Composed by
Jeremy Soule

 

Published by
DirectSong (2011)

 

Tracklistings
Disc 1
1) Dragonborn
2) Awake
3) From Past to Present
4) Unbroken Road
5) Ancient Stones
6) The City Gates
7) Silent Footsteps
8) Dragonsreach
9) Tooth and Claw
10) Under an Ancient Sun
11) Death or Sovngarde
12) Masser
13) Distant Horizons
14) Dawn
15) The Jerall Mountains
16) Steel on Steel
17) Secunda
18) Imperial Throne

Disc 2
1) Frostfall
2) Night without Stars
3) Into Darkness
4) Kyne's Peace
5) Unbound
6) Far Horizons
7) A Winter's Tale
8) The Bannered Mare
9) The Secrets of Whiterun
10) One They Fear
11) The White River
12) Silence Unbroken
13) Standing Stones
14) Beneath the Ice
15) Tundra
16) Journey's End


See complete tracklistings

 

Availability
DirectSong

 

Extras
Game website

 

Review by
Oliver Ittensohn


The Elder Scrolls V - Skyrim

Skyrim, the latest entry in developer Bethesda‘s beloved The Elder Scrolls series, is a role-playing game of truly epic proportions. Similar to its predecessors, Skyrim’s main allure lies in its extensive scope: huge landscapes to explore, a plethora of quests to solve and a wide variety of enemies to combat. The game is set in the very north of the fantasy continent Tamriel and tells a compelling story of dragons, magic powers and high adventure.

After a surprising absence of some months, veteran composer Jeremy Soule returns to the podium to write a score, which unquestionably proves that he is still at the top of his game. Skyrim is easily the most accomplished score in the Elder Scrolls series yet. Never quite holding back when scoring for fantasy settings, Soule kicks it up another notch for Skyrim; a tactic which is already foreshadowed in his testosterone driven main title cue “Dragonborn” that boasts male choir and thumping orchestral accompaniment. It is a joy for every Elder Scrolls fan to hear the famous title theme in such an exciting arrangement. Originally, the idea to use a male choir for the main theme stems from the game’s producer Todd Howard. Yet Soule responds soundly to this challenge by extending his familiar orchestrations (in the main title and beyond) to fit the tone of the rigid and harsh landscape of Skyrim.

Still, the heavily thematic and catchy album opening may set the expectations too high. Most of Soule’s music is solemn and melancholic in tone and focuses strongly on underscoring the quiet beauty of Skyrim’s landscapes. The composer relies heavily upon string crescendos, subtle harmonic progressions and careful use of horn and woodwinds. His orchestrations are subdued and subtle, the majority of the cues low-key and melodically evasive. Fans of Soule’s music will notice immediately how he hesitates somewhat to stray too far from his comfort zone (one is reminded of Guild Wars: Eye of the North every once in a while). Indeed, Soule’s trademark sound remains strongly apparent throughout. What sets Skyrim apart, though, is the sheer quality of the compositions. The soundtrack impressively draws on the whole spectrum of musical expression - be it drama, tension, beauty or action. “Far Horizons” in particular is a beautifully written and well developed cue and one of the album’s highlights. As a stark contrast, “Awake” will send shivers down your spine with its haunting horn melody. The arrangements for choir and orchestra in both “Aurora“ and “Sky Above, Voice Within“ will impress you with their stunning clarity and clear emotional impact, white “Into the Darkness”, “Caught off Guard” or “Blood and Steel” keep tensions high and get your pulse pounding with brassy action arrangements, sometimes even reprising the Elder Scrolls theme. Unfortunately, when it comes to memorable themes, Soule holds back considerably. Even though he confesses more than ever that his strength lies in magnificent horn passages (“Unbound”, “The White River”), and even though the main theme makes an appearance here and there (in percussion and choir in “Sovngarde”) through certain melodic progressions which harken back as far as Morrowind (“The Jerall Mountains”), Skyrim remains, overall, considerably more atmospheric than thematic.

As far as the release of the soundtrack is concerned, four disc of Skyrim’s music is certainly a heavy dose. Soule did his best to arrange the cues in a diverse way in order to keep the listening experience memorable and entertaining, but it would certainly be a veritable tour-de-force to listen to all the discs back-to-back. Instead, the sheer quantity of music entices listeners to come back to it again and again over a couple of days, perhaps even to create a playlist with a personal selection of best-of tracks. Certainly, the generous release is a testament to the epic nature of Soule’s effort and well worth the money. Surprisingly, however, the soundtrack album lacks any kind of booklet with information on the score or liner notes to the music. Such an added value would surely have heightened the enjoyment of the score as such – a missed opportunity! Still, the release must be commended for the sheer massiveness of its scope.

One could criticize that Skyrim is essentially nothing new. Soule stays true to his characteristic-sounding type of music, the familiarity of which remains hauntingly obvious throughout. One might say that, except for some novel facets, most of what Soule has written for Skyrim already exists in his own Guild Wars: Eye of the North. What this criticism would obscure, however, is the true quality of this soundtrack (both in terms of its music and its release) compared with the seeming standard of today’s game music industry. Soule’s contribution to the latest Elder Scrolls title is as vast and enticing as the world it was written for, and it captivates the listener with the same restless intensity as the game captures the player. It may be that Skyrim is more of the same, but in this case, it is essentially more of the best in game music, today.