You know what I love most about this 4 CD soundtrack? That it exists.
That might sound like a stupid thing to say. But let's face it: this is Jeremy Soule doing fantasy RPG music. We know he can and generally does do an amazing job. He has a style for these games: see Icewind Dale, the Elder Scrolls series, and (obviously) the first Guild Wars. The guy has a knack for it.
But for collectors everywhere, this release (from publisher DirectSong) is a major boon. The first Guild Wars and its many expansions have their CD soundtracks scattered across various limited/collector's edition boxes, and only some of them are available (digital-only) via DirectSong, which Soule uses to publish most of his soundtracks.
GW2, on the other hand, exists as a physical album in a handy fold-out case, similar to the ES5: Skyrim soundtrack. That's awesome. However, I suspect the template of the Skyrim soundtrack may have gone too far. With a different packaging style, they could've packaged the album as three discs; and if you look at the total disc times, you can see that this music could have easily fit on three discs instead of four.
I'm not just happy about the existence of the physical soundtrack, though. I'm also happy about the completeness of the soundtrack. All told, what we have here is over three hours of full symphonic orchestra & choir recording. Good times, good times!
With that said, I must acknowledge that this blessing comes with a curse. I would urge, or even warn, would-be owners of this soundtrack: don't try to take it in all at once! The first disc is filled with fantastic, epic anthems and some beautiful, soft pieces as well. Disc two has more of the same. Disc three has even more, but it stands out less. And disc four? With the exception of the end vocal piece, you will likely find yourself like me: tired of the same-y lifts and dives, both in pitch and volume.
My favorite tracks on here are the soft pieces, those that feature only a few instruments. Piano and strings is a winning combination, you know: like peanut butter and chocolate, or bacon and more bacon. "Lornar's Pass" on disc 2 represents everything I love about Soule's ability to write soft, ambient pieces.
And then that ending song ... seriously, "Fear Not This Night" is unlike any vocal track I've ever heard. There's this classical operatic sound in the performance of vocalist Asja Kadric, but there's also an "English folk meadowlands" sound in there as well. And the chord progression, simple though it may be, is ridiculously evocative. I love it.
I'd like to end this review by quoting, verbatim, Soule's statement written on the back of the album. They are as follows:
"For nearly ten years, Guild Wars has been a world and a symphony to me. The heroic and the tragic elements of the saga have brought forth my own inner struggles with harmony, rhythm and melody. With each note, the music has challenged my senses and raised my awareness as a composer to truly live in the moment with the most determined creativity. What is in this soundtrack represents years of development. To you, my dearest friends, I hope that you enjoy this world and this symphony. I am forever grateful for your support and kindness."
Determined creativity, indeed. How you did this and Skyrim back-to-back, I'll never know. There are similarities, but these are definitely two separate, unique scores. Careful listeners will be able to discern the Guild Wars from the Elder Scrolls with ease. Keep up the good work, Mr. Soule.
Reviewed by: Patrick Gann