While Morrowind has an (incomplete) CD release alongside in addition to digital release, and Skyrim has a full four disc soundtrack in physical form, Oblivion’s soundtrack was only available as a digital download from DirectSong. In terms of distribution, the collector in me would love to have a physical artifact. Form and format aside, this audio collection is a must-have for Elder Scrolls fans.
It was only a week ago that I completed Oblivion and its expansions, so the music is fresh on my mind. It’s worth noting that Soule set many precedents with Morrowind, including a main melody that would be found throughout subsequent entries in the series. If you shout “Fus ro dah!” and hear epic music in your head… yeah, that was first found in Morrowind (see “Nerevar Rising”). And again in Oblivion (see “Reign of the Septims”). Multiple motifs from Morrowind would be used in Oblivion, in fact.
That doesn’t mean Oblivion was bereft of original themes. Far from it. One of my favorites, “King and Country,” shows that Soule was able to retain much of the chamber orchestra, with its wind-swept tonality (that’s the best way I can think to describe it). If you’re looking for strange and beautiful adventure, here’s your soundtrack.
A familiar motif I love hearing in the game, “Wings of Kynareth” keeps the brass subtle, the strings prominent, and winds dominant. Percussion is used more for resonance than for marking the tempo. What a beautiful piece of music!
More light-and-fluffy “stuff dreams are made of” music comes in the following track, “Alls Well.” I can absolutely get lost in this. In fact, I think I just did. Give me some time to recover.
Alright, I’ve recovered. “March of the Marauders” woke me up. And yet, with that choir work, I still feel like I’m in a dream. Just, perhaps, a more lucid dream.
As I listen through the album’s middle, I admit that it is a bit of a grind. Kind of like when you grind in an RPG. There are a lot of battle themes, and for me, Soule’s Elder Scrolls music shines in its nature-y ambient woodland themes and its sense of mystery. To the extent that brash brass exists, I’m a little turned off. But only a little.
“Auriel’s Ascension” (track 18) uses another familiar melody: one that, if I recall correctly, appears in Morrowind as well. In any case, it represents virtually everything I like about the Elder Scrolls music, even if you can hear some artifacts in the recording (page-turning and/or breathing).
The album ends the same way TS Eliot predicted the world would end. That’s only cryptic if you’ve never read “The Hollow Men” … And/or, you’ve never listened to this soundtrack.
Perhaps not as memorable as Morrowind or as thorough as Skyrim, the Oblivion soundtrack is nonetheless a beautiful set of music. Now that it’s part of my digital audio collection, I can’t imagine not having it. Cheers to Jeremy Soule and his continued work with Bethesda on this series.