. As the music progresses I am starting to think that this might be my favorite WoW score. It just hits the spot on so many levels. I am familiar with this darkness and I find comfort in it, I like the solitude the music evokes and I can think of many moments when I will want to listen to this score again.

Cue rating: 96 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 71 / 82

Album excellence: 86%

Highlights:

Wrath of the Lich King [Main Title]

Dragons’ Rest

Arthas, My Son [Cinematic Intro]

Path of Tears

Crystalsong

Dalaran

God Hunters

Forged in Blood

Mountains of Thunder

The Eye of Eternity

Garden of Life

The Culling

Rise of the Vrykul

Totems of the Grizzlemaw

Obsidian Sanctum

Angrathar’s Shadow

Assault on New Avalon

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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