The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind Original Soundtrack - Soundtrack Review

A Brilliant Score for a Game, a Great Score for a CD

Track Listing
Disc 1
1.Morrowind Title
2.Battle 1
3.Explore 1
4.Battle 2
5.Explore 2
6.Battle 3
7.Explore 3
8.Battle 4
9.Explore 4
10.Battle 5
11.Explore 5
12.Battle 7
13.Explore 6
14.Battle 8
15.Explore 7
Total Playtime: 40:22
Jeremy Soule
Bethesda Software Works

   When The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind was first released in 2002, it was met with much acclaim. The game received multiple Game of the Year and RPG of the Year Awards. Its impact was unprecedented. No one had played an RPG with so much graphical and interactive detail, nor one that was so boundless. Among the many praises the title received were several for its cinematic soundtrack, composed by Jeremy Soule. The soundtrack itself has been nominated for awards such as "Game Soundtrack of the Year."

   The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind Original Soundtrack is very unlike most traditional RPG soundtracks, much like the game is so unlike most traditional RPGs. True to Soule's signature style, the music in this album is very ambient and symphonic. Using mostly orchestral instruments, Soule crafts a mythical land into the mist. The flavor of the music on this CD is very reminiscent of movie scores such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The melodies transport the player or listener into an old English world setting with green rolling hills, taverns, smithes, and of course conflict. The music is very non-intrusive and mostly serves as a filler for background noise. A very nice, well-scored filler.

   Therein, however, lies the biggest problem for listening to the soundtrack on a stand alone CD player, while not playing the game. Because the music is so subtle and ambient, it isn't very enjoyable to listen to and does little to hold the listener's attention. Most of the songs are very quiet and slow with little going on. Occasionally, it'll pick up a bit, but not nearly enough to warrant sitting through several minutes of generic orchestral sounds. In order for this soundtrack to be truly appreciated, it must be heard in the game -- that's where it shines the most. It lends itself brilliantly to the setting of the game. But with no game for the music to lend itself to, it's difficult to remain entertained despite how good the music really is.

   Speaking of the music itself, it really is remarkable. Soule is a master of the music artform, and it seems he can do just about anything with it. It's a shame that there aren't many more exciting tracks. It would be interesting to hear an epic battle theme from him. His orchestrations and instrumentations are top notch. The score sounds like it's coming straight out of a movie. The themes and tunes never waver from their setting -- the music is consistent throughout. Though in some corners of the world, this album could probably be described as cliche movie music, it could also be called revolutionary video game music. There really wasn't anything else quite like this soundtrack in the video game industry before Morrowind. Since Morrowind, however, countless titles have followed Soule's example and produced more cinematic game scores. This album changed video game music for the better.

   The sound quality of the instruments is astonishing, especially considering it scored using no live recordings at all. This is perhaps most realistic-sounding synthesized music. It is so good, in fact, that despite not being live instrumentation, the soundtrack gets a perfect score in the quality department. It took a little researching before it could be believed that the entire album is synthetic. It should be heard to be believed.

   Production value is the only place where the album loses points. Of course, a lot of effort was clearly put into the production of the music. The musicianship and sound quality are outstanding. However, the soundtrack itself is a bit difficult to get a hold of. The easiest way to get it is to buy the Morrowind Collector's Edition game, as it comes bundled with it. Unfortunately, this edition of the game is a bit more expensive than the normal version and much more expensive than a simple CD. Otherwise, it can be purchased in the form of a download from an official website. The soundtrack is too good to be so rare.

   Over all, the music itself is fantastic. The only question is whether any listener will be able to enjoy the music without a game to accompany it. This kind of music in the stand alone form will only appeal to certain listeners, unfortunately. Since the music is mostly a supplement to the game, it is much more enjoyable with the full experience to go along with it. However, this doesn't mean that the music isn't good, and it shouldn't deter interested listeners from giving the album a try. It really is very good music for those who have the ear for it.

Sound Quality
Production Value
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