Greetings everybody and welcome back to another Devblog about KoA's soundtrack!
After what has been months I finally decided to shed some light onto how factions not present in the film would be portrayed musically in Kingdoms Of Arda. This far you may have heard Angmars maintheme: the slow-moving powerful metallic brass wall of sound backed up by the mighty pipe organ and metal percussion give Angmars soundtrack the needed edge to be clearly distinguished between the different orc factions, featuring quite obvious hints of thematic material related to the world of men.
Of course mankind is stretched far across Middle-earth, with Gondor and Rohan being only a small part of different cultures of Men. As Kingdoms Of Arda features other human factions such as Harad and Dunland more extensively than the films, all of those factions need a sonic identity, themes, motifs and what not - because as you know there are none in the films.
In this blog I want to show off a few audio snippets showcasing what is in store for the listener when playing as or traveling the lands of the Northern Dunedain, Dunland, the Anduin Vale, Rhûn, Harad and Umbar.
Let's start with
Rohan's closest neighbors and bitter foes are relatively primitive people, some would call them savages. Just like most factions in KoA Dunland is represented by a signature instrument or in this case a multitude of them. The trance-like music of Dunland makes use of harsh-sounding bagpipes, snarly hurdy-gurdys and ancient flutes. In this excerpt from Dunland's title theme you can hear them played against a diffuse background of frame drums and low strings. In general Dunlands music is more dependent on rhythm rather than melody - similar to an orc faction Dunland employs repetitive figures with small intervals supported by insisting drum rhythms.
The Anduin Vale is home to the faction of Woodmen and Beornings. The ancestors of Rohans origin are surrounded by evil. To the west lie the mighty Misty Mountains - home to thousands of goblins, in the North Mount Gundabad casts its shadow upon the vale and in the east lies Mirkwood, once beloved home to the woodmen. The Anduin vale's music is similar to the Shire albeit carrying more weight and concerns on its shoulders. Whistles and other celtic instruments remind the listener of the sounds of the Shire hinting at the Hobbits that also once dwelt in the Vale.
The remnants of Arnor and scarce reminders of a Kingdom Of Men long fallen to the shadow of Angmar, the Dunedain wield more ancient Numenorean blood than any other faction in KoA. But they are few and try to fight whats seems to be a hopeless battle against an ever-growing darkness. Guarding the Shire and the Breeland and other free folk of Eriador they lack the strength of their close relatives in Gondor. The Dunedain announce themselves with a proud fifth upwards and descends afterwards - just like Gondor. A weaker orchestration with woodwinds and strings holds no candle to the dwindling but remarkable power of Denethor's Realm. The Northern Dunedain sport the most desparate and fragile but hopeful sound of all numenorean descendants.
Sauron's most elite human servants, the Easterlings of Rhûn are ancient enemies to the Men Of The West. Among the most exotic factions in Tolkiens world Rhûn has a huge number of ethnic instruments that represents its eastern style - a mixture of Persia, India, China and Japan resembled by the like of Yayli tambur, Tambura, Erhu, Shakuhachi and thundering Taiko drums just to name a few. Not only do the instruments themselves evoke far-eastern flavors but the phrygian tonality stripped down to a pentatonic scale as well. Rhûns main motif is the antithesis to Gondor's maintheme.
The Haradrim hail from the lands south of the river Harnen, dry and barren. Harads music is heavily inspired from modern-day hollywood oriental styles. A huge number of persian, turkish and egyptian instruments make up the sound of the deserts in the south. Most of the time Harad's music is as barren as its lands - Didgeridoo drones can be heard over atmospheric basses and haunting ancient Nays - or may be brushed aside by powerful brass and string statements proudly representing people both hardy and legion.
Corsairs Of Umbar:
The great Numenorean haven city of Umbar is home to the Corsairs, reckless seafaring mercenaries ravaging the coasts of Middle-earth and Gondor in particular. Being Haradrim they are followers of Sauron but the grandeur of Numenorean influences can still be felt in their music. The corsairs maintheme is a mixture of Numenorean and Haradrim influences but ultimately it is the most powerful and ornate rendition of KoA's Corruption theme. A simple figure that abruptely ends a heroic leap with the rising half-step inherent to the Evil of the Ring and its creator.
So that is it for this blog, thanks everybody for stopping by!
(P.S. you may ask what about Dale and Khand and Enedwaith and Bree etc.? Dale will essentially be a more powerful and stately version of Lake-Town/Northmen material while Khand is very reminiscent of Rhûns soundtrack with mongolian influences. Factions like Enedwaith and Bree are not "vital" enough to deserve their own unique soundtracks, at the end they are replaced by Arnor's soundtrack either way ^^)