The very first Blizzard game I ever played was the original Diablo. From the start, I was struck by the unique, effective, and unexpected approach taken by the music, which had been created by Matt Uelmen. The sense of immersion was immediate and complete. I knew I was experiencing something special in entertainment, and so did the rest of the gaming community.
At the 2008 Blizzard Worldwide Invitational, which was held in Paris, the Diablo score lived up to its iconic status. With no introductory remarks, pyrotechnics, or fancy visuals—just a lone guitarist bathed in red lighting, playing the opening chords of "Tristram" on a 12-string guitar—everyone knew. Evil was about to return.
With the announcement of Diablo III, the music staff at Blizzard knew we had big shoes and expectations to fill, especially our own. The score had to have continuity, both in style and in emotion, with the previous editions of the series, yet it needed to evolve with the new, continuing story arc and take players on a fresh and immersive journey from Sanctuary to the depths of the Burning Hells and the very gates of the High Heavens.
As a result, although you enter the game accompanied by familiar guitar progressions and eclectic soundscapes, as well as the original ascending five-note central theme, Diablo III soon takes you to new places and explores both new characters and old ones in greater depth than before. The following paragraphs discuss some of the ways we approached writing and recording the soundtrack for this powerful new story.
Matt Uelmen himself provided much of the guitar performance in "New Tristram," and he was joined by Laurence Juber—longtime Blizzard musician, a performer at the Paris invitational, and a former bandmate in Paul McCartney’s Wings. Written to feel like "an old friend," the tapestry of guitars, mandolins, dulcimers, orchestral instruments, and "found sounds" should make any Diablo enthusiast feel right at home.
Blizzard has long been among the pioneering developers who have embraced the subtly organic and dynamic human beauty of live musical performances in our games, from soloists to choirs and even full orchestras. Live players have embellished the soundtracks for each of the previous Diablo titles, culminating in Matt Uelmen’s extensive, almost Wagnerian orchestral statements in Diablo II: Lord of Destruction. Recent years have seen us writing and recording hours of live music for World of Warcraft and StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. In order to bring Diablo III its own unique tone, we chose to record the Pacific Symphony on its "home turf"—the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Southern California. It seemed fitting to record a score meant to illuminate such a timeless conflict in an acoustic space that mirrors one of the most ancient traditions for experiencing live music: an immense room requiring no amplification. Recorded in that setting, Diablo III’s music starkly contrasts with the more contemporary film-score sound of StarCraft and the bronze-age cathedral sound of Warcraft.
What gothic tale would be complete without an epic choir? And would not two be better? We said yes by way of casting separate choirs to represent those engaged in the Eternal Conflict. We began by venturing to Europe, where the regional accents could offer a different, yet approachable effect from the "Hollywood" sound that has become ubiquitous. We also cast against type by selecting the hauntingly beautiful and seductive timbres of the Irish vocal group ANÚNA to give voice to the Burning Hells and the Prime Evils, and a mostly male subset of the London Voices to portray the current state of the High Heavens and the Angiris Council. Both ensembles were recorded in their respective and historic musical "homes": Windmill Lane in Dublin, and Studio Two in Abbey Road, London.
All of us at Blizzard Entertainment, and especially the talented and dedicated aural storytellers of the Sound and Music Department, hope that you will enjoy this musical adventure even more than we have delighted in creating it. As Deckard Cain would say, "Stay awhile and listen..."
Director of Audio/Composer