Saturday, April 26, 2014

Game Scores: The Elder Scrolls Online (PC)

Just to get this out of the way beforehand, yes I enjoy this soundtrack and yes, I believe that it fits in very well with the music from the rest of the Elder Scroll series.

Now that that's out of the way, we can get down to brass tacks.

Jeremy Soule, the composer of the scores from the other games in the Elder Scroll series composed only the main theme, "For Blood, For Glory, For Honor."  This theme does not contain any semblance of the "Nerevar Rising" theme that has become the theme that most people know from The Elder Scroll series.  I feel like Jeremy Soule's contribution is to get the player into the mood to play an Elder Scrolls game in the 2nd Era, that this will be an epic adventure in a familiar world during an unfamiliar period of history.  It's basically an overture in the perfect sense of the word.  

The rest of the 47 soundtrack is broken up between three other artists. 

Brad Derrick, who wrote 43 of the 47 tracks is the most obscure composer on this soundtrack.  By "obscure" I do not mean that his music does not fit in with the overall tone of the game or with the setting that Jeremy Soule set with the main theme, but that there is very little information that I could find about him.  His profile is pretty stark while what looks to be the right Brad Derrick's website simply has "meep."  I was unable find a listing on IMDb.  All the obscurity aside, what Brad Derrick has composed fits very well within the Elder Scrolls universe.  Simply listening to his music, and not knowing that it is him, you might easily assume that you were listening to a Jeremy Soule score.  Similar to how if you listen to the score from Speed or Transformers you might assume that you were listening to Hans Zimmer and not Mark Mancina and Steve Jablonksy, respectively. 

Back to Brad Derrick, sorry for the diversion.  While I do feel that what Mr. Derrick has composed fits very well within the world, what he has written is not overly memorable.  That is not to say that the music is not any good, but I could not hum you one theme from any of the songs.  Now when a particular song comes on, say "Y'ffre in Every Leaf" or "The Tower Casts Long Shadows," I'll recognize certain elements and be able to hum/sing/whisper parts of the song.  But, but, BUT, there are a few songs that move beyond the usual "atmospheres" such as "Weapons Drawn" and "A Peril Upon the Sands," which sound more action oriented.

Rik Schaffer, the second composer wrote only two songs that appear on the album.  Rik Schaffer on the other hand has a bit more of a discoverable background when compared to Brad Derrick.  That fact aside, his contributions to The Elder Scrolls Online soundtrack is no less because of only two songs being included.  Both "The Heart of Nirn" and "Northern Nocturne" compliment both the Elder Scrolls as a whole and the music that Brad Derrick wrote.  I would almost go so far to say that their two styles are so very similar hear that they are practically indistinguishable, but maybe I just haven't listened to the soundtrack as much as previous soundtracks.

The final artist included on the soundtrack is also the final track on the album.  The song "Beauty of Dawn" was composed and performed by Malukah, a Mexican musician known online for her guitar and vocal covers of video game music from series such as The Elder Scrolls, Halo,  Mass Effect and more.  She posted a video back in November 2011 of a cover she did of "The Dragonborn Comes" from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim which, to date, has 12,009,584 views.  Apparently she attracted the attention of Zenimax Online Studios and was hired (?) to write an original song for The Elder Scrolls Online.  "Beauty of Dawn," while itself is a pretty song, I do nott feel that it has the *oomph* that her covers of "The Dragonborn Comes" or even "The Age of Aggression," both from Skyrim.  I have heard both this song and another (not included on the soundtrack) sung by a bard in-game while wandering around one of the various towns/villages in TESO, but a stripped down version that doesn't include the vocal layering that Malukah often includes in her compositions.

As a whole, I really enjoy the soundtrack and am very happy having purchased it from the store that sold it to me.  I first saw the album advertised through one of Bethesda/Zenimax's newsletters as being on sale through the iTunes store which had it (and still does) priced at $15.99.  I then thought I would check Amazon and they have the exact same album, all 47 tracks for only $8.99.  While I refrain from pandering to one storefront over another, I will not say were I bought the soundtrack, but as previously stated, I am very glad that I did and am satisfied with the price that I paid.

I will say that the soundtrack falls very heavily into the atmospheric category.  Maybe with the exception of the main theme, most of the tracks work well as background music for adventuring and exploring the landscapes of Tamriel, so I do not think that many people will be blasting the music during a backyard barbeque with the bros.  Maybe I'm wrong though.

If you are looking for a rollicking soundtrack that's akin to Hans Zimmer's King Arthur score, then you should and go and buy that album because that is an awesome soundtrack.  However, if you are looking for beautiful background music to put you near 950 years in the past before your 250+ hour video game, then this will probably be perfect for your collection.


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