Ever since taking over the reins of Lord of the Rings Online’s soundtrack, Composer Bill Champagne has grown in leaps and bounds in his confidence and skill. This is evident in his latest release, the rather expansive and expressive Before the Shadow release.
Before the Shadow
Talk about starting off on a strong note! The titular theme of this mini-expansion is a mini-symphony of its own — from magical to mysterious to ominous. But above and beyond it all, this piece has quite a heart to it.
Rest After a Long Journey
This almost belongs more in a Final Fantasy game than LOTRO, but I’ll let it slide because I kind of dig its jaunty old western vibe. My only complaint here is that it sounds like two different tracks are playing simultaneously and don’t always sync up.
Cranny and Nook
This homespun-sounding track conjures metal images of long summer afternoons and peaceful returns. I like the slightly “off” sound of its instruments and tempo… makes it come across as a bit more natural than artificial, if you take my meaning.
The Stoors Abode
The Stoor hobbits are a bit more country than their northern cousins, so it makes sense than their theme evokes images of being down on the farm, chasing chickens, and so on. It’s a genial track with several sections featuring their own distinct instrument.
The Waiting Night
One of the most memorable quests in the new expansion involves a long night’s wait in an inn with the townsfolk. This tune captures the cheery interior of the tavern as well as the apprehension that something terrible may happen. It’s a tricky balancing act!
The unusual choice of instrument gives this track a bit of a Scandinavian flair. It’s somewhat between a jig and a rustic lounge song, and the more I listen to it, the more it grows on me.
The Shadow Rises
This track is like a “best of hits” medley, weaving in old familiar LOTRO tunes into an end product that’s a bit more gruff and weathered. It’s certainly a standout on this album.