The opportunity to listen and comment on Mordor, the soundtrack for the latest Lord of the Rings Online expansion, has been a great privilege. For over ten years Chance’s music has accompanied me on my journey through Middle-earth from The Shire, Moria, Rohan, and now to Mordor. I approached this piece both with trepidation and wistful nostalgia.
Barad-dur, the opening track, immediately establishes the tone and theme for the album reminding the listener where we’re at – Mordor! Booming drums pound, setting the stage for evil on a magnificent scale. There is growling brass and heavy drums tying together some of the other more serious and dark pieces like “Conquest of the Dark Lands”, “The Black Gate”, and the completely epic “Chant for Sauron”. There is a use of distortion and even feedback we haven’t seen previously that underlies the intensity of these pieces.
The songs aren’t random samples of the in-game soundtrack either, the album tells the story of the fall of Barad-dur, Mordor and its inhabitants, the undoing of The Ring, and the downfall of Sauron. Each track leads us through major narrative events we participate in through the final chapters of our story and beyond.
In contrast to the thundering war drums of “Bring It” with its forceful persistent urgency driving, leading, and pulling the listener through the song, there are eerie tunes telling of dark deeds and deadly consequences. “Lurking in Lhingris” has an old-world sound sprinkled with creepy echoes and discordant strings plinking chaotically like the spiders that will hunt you there. The frightening “Unleash Terror” and the even more sinister “Something Evil Rises” remind us that evil is only temporarily defeated evoking images of horror with deep ominous brass and tense strings.
Not all is dark though. The “Coronation of Aragorn”, placed squarely at the midpoint, shines like a beacon of hope in the surrounding despair. Opening with warm woodwinds and strong drums, gentle strings leads the listener into a burst of horns that signals the arrival of something truly momentous; the return and coronation of the king. This song assures the listener that despite all the pain and suffering, all will be made right and we will not be defeated.
The final piece, and truly crowning achievement of the album, is the final track “Ever On”. It encapsulates the journey from our most humble beginnings to where we’ve now arrived and ever on into the future. Departing from the orchestral format we’re treated to a brilliant ballad sung by a minstrel that beautifully blends period-folk with new age evoking a feeling of the ancient blended with forever. Guitars and fiddle dance through this song with a beautiful melody and powerful vocals. It is excellent. Fans couldn’t have asked for a greater tribute.
Chance has been with The Lord of the Rings Online since its release. He’s penned a huge portion of the music in the game. With Mordor he has connected thematically with everything he’s written before, but also made it unique with a distinctive intensity we’ve not seen previously. My only complaint is that it’s too short at 36 minutes. I know I’m being greedy, but I want a two-hour score. Just forgive me that. If you’ve enjoyed his previous work I know you’ll feel the same once you listen to this.
The digital edition of the Mordor soundtrack was provided for the purpose of review. You can purchase your own copy at HUGESound.