Jukebox Heroes: World of Warcraft’s best music, part 2

    
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Probably the most challenging aspect of creating a “top 32” list of the best World of Warcraft music isn’t coming up with a track list. Heck, that’s the easy part, considering how many great tunes Blizzard’s composers have added to this MMO over the years. No, the difficult job is taking those 32 tracks and then ranking them as part of a countdown.

What makes one track better than another? Do I go by perceived popularity or by my own preferences (hint: I went with the latter while remaining influenced by the former). Is it a slight to put tracks further down on the list? What happens when we count down to the number one spot… and still haven’t included a track that a fan considers essential to such a list?

I’ll have to get over these worries and fears. That’s on me. For your part, all you need to do is enjoy the next batch of World of Warcraft’s best tunes as we travel through the 20s!

26. The Wandering Isle

I’ll admit to being a little less-than-enthusiastic about the Mists of Pandaria soundtrack. It’s part that I wasn’t playing during this expansion (and have no personal connections between these tracks and zones), and it’s part that I have listened to so many Asian MMO soundtracks that a lot of this music sounds similar.

That said, this is a beautifully constructed track that does the Eastern elements of the expansion very proud. I particularly enjoyed the deep, nearly breathless chanting and the beating drums in the second half. It builds up to a thrilling climax that signifies strength and tradition.

25. Lament of the Highborne

While I am no friend of Elves, I find myself enchanted by Elvish tunes in MMOs — especially World of Warcraft. There will be a few of them on this list, I fear, including fan favorite “Lament of the Highborne.” Like many of the Elvish tracks, it’s an enchanting tune filled with mystery, sadness, and magic. I’m not putting it higher because I don’t particularly care for the lyrics. The melody itself is wonderful, however.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4U4vr_Ra3o

24. Ashenvale

Going totally old school here, this is one of the original vanilla tracks and a piece that is quite familiar to any Night Elf that spent his or her early hours adventuring on the top of the world tree. It’s a serene tune that uses the harp to great effect. While peaceful at its core, around the fringes of this track you can hear some uncertain and even foreboding elements. It’s a beautiful world out there, to be sure, but a dangerous one as well.

23. Valley of the Four Winds

I guess I could have titled this section of the list “Pandas and Elves,” eh? It’s just how it settled. Another solid Pandaria piece, “Valley of the Four Winds” takes a minute to get going before tiptoeing mischeviously toward us. This track goes on a journey as it tells a story of life, death, and purpose. It’s slow and stately, taking the time to properly set the mood for players, and I can see why it is lauded among some of them.

22. Eversong Woods

It may be impossible to imagine now, but there was a time before the Horde had their own long-eared Elves. When the Blood Elves joined the fray in The Burning Crusade, a lot of players were wondering how different they would be from the Night Elves. Turns out, “quite a lot” but “not completely” was the answer.

The music to the Blood Elf intro zone, Eversong Woods, really sets the tone for this race. Like the Night Elves, it is beautiful and magical, but it’s also so much sadder and regretful. It’s as if you’re hearing the regrettable history of this race as it turns toward evil and arrogance while still retaining a severe beauty that only highlights these choices.

21. Magnificent Desolation

The more I go back and listen to it, the more I am convinced that Warlords of Draenor’s soundtrack was one of the best — if not the very best — expansion soundtrack released to date. It’s absolutely amazing to listen to the mastery at work in so many of these tracks such as “Magnificent Desolation.”

This is the very definition of a “slow burner” that takes some time to really build up its theme and deliver the core hook. By the time the horns start blaring out an epic dirge around the 1:30 mark, you’re swept into a tragic tale that makes the hairs on your arm stand up on end. I get a western movie vibe off of this — not a spaghetti western, but one of the more sad and morally grey tales like Unforgiven. Magnificent Desolation? More like “Magnificent Composition.”

Catch up with the countdown:

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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