Jukebox Heroes: Exploring World of Warcraft Battle for Azeroth’s patch music

A note to our readers: This article was written in early October 2019, before Blizzard’s wildly unpopular decision to penalize esports players over a pro-democracy protest. While the exact nature of the future of our Blizzard coverage is something we are still discussing, we are proud of our columnists’ work and do not wish to continue delaying their articles indefinitely, so we’re releasing them this week, including this one. We are not endorsing Blizzard’s recent decisions or actions in doing so.

One of my favorite modern trends of MMORPGs is that studios are no longer saving the entirety of a soundtrack for the base game or expansion releases. Oh sure, those usually get a great album push — especially if it’s one of the bigger games — but for a while now, many studios have also been releasing new music on a steady basis with significant content patches.

Guild Wars 2, Final Fantasy XIV, Lord of the Rings Online, EverQuest II, EVE Online, and several other MMOs have been great at doing this, and the resulting collection of patch music often makes up a full album in its own right. Tack on World of Warcraft to this list as well; WoW’s soundtrack gets a lot of notice when an expansion launches, but there is usually a lot of new music that comes with the big content drops.

I’ve been letting a lot of this WoW patch music from the past year pile up in my “to listen” pile, so I’m using today’s column as an excuse to listen through a lot of post-Patch 8.0 tunes and give you my thoughts on some of the best.

“Kul Tiran Human”

I’m of the opinion that the Alliance got the best of everything in BFA — the best zones, the best allied races, the bee mount — and you can tack on “best music” to that list. This lengthy racial track for the Kul Tirans is flat-out engrossing and amazing. It calls me back a bit to Northrend, but there’s a distinct naval/pirate tone that is softly and slowly played as the choir hums you to sleep in a rocking ship’s belly.

“Eternal Palace”

Yup, I listened through a half-hour music track (which is made up of about five or six movements) that covers the entirety of the great raid here. At first, it’s darkly exciting, pumping out enough energy to keep any fight going for a good long while. After a while, you could probably remove the “exciting” off of that, as it grows just dourly ambient.

“Mechagon (Alternate Future)”

I’m always a sucker for a good Gnomish track in WoW, and Patch 8.2 gave us a lot of these. The alternate future theme here is whimsical, goofy, and downright addictive. It even tosses in hints of the old Gnomeregan music, which I appreciated.

“Battle for Darkshore”

At over 36 minutes in length, the Battle for Darkshore suite is a mini-concert in and of itself. I’m not complaining! It’s in turns very thrilling, faintly nostalgic, and surprisingly vulnerable. I wasn’t really bored at any point listening through it.

“Zandalar Forever”

Blizzard’s composers hit on something tremendous with its Zandalar theme in this expansion, so I’m all for a reprise that builds upon that impressive piece of music. This raid theme definitely has forward momentum — no waiting around in this group, no sirree — but it has fun working in tribal elements and those sharp flutes into all of the cracks.


“Zanalari Allied Race Themes”

I do wish that Blizzard would follow other studios’ leads and at least post its additional patch music on SoundCloud or YouTube or something if it’s not going to sell it. The alternative tends to be fans grabbing the music as these obscenely long tracks that should be divvied up into smaller songs.

That said, the hour-plus run of the Zandalari racial themes absolutely breezed by as I listened to it. It is gorgeous music that doesn’t get old even with plenty of repetition and simple sections. I just think it’s a crime that it was buried in a patch and isn’t getting the attention that it deserves.

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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