Jukebox Heroes: World of Warcraft’s best music, part 1

    
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A week ago, I started to engage in an interesting thought experiment. I started jotting down what I thought were the best World of Warcraft music tracks to see if, I don’t know, I could come up with a top 10 list or something. What would those tracks be, anyway? I drafted good prospects from my own collection, scouted around on various soundtrack sites to see what others said, and even polled Twitter.

The list grew. And it grew. And it grew some more. That top 10 list became a top 20, and before I knew it, it had topped 30 tracks with no signs of slowing down. While World of Warcraft has a surprisingly large number of filler and forgettable music tracks, Blizzard has put so much care and effort into creating the game’s score that dozens of masterpieces have been added to the soundtrack (which is somewhere around 600 pieces, depending on how you count them).

So I drew a hard line and decided to count down from my personal 32 favorite tracks over the next five installments of Jukebox Heroes. Some of these are definitely popular hits while others might only exist as my guilty pleasures. Let’s get started with the countdown — and let me know what you think should be included in the weeks to come!

32. Azuremyst Isle

I have a particular fondness for beginning zone music, especially if I’ve spent a lot of time in those areas. Since I created many Draenei following the release of The Burning Crusade, I’m well acquainted with this soundtrack. It’s mellow, haunting, and really sells the alien nature of the race and design. Listening to this, I feel as though I have to be tiptoeing through hallowed halls and keeping my voice at a reasonable volume, lest I disturb the sanctuary around me.

31. Sholazar Basin

I feel that for some people, the only “good” WoW music is the really loud, epic stuff. For me, it is often the opposite; I enjoy really tranquil and memorable melodies that allow for prolonged questing without ear fatigue. Sholazar Basin is a wonderful example of this, mixing a vague tribal tune with ambient noises. It’s like you’ve walked into the world’s most relaxing spa that just so happens to have a prehistoric jungle theme.

30. Invincible

Hooboy, I’m going to get hate mail for putting this so far down on the list, but let me explain. I know — I know very well — that “Invincible” is for some people the “One-Winged Angel” of the World of Warcraft soundtrack. It’s a massive fan favorite about Arthas’ dead horsie, and if you think it deserves a much higher spot, so be it. Personally? I’ve never warmed up to it. Choir tracks in WoW are hit-or-miss with me, and this one seems a touch melodramatic. Still, there is artistry at work here and I would be remiss to leave it out entirely, so I’m putting it smack on the 30 spot and moving on with my life.

29. Westfall / Durotar

Used in both Durotar and Westland, this vanilla track is achingly familiar to me from my initial years in this MMO. It’s very quiet and almost ambient with synth horns carrying most of the load, but I’ve always loved it. When I’ve stepped into these zones and heard this, I felt like I was entering a larger world full of danger and mystery while leaving behind the sanctuary of the newbie areas.

28. The Culling of Strathome

Some of the tracks in World of Warcraft are designed to sell a specific story experience, and this suite is most definitely a narrative soundtrack. It seems almost wrong, somehow, that a score for a city-wide massacre should be so catchy in parts, but I appreciated that it did have those lighter moments that kept the darkness entirely from taking over.

27. Karazhan Opera House

World of Warcraft’s composers aren’t afraid to go outside of the typical fantasy boundaries to give us incredibly varied and experimental pieces. I think a lot of people like myself have fond memories of the opera house in Karazhan with its madcap, offkey harpsichord (or organ, if you prefer). It’s definitely reminiscent of Disney’s Haunted Mansion and suits the spectral setting perfectly.

That’s it for our first part of the countdown! We’ll be back soon with the next batch of WoW hits, but don’t let the wait stop you from discussing your favorites below!

MMOs are meant to be heard as well as seen, and chances are that music ties your memories to these games more than you might realize. Every two weeks Jukebox Heroes listens through a game soundtrack and picks out the highlights to share and discuss. And if you like this column, then don’t miss the author’s MMO music podcast, Battle Bards!
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Ben Willows

Some of my personal favorites are the following, will be funny if they make the list.

Howling Fjord Night.
The Kalu’ak
God Hunters
The Black Temple [Arrival]
Ulduar Antechamber
The Shattering.
Pirate Tavern Music.
Human Tavern Music.
Temple of the Moon.

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agemyth 😩

Doh, you’re really going to tease this one out, huh. Darn you Justin and your listicles!

I used to love the Kara Opera House music, but I made a big mistake in unlocking it for my music box in the Draenor garrison. Wasn’t subtle enough to leave playing on loop and every time I visited my place.

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Rick Mills

Both Nagrands in Wow – So peaceful.