Soundtrack Month – “Skyrim Atmospheres” (Jeremy Soule)

How do you easily sum up a fantasy game world as expansive as The Elder Scrolls? You don’t. While the franchise was always known for a staggering (and occasionally unmanageable) amount of objectives, quests, and hidden surprises, Skyrim was especially praised for its landscapes and free-form world. Seven years after its initial release, it still garners praise, even with its amusing and often morbid bugs (including this one). Some people even turned to modern gaming specifically for the charms of this title, which allows your character to be anything from a stealthy assassin to a hopeless kleptomaniac to a noble slayer of dragons – or just an outdoorsy type on a hunting trip or alpine hike.

Jeremy Soule, the composer wiz behind several TES installments, went out with a bang on this one. The Skyrim soundtrack contains enough material to warrant 4 discs for its physical CD release. Why so many, you ask? I must assume that the developers expected – nay, demanded – that players wander and explore as much as finish quests. If you’re going to spend that much time in a game, you might as well have a healthy variety of music.

While the overall score’s sound is honestly a matter of taste (there are as many brassy or monotonous moments as there are heartfelt and melancholic ones), the Atmospheres portion is deliciously meandering and does indeed set the atmosphere. Numerous fans have used this 40-minute treat as a sleep, study, or meditation aid for years (I highly recommend playing some nature or rain sounds over it for that extra lulling touch). While the rest of the soundtrack needs whittling down for first-time listeners, every minute of Atmospheres is approachable without context.