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World of Warcraft Mosaic Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

World of Warcraft Mosaic Soundtrack Album Title: World of Warcraft Mosaic Soundtrack
Record Label: Blizzard Entertainment
Catalog No.: Promotional
Release Date: August 22, 2009
Purchase: Download at iTunes


The World of Warcraft Mosaic Soundtrack is a rare physical album released at BlizzCon 2009. It features 16 exclusive tracks not featured in the main soundtracks for the series, including tracks taken from the patches released between the main expansions. The tracks, as selected by Blizzard's sound director Russell Brower and fans through official polls, includes unreleased music from Black Temple, Ulduar, and Sunwell Plateau. The resultant album is highly impressive.


The soundtrack returns listeners to the World of Warcraft universe with "To the End of the Earth". This track is entirely dedicated to an ethnic instrument solo against warped ambience. However, it is far from bland since the nychelharpa evokes such strong emotions and imagery, thanks to a combination of Russell Brower's inspired writing, Cajsa Ekstav's rich performance, and the instrument's innate timbre. Before taking us to the meat of the soundtrack, listeners are at last given an official version of Matt Uelman's "Honor Hold", which combines a melancholic romantic melody with the distinctive warped symphonic soundscapes of the franchise. Together with "Mag'har" and "Winter's Grasp", it provides the most intimate and personal moments on the jam-packed album.

The first of four extended suites on the soundtrack, "Black Temple" features the main music featured in Illidan Stormrage's fortress. Brower captures the formidable nature of this location with a gorgeous choral introduction and dark ambient soundscaping. As the suite develops, it encompasses a huge dramatic arch — entering several dark interludes and action-packed segments featuring other themes used in the chapter — before closing in an enigmatic suspended manner. The composition is quite derivative — so inspired by Mussorgsky that it even offers an action segment directly based on "Night on Bald Mountain" — but nevertheless fits the location. However, it nevertheless fits the location and is particularly fulfilling in terms of both melodic offerings and rich orchestration.

"Fury of the Sunwell" is another brooding suite for orchestra and chorus used for an elite patch for The Burning Crusade. While it retains the epic qualities of "Black Temple", it is far less derivative and features especially artistic percussion and duduk use. The chorus writing on this suite is single-handedly the finest of the series, particularly the tragic ethnic soprano solo at 4:24 and the spectacular tutti at 6:41, which will evoke strong emotions in game players and soundtrack listeners alike. Note that selections from "Black Temple" and "Fury of the Sunwell" also form the basis of the suite "The Betrayer and the Sun King" on the arranged album Echoes of War. Despite relative deficiencies in terms of orchestral performance, the original renditions are far more encompassing with their huge archs and fluid transitions.

In addition to these dark epics, a range of more unusual timbres are evoked in some of the other additions to the album. Of all the entries on the soundtrack, "The Sundered Shard" is the most minimalistic, featuring an extended electronically manipulated ethnic flute solo above rain sound effects and other ambient noise. It's a little superficial perhaps, but brings some novelty into the universe. The giant "Karazhan" provides a fascinating accompaniment to a dark abandoned castle. Following an immersive yet typical ambient introduction, the composition takes a bizarre turn at the 2:43 mark with an extended harpsichord solo, followed by a duet between pipe organ and bass clarinet; it's pleasing that Brower rejected the typical gothic clichés of game music in favour of a demented neo-Baroque sound.

The conclusion of the soundtrack does not disappoint. Derek Duke takes listeners back to the Storm Peaks with a twelve minute entitled "Secrets of Ulduar". The suite features dark and grandiose symphonic moments like earlier tracks on the soundtrack, but focuses mostly on creating mystery and suspense. Following two brief scene-setting entries, the equally gigantic "Call on the Crusade" is heard in near succession. David Arkenstone takes listeners on a multifaceted journey, from the contemplative duduk-focused introduction into an elating worldly march, before concluding with a turbulent orchestrated action passage. The soundtrack ends with a humorous bonus track, "Brewest!", featuring the rambles of dwarves in a tavern to the accompaniment of a lively accordion solo.


Though it is technically a supplementary soundtrack, the World of Warcraft Mosaic Soundtrack actually offers some of the most impressive moments in the franchise's history. The four extended suites are the major highlights here and each is wonderful for a different reason. However, the single pieces are also mostly well-selected and recapture many memories of the game. Currently, no wider release has been made available, but hopefully it'll eventually make its way to iTunes. It deserves a place in every World of Warcraft lover's collection.

Overall Score: 8/10