Jukebox Heroes: The best of vanilla World of Warcraft’s soundtrack

    
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With half the MMO community in a frenzy about the coming of World of Warcraft Classic this summer, many a gamer’s mind has turned back to ye olde dayz of vanilla WoW and the memories from the first go-around of that era of the game.

Other than playing the beta itself, there are few more sure ways of yanking us back in time than listening to the original soundtrack to this fantasy MMORPG. World of Warcraft’s vanilla score may have been surpassed in talent and quality by later expansion installments, but for my money, there will always be something special and earnest about this score that was never quite replicated in the more modern years.

So why not go back to World of Warcraft’s original score and see if we can’t trigger a fond memory or two with these half-dozen tracks curated from over 90 pieces that came out in the 2004-06 period. Give them a listen and let me know what your favorite tracks are from vanilla in the comments!

“Legends of Azeroth”

While Call to Arms may be World of Warcraft’s signature tune, I have always considered the original login theme to be the definitive track of vanilla. We certainly heard it the most, and those booming opening notes always made us anticipate the fun that was to come. I love how the track gets quiet and then builds this rather exciting movement that is at once martial, thrilling, and even a little foreboding.

“Elwynn Forest”

The early steps into the human lands contained that mixture of heady anticipation and nervous discovery. We didn’t know what lay over the next ridge or down that dusty road, and music like this kept that feeling going long after we had discovered every inch of the land. I love how intimate and quiet this track is, as if it’s just playing for you and you alone.

“Dun Morogh”

Yes, many of the beginning zones had fantastic tracks, but I’ve always been the most partial to Dun Morogh. It’s a track that tiptoes around a fragile melody, giving off an aura of quiet frozen woodland and wilderness begging to be explored. I’ve listened to this track in game and outside so many times and I’ve yet to grow bored of it.

“Tavern”

Oh, you’ve probably heard this so many times the notes pour out of your ears and eyes (somehow). And yes, maybe it’s overdone, but it’s still one of the more iconic and relaxing pieces of the original game — one that always made me feel as if I was stepping into a warm, homey sanctuary.

Special mention to the Forsaken tavern in Brill, which featured a unique track that developed a cult following for its jangling weirdness.

“Teldrassil”

There were plenty of what I like to call “elfy tracks” in Vanilla WoW, including Darnassus and Moonglade, but there’s something special about Teldrassil’s theme that resonated with fans so strongly. It can be at times mysterious, spiritual, exciting, and exotic, and that mixture primed a generation of Night Elves to flip their way out of the World Tree and into other lands.

“The Barrens”

Considering just how much time some players spent in this zone, it should be expected that the Barrens theme was seared into their memories. It’s a desolate track, full of single instruments and slow pacing, perfect for exploring this wide-open landscape. I have a deep respect for atmospheric tracks that draw you into the mood of the zone without pushing you away from it, and this piece definitely does that (plus, woodblock!).

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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I always like Teldrassil’s opening music. Always brought to mind images of Rivendell for me and a couple of hobbits jumping on a bed.

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Akagi

I feel the same way. A Night Elf Hunter was my first character where I got serious about getting into the game and this music is imprinted into my brain, it just loads up the memories of doing that first quest about Thistle Boars and Mangy Nightsabers… Being so weak without a pet (back then I had no idea I will get one) and after completing the quests with taming and everything and getting my pet and feeling twice as strong… that experience was majestic.

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Chosenxeno .

I really like Stormwind’s theme. I remember getting there the 1st time and seeing the statues and how big the city was. I was a pure noob. I was a Night Elf. I had no concept of Hearthstone/Binding(it was my 1st MMORPG). I remember asking my guild if there was a way I could stay in Stormwind. That theme is a huge Nostalgia trigger for me.

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Eamil

“Legends of Azeroth” is the best WoW login theme hands-down. With every expansion it’s like they were shouting “LOOK HOW ORCHESTRAL AND AMAZING WE CAN BE!” The original is beautiful but tastefully understated, which – when I’ve just been disconnected from the server for the 15th time that night – is exactly what I want.

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Sarah Cushaway

Vanilla WoW’s soundtrack will always be very special. I loved the emptiness of the Barrens and Teldrassil had some of the most memorable starting zone music of any MMO I’ve played–fit the mood perfectly.

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Ironwu

Very nice! I almost always turn off music in games due to most of it being worse than elevator tunes. Thus, I have never heard these pieces before.

Once the Classic WoW beta restarts tomorrow, I will be turning it on and revisiting some of the Horde zones I have already done, and will likely keep it on for future zones. At least until I am familiar with the themes for a particular zone.

Thanks for bringing this forward; really good information. :)

mystwen
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mystwen

Oh, you are in for a treat then!

And yes, much thanks, Justin, for the tracks!