World of Warcraft: Taverns of Azeroth

World of Warcraft: Taverns of Azeroth. Передняя обложка. Click to zoom.
World of Warcraft: Taverns of Azeroth
Передняя обложка
Composed by David Arkenstone / Jason Hayes
Arranged by David Arkenstone
Published by Blizzard Entertainment
Release type Game Soundtrack - Official Release
Format 1 CD - 19 tracks
Release date August 3, 2007
Duration 00:50:46
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On first sight, the concept behind World of Warcraft: Taverns of Azeroth makes this soundtrack album look like a novelty release, and potentially like a mere cash-in on the World of Warcraft phenomenon. Taverns of Azeroth brings together the music played in the taverns spread throughout World of Warcraft's landscape. Upon closer inspection though, this album collection starts to make a lot more sense, considering that Blizzard had drafted David Arkenstone, one of new age music's most popular artists, to pen these pieces. Arkenstone, with a multitude of albums, three Grammy nominations, and a number of soundtrack composition jobs for feature films and television under his belt, was certainly an intriguing choice for this assignment. Taverns of Azeroth was first sold at fan convention BlizzCon 2007, where Arkenstone also performed pieces from the soundtrack live with his band. In 2008 then, Taverns of Azeroth was released as a digital download on iTunes and Amazon.


The album cover may show a dwarf and an orc, raising their drinking horns and probably bawling raucous songs, but don't expect to hear anything particularly rip-roaring on this soundtrack. Arkenstone and his acoustic band — usually consisting of two violins, flutes and other woodwinds, harp, acoustic guitar and hand percussion — perform compositions that most of the time have a gentle, relaxed vibe to them. With an artistic concept that can be potentially quite restrictive, the success of an album like Taverns of Azeroth depends to a large degree on how much variety the composers can bring to the formula. Fortunately, Arkenstone's background in new age music, which incorporates elements of folk, prog rock and symphonic music, allows him to create a colourful collection of cues. The compositions on Taverns of Azeroth can mostly be grouped into three distinct musical categories, and the album sequencing creates a smooth listening flow between the stylistically different tracks.

Most prominent are those compositions that many will expect to hear on an album like this, and whose light dance rhythms will have you tapping your toes and humming the pieces' catchy melodies. These tracks will be familiar to soundtrack collectors as material that is often used by composers to evoke a medieval-styled, rustic period feeling. Once a solo fiddle takes centre stage on a piece like "Pig and Whistle", backed by bouncy, energetic rhythms, the music takes on an unmistakeably Celtic lilt and is strongly reminiscent of an Irish jig. Similarly driving dance rhythms dominate "Salty Sailor" and "Bloodsail", which aptly mirror the taverns' maritime locations and which are both catchy sea chanties full of infectious melodies and rhythms. Particularly "Bloodsail" highlights the merits of scoring a number of tracks for two violins, which always offer ear-catching harmonies and occasionally perform different melody lines for some welcome counterpoint.

Other times, the hand percussion rhythms pushing a piece forward will be softer and less insistent, for example on "Lion's Pride" and "Stone Fire", already released as "Taverns" on World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade. These compositions also feature slightly richer instrumentations, with the melody on "Lion's Pride" being passed from harp to flute and finally to the violins. Hand drums and tambourine keep the piece going with their varied rhythms, and generally, Arkenstone does an admirable job at finding the right balance between catchiness and sufficiently changing a composition's textures throughout its running time. And not only does he fully exploit the sounds of the limited number of instruments at hand, but he also varies a track's atmosphere even within the described framework of light, medieval-flavoured dance tunes. While "Slaughtered Lamb", "Thunderbrew" and "Shady Rest" all charm the listener with their sunny, idyllic atmosphere of carefreeness, "Stone Fire" feels more wistful through its pensive flute solo and sparser rhythms. But no matter what the source material, Arkenstone and his ensemble constantly sound like a band that's having a great time performing these tunes, and the album's clear, warm acoustics perfectly capture this joyful sound. Here as elsewhere, all the band members acquit themselves well on their respective instruments, apart from the occasional brief insecurities that become obvious in the solo violin's playing on "Pig and Whistle" at 1:58 and on "Slaughtered Lamb" at 1:53 and 2:07.

Another set of compositions are equally rhythm-driven, but they work with simpler, often tribal-sounding musical patterns. These tracks come to represent the gathering places of those races in Azeroth that live close to nature. "Elders' Hearth" and "Hunter's Refuge" exemplify the hallmarks of this kind of cues. The hand drums play pounding, almost hypnotic rhythms, while the melodic material is rather sparse and only consists of very short phrases which are performed by a single instrument, usually an ethnic woodwind instrument. Also, the melody instruments are used rather to create an exotic, organic atmosphere than to provide the listener with memorable melodic hooks. While the resulting music is less immediately approachable than those hummable tunes for full ensemble, it doesn't fail to conjure a strongly evocative, fitting atmosphere.

And again, Arkenstone tweaks his approach sufficiently. In its second half, "Hunter's Refuge" features some syncopated drum patterns around the main beat and becomes more outwardly lyrical through a duet between solo violin and a distant flute. "Smoke Lodge" relies not so much on tribal rhythms and more on the full-bodied sound of various different woodwind instruments playing in counterpointal layers. Not surprisingly, this earthy sound is also well-suited to invoke an air of mysticism, which is present on "Spirit Stone" and "Bad Juju Bar & Grill". Both tracks sport a more subdued mood, courtesy on "Spirit Stone" of slower rhythms and sustained minor key violin chords, whose serious sounds are accompanied by all kinds of tinkling and clanging metallic percussion instruments. Their densely layered, unpredictable sounds nicely balance the track's simple melodic material and also greatly enliven "Grunt Lodge". This track becomes even more intriguing through the way its repetitive rhythms are performed with uncharacteristic restraint by flute and violin, instead of hand percussion. Only on "Bad Juju Bar & Grill" does this relatively minimalist approach fail: the melodic material is too thin to be particularly interesting or atmospheric, and at the same time, the track's droning percussion fails to achieve the intended spellbinding effect.

The third kind of compositions found on Taverns of Azeroth are the more languid tracks that display Arkenstone' expert handling of new age-style mood pieces. Matching the atmosphere of their locations to a tee, they prove to be atmospheric highlights of the album and effectively contrast the livelier material surrounding them. "Gallow's End", the only tavern in the land of the Forsaken, sounds appropriately ominous and... well, forsaken, opening with nothing but a plinking acoustic guitar figure, which will provide the track's rhythmic backbone. Eerie sustained violin chords later form the backdrop for a hushed flute solo. Meanwhile, the cold, thin sounds of chimes inject the music with a sense of both mystery and vastness that fittingly portray the forlorn lands outside the tavern walls. "Scarlet Raven" equally relies on a lone flute solo, backed by plodding hand drum rhythms and more acoustic guitar figures. But the mood turns more expressively sorrowful when the flute solo is combined with the mourning sounds of a solo violin, and even wordless, floating vocals are thrown into the mix to haunting effect.

"Temple of the Moon", the album's most mystical moment, makes for a great, peaceful album closer. Scoring the night elves' gathering point, the composition is predictably ethereal and relies on the same instruments as so many other tracks of its ilk: chimes, harp, solo flute and light female choir Aahs. Still, it all comes together nicely and turns more melodically attractive through a solo violin which first backs the flute. Later, the violin takes off on its own during an almost soaring, heart-rending solo at 2:45, which is underpinned by those heavenly choir harmonies and some flute counterpoint, leaving the listener in peaceful bliss.


Once more, the sounds of Azeroth undergo a transformation: after the symphonic bombast of World of Warcraft and the world music stylings of The Burning Crusade, Taverns of Azeroth only needs a decent-sized acoustic band and a set of varied, both atmospheric and infectious, compositions to keep the listener engaged. And interestingly enough, what at first may look like a curiosity album of sing-along ditties turns out to be a more consistently entertaining listening experience than both World of Warcraft and The Burning Crusade. Much more unassuming than its bigger-sized brethren, Taverns of Azeroth doesn't open new musical horizons, but it's chock full of addictive melodies, lightly-sprung rhythms and rich instrumentations, running the gamut from cheery dance tunes to archaic tribal sounds and beguiling sound tapestries. In short: it's fun from start to finish. Don't overlook this small gem amongst the more over-blown, grand-sounding World of Warcraft soundtracks out there and treat yourself to this delightful collection of tavern songs.


Music in game


Simon Elchlepp

Sold at the Blizzard Store at BlizzCon 2007.

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Album was composed by David Arkenstone / Jason Hayes and was released on August 3, 2007. Soundtrack consists of 19 tracks tracks with duration over about 50 minutes. Album was released by Blizzard Entertainment.

CD 1

Lion's Pride
Pig and Whistle
Gallows' End
Elders' Hearth
Shady Rest
Scarlet Raven
Salty Sailor
Spirit Stone
Bad Juju Bar & Grill
Slaughtered Lamb
Hunters' Refuge
Smoke Lodge
Grunts' Place
Tarren Mill
Temple of the Moon
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