Jukebox Heroes: The best of LOTRO’s Before the Shadow soundtrack


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.

These 55 tracks (!) range from the merry to the moody, from the exciting to the dreadful. I’ve certainly seen a lot of praise for it, and I’ve been eager to explore it myself from start to finish. Here are the highlights I’ve found.

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!

Paths Forsaken

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.

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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