For those of you familiar with Blizzard entertainment, you know it to have produced some of the most successful, enjoyable, and addictive titles on PC. However, if you’ve never really listened carefully to the music, then you’re missing out on some excellent orchestral and ambient scores on the PC.
Echoes of War: The Music of Blizzard Entertainment is a three-disc set (two-disc if only the standard version) dedicated to music from Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo. Performed by the Eminence Symphony Orchestra and arranged by a wide variety of composers including Wander and the Colossus (Shadow of the Colossus to the Americans) composer Kow Otani, Go Shiina, Natsumi Kameoka, and Hironori Osone, Echoes of War is certainly unique in its creation. I say this, primarily because it is very rare for Japanese composers to rework Western-RPG themes, and yet here we have just such a crossover.
The album is composed of two discs of music and one DVD which features a “making of” the album video. The first disc covers Warcraft III and World of Warcraft. The opening theme, Journey to Kalimdor, is a suitably expansive track, evoking feelings of pride and service. Eternity’s end, which is the second track, is more subdued and contemplative, without the forceful bassline. Following that, and starting the Shadow of the Legion Symphony is A Tenuous Pact which evokes an adventurous journey with deft use of trumpet and string, while also managing some down-tempo reflective sections in between.
Next up is Anar’alah Belore, a wistful piece meant to convey the sadness of the Blood Elves from Warcraft. It is slow-moving and somewhat mournful, with a little sense of hope and redemption. Finishing up the Shadow of the Legion Symphony is The Betrayer and the Sun King, pulled mostly from Burning Crusade and WoW in general, which wanders a bit in its telling of the story of the uneasy balance between Horde and Alliance.
Finally, as its own symphonic arrangement is Visions of the Lich King Overture, which is really just an arrangement of the login & trailer music from World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. It’s long, but makes good use of choir and brass to convey the grand scope and anticipation many had for this release.
Disc two is more off-beat in its presentation, probably because it features music from Starcraft which has a more futuristic sound rather than medieval. As such, the opening track of the Koprulu Symphony, No Matter the Cost, features rock drumming and trumpeting quite prominently. After that comes an homage to the refined Protoss, entitled En Taro Adun. The piece is much more delicate and symphonic, with chimes and strings.
Next is a heavily arranged tribute to the Zerg, called Eradicate and Evolve, featuring light choral interludes and a rapid switch between fast and slow tempos. What’s more, there is a string section that is reminiscent of Wild Arms. Halfway through, however, the time changes and electronic beeps and guttural choral utterances start showing up. This is truly the oddest piece of the album, and fits well to a race that is all about evolving and changing to meet a new threat.
Finishing off the symphony is Victorious but Not Unscarred, which starts with a hymn-like solo and segues into an ominous march.
Up next is the Hyperion Symphony, based on Starcraft II. Very militaristic and marchlike, the piece uses full orchestra to capture the feel of the beginnings of battle. After that comes a bit of a switch to Diablo II with The Eternal Conflict. The piece stays rather mellow throughout, and the influences of the source material is evident in the middle, with guitar and cello. The next movement comes from the eagerly anticipated Diablo III, and is much more forceful, with tempestuous trumpets and chorus.
Completing the Diablo portion of the album is Children of the Worldstone, which is an original piece inspired by Diablo and composed by Kow Otani. You can draw some similarities to Wander and the Colossus, including the transition between haunting, lonely movements, vocals by Ladybird Moai, and faster-paced strings. While a long track, it is varied and constantly throws new things at the listener.
The last track in the album is entitled Last Angel, and is purely inspired by Diablo, rather than drawing on any of the source material. A lyrical piece, it is both haunting and discordant at times, but definitely feels like it would fit well in the Diablo universe.
If you can get your hands on this collection, it is totally worth it. Aside from the great orchestral compositions, fans will appreciate the extras that come with it, including a bunch of poster strips from the games, as well as a lovely booklet describing in detail and with interviews, the recording and composing process. If you’re not interested in all the pretty extras and just want the music, you can get the standard edition. I can’t find anything to dislike about this collection, and if you can find it, I whole-heartedly recommend it, doubly so if you are a fan of either symphonic compositions and/or Blizzard’s games themselves.