Friday, January 29, 2016

Into the Heart of the Jungle

Heart of Thorns soundtrack cover (Source:
After completing the score of Guild Wars 2, original composer Jeremy Soule signed a contract where he was to exclusively write music for the Everquest series. With Soule refined to his tiny MMO cage, we now have the pleasure of Maclaine Diemer and Lena Chappelle (featuring a bit of Stan Le Pard) creating the music behind this absolutely spine tingling addition to the Guild Wars musical canon.

The music couldn't be a further departure from Soule's style. Whereas Soule's work is fantastical, this team know how to capture that fantasy sound but also create atmosphere. The score is lyrical, blending amazing orchestration (brass, strings and percussion being the strongest featured) and the traditional fantasy soundtrack with inspiration of indigenous voices and Eastern tonalities. The results are gorgeous, forlorn, and overall, exceptionally powerful.

There are no throw away tracks in this score. The thunderous 'Heart of Thorns Theme' is brilliant - a brooding, dark overture which pulsates with a rhythm driven by powerful percussion, strings, and brass. It's nothing short of awesome. Other picks are the mysterious and serene 'Quaggan Command' (dat name tho), the escalating 'Maguuma Overture', the exquisite candor of 'Tarir, the Forgotten City' and the ethnic and jaunty 'Jaka Itzel' (which along with 'Faren's Flier' provides some nice light relief to the otherwise serious score). There is also this beautiful discourse of intoxicating mystery which comes across in tracks like 'Rata Novus', 'Dangerous Beauty' and 'Taming the Jungle'. The score closes with 'Mordremoth', a final ode to the treaterous jungle which encapsulates the whole score with lightning strings, intricate rhythms and percussion and alien languages and ritualistic chanting.

There's also a very impressive preservation of themes previously appearing in the series - Soule's Guild Wars motif echoes throughout, featuring prominently on 'Leaving Tarir', and Crystal Oasis (all the way back from the original Guild Wars: Prophecies) features on 'An Exalted Lullaby'. However, the team integrates them only as brief fragments before they evolve to take on a life of their own. And I won't go into great detail on excellent battle tracks like 'Attack on Tarir' or 'Mouth of Mordremoth' - all you need to know is that they feature far more melody and structure as Soule's work, but unlike Soule, manages to actually make something enjoyable.

The recording of the orchestra isn't the highest possibly quality, but that's what makes it such a refreshing listen to after hearing so much of Soule's scores. You hear little scuffs, pages shuffle and people taking breaths, and at one point you can even hear someone's muffled cough in the background. These don't detract from the music - on the contry, it gives it a magical, living and breathing feeling. I understand there is a certain amount of instrumental patches used, but I couldn't be happier that there's a real orchestra in use to some capacity, and I hope it carries on for the next Guild Wars expansions.

I can't comment on how appropriate this music is within the game's instances, but the quality of music and melody here is extremely strong, and easily stands alone as an excellent soundtrack. My jaw dropped from the moment I hit play on a sample up until the final note had settled on the finale. I hope Diemer & Chappelle stay with ArenaNet for a long time, and I'm eagerly going to await their foray into Cantha, Elona, and beyond.

''Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns Original Soundtrack' by ArenaNet, composed by Maclaine Diemer, Lena Chappelle & Stan Le Pardl is available digitally on iTunes and Available for pre-order on physical vinyl. I wish it was available on CD, but who actually buys them anymore?

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