MMO soundtracks, as a whole, are hit or miss with me. While there are many incredible pieces out there, a bulk of what you find is low-key atmospheric stuff that isn't meant to be on anyone's Top 40 playlist. Lord of the Rings Online has its up and downs as a soundtrack, but overall it really does evoke the spirit of Middle-earth. It's hard to imagine playing the game, especially the early levels, without hearing these tracks.
I've collected both the soundtracks to Shadows of Angmar and Mines of Moria and have been saving them for a special occasion. Today is that special occasion. These were composed by Chance Thomas (who's scored many Lord of the Rings-related games) and Stephen DiGregorio. Ranging from bombastic to sinister to folksy, this score covers the gamut of themes and emotions related to the journey of the Ring. It's cool to listen to it independently of the game, as you can appreciate the score for what it is -- and see how the pieces evoke memories of your times in LotRO.
Instead of individually reviewing all 40 or so tracks, I'm simply going to pick my 10 most favorite to share with you!
Red Stone and Golden Leaves
It's hard to imagine Rivendell without this awesome theme. It's sad and sweeping and tranquil all rolled into one. My only complaint is that I've gone to Rivendell so many times that this track has lost its luster due to repetition. Still, that would be a petty excuse to keep this off the top 10, and I'm not petty. I'll leave that for the Elves.
I've found that a lot of the early game music is by far the most memorable, and this is partially due to the fact that it's meant to represent the life and liveliness of Middle-earth culture. Autumn Ale is a terrific tavern jig that'll have you tapping your feet and wishing that you had a pint of Dwarven ale in your hand. Short and peppy!
While this isn't on the soundtrack CDs, I would be grossly remiss to overlook this fine and dandy tune. With its catchy background, enthusiastic percussion, and a lively flute, Tom Bombadil's theme is a fan favorite and one of the crown jewels of the game's soundtrack.
Drums in the Deep
I'll admit that I'm not too fond of most of the soundtrack that occurs in Moria proper. Sure, it's appropriate, what with all the drums and clanging and ominous tones, but it doesn't mean that my ears like being drenched in it. Also, there's way too much synthesizer for my tastes.
I will make an exception for the stirring Drums in the Deep, which begins with the titular percussion and moves into a movie-like score with a choir and a full-on orchestra. It's hard not to want to do something epic when you're listening to it.
Far Ahead the Road Has Gone
This is also known as "the main LotRO theme" that plays over the main menu and character creation screens. I think it's another case of not being popular because we simply hear it all the bloody time. Still, when you give it your full attention, it's a truly excellent piece with triumphant horns, cymbals, and woodwind instruments that help imbue you with a sense of destiny.
Hills of the Shire
Aw, c'mon -- how can you not envision the Shire when you hear this music? It practically embodies the Hobbits' pastoral life and conjures thoughts of flowers, rainbows, and other things that belong on a cover of a Trapper Keeper of yore.
The Hollin Gate
Now here's a track that could belong in any great fantasy film. It's got "wonder" and "dark mystery" written all over it, and I just enjoy how different it sounds compared to most of the game's soundtrack. Absolutely perfect.
Lament for Oakenshield
Thorin Oakenshield, as you'll recall, was the leader of the Dwarves in The Hobbit. While brash, he was certainly brave and admirable in his own way, and his reconciliation with Bilbo and subsequent death is one of the more moving passages in the book. In this piece, you can hear the Dwarves honoring their fallen leader as a funeral dirge repeats over and over as the music builds up around it.
The Golden Wood
I view The Golden Wood as a companion piece to Red Stone and Golden Leaves. Both tracks attempt to portray the majesty and magic of the Elves, although this piece is has more sadness and wildness in it. It's one of the highlights of Lothlorien proper and a major reason folks just love coming out of Moria into this area.
I'll finish my top 10 with another infectious ditty. I always feel "at home" in the game when I hear this playing, and it reminds me of the beauty and spirit of the Free People of Middle-earth that needs protecting.
So that's it -- my 10 most favorite songs from the soundtrack! Did I miss one of your favorites? Then sound off in the comments!
When not enjoying second breakfast and a pint of ale, Justin "Syp" Olivetti jaws about hobbits in his Lord of the Rings Online column, The Road to Mordor. You can contact him via email at email@example.com or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.