Author: Chris Wickham
The Blasted Lands need little introduction, as they house possibly the most infamous artefacts in all of Warcraft lore; the Dark Portal. The region was originally part of the Black Morass, which also encompassed the neighbouring Swamp of Sorrows, before the Dark Portal was opening by a joint venture between Medivh and the warlocks of the Shadow Council. Its opening not only warped the surrounding landscape, but allowed the Orcish Horde to enter the world of Azeroth, commencing the infamous First War. The land around the portal itself is irreparably blighted and heralds continuous lightning storms and immensely powerful creatures who may abuse the Portal’s power. To this end, Nethergarde Keep was constructed following the Second War to keep watch and contain any threat where necessary. The rest of the landscape boasts little in terms of settlements or natural wildlife of any kind, though several desert species have since taken up residence.
When your hero firsts enters Nethergarde Keep, they are warmly greeted by the settlement's own heroic theme, as thunderous percussion and roaring brass punctuate a call to arms from the string orchestra. However, the rest of the region is accompanied by a series of melancholy and lifeless variations known as 'Scarred', composed by Blizzard’s audio director Russell Brower. Shimmering high tremolo strings create a tense atmosphere of fear and apprehension, while the dark, stagnant 'cello and double bass lines perfectly reflect the bleak and desolate landscape. A quizzical solo oboe phrase is heard, almost fading into the distance, as it nervously attempts to make a lighter statement amid the heavy, imposing strings. The first variation makes a bold statement of danger in its closing moments, employing menacing dissonant brass crescendos, while the remaining variations gradually become more lifeless and still. The strings continue to plummet into the ultimate depths of their low registers, their parts becoming increasingly motionless, while the harp hesitantly inherits the former duties of the higher strings. It cautiously decorates the droning strings throughout the variations, and its presence us reminds of the magic that has permanently warped the region.