Diablo II's sound and music was created largely in-house, with all of the music composed by Matt Uelmen.
- Refer to the Diablo 3 portion of this wiki for information about and samples of .
- 1 Diablo II Soundtrack
- 1.1 Diablo II Music
- 1.2 Lord of Destruction Tracks
- 1.3 Outtakes
Diablo II Soundtrack
Shortly after Diablo II's release, Blizzard began posting MP3s of the week, with notes by the composer Matt Uelmen. Those posts are all archived below. The full soundtrack used to be available for free on Blizzard's webbsite, but those links are now long dead. The outtakes can now be downloaded from Archive.org:
- Download: Diablo II Soundtrack Outtakes
The rest of the soundtrack used to be available here as well, if you manage to get a hold of them please push them to Archive.org and add the link here.
Diablo II Music
The following are all taken from posts on Blizzard's old D2 site though the files themselves are no longer available from those pages. See the link above for all the files (save the outtakes) in one download.
Liner Notes - November 29, 2000
Hurry up or you'll miss the train! This track is part of a good ten minutes of "Look-at-my-pretty-guitars" garbage that was mercifully tossed before release. Despite a disgustingly cute midgets-in-lederhosen quality, it is given some dignity by the oboe stylings of Roger Wiesmeyer. Like the Monastery intro which eventually became the second part of our Diablo II title screen, this is a good example of how NOT to pace game action music.
You may notice an instrument which makes it nowhere else into this little game -- the classical guitar. Even though I have probably fallen asleep to the sound of Segovia more than any other recording artist, I was never able to reconcile the Spanish sound of this instrument with the feel of the game. There is something inescabably warm and seductive about the sound of nylon which just did not fit with the feel that the steel strings established in the original game. The flamenco riffs I tried to insert always seemed a bit forced. Some people around the office liked this track, despite the fact that those open mandolin chords now make me wince.
Liner Notes - November 22, 2000
This piece was a return to the familiar creepiness of the chorus, in contrast to the peppy Arabic percussion sounds which predominate in the desert and valley sequences of Act II. After using so many strange and exotic musical elements in this section of the game, I wanted to make sure players did not feel like they had left the Diablo universe entirely. The presence of the undead always seems to call for the ethereal qualities of the human voice, and I felt that this tune integrated with the sound effects of the mummies and assorted undead quite well.
This tune is also a good example of what works well as game music but is not quite as successful as a piece of music without a background context. The very elements which make it weaker as an individual "concert" work -- plodding pacing, muddy mixing, slow development - actually work quite well as an atmospheric wall upon which the events of gameplay can unfold.
Liner Notes - November 15, 2000
This track has an unusual name because it is difficult to remember the spelling of "Lut Gholein" and because Toru Takemitsu's brilliant use of spacing and time was a great inspiration for what I was trying to achieve in this track. This piece was relatively important to the game as a whole, as it needed to make a strong statement of departure from the world of Act I while also maintaining a thematic connection to what had come before. I enjoyed the opportunity to use some radically different elements than the guitars and choral sounds that dominate both the original Diablo and the opening quarter of Diablo II.
The foundation of this piece, like the Arcane Sanctuary music, is found in a Chinese wind gong whose exciting dynamics I was hoping to exploit. I love the way this instrument radically changes color from a steady mysterious drone to a harsh, fearsome noise, and felt it was not only perfect for the pacing which our second town needed, but also gave a properly exotic feeling to the strange new world players could enter upon slaying Andariel. The original Diablo theme proved quite rugged and serviceable in supplying this piece with a resolution.
Liner Notes - November 1, 2000
The original call and response line between the bass and the electric twelve-string found in the beginning of this tune was scratched out on a cocktail napkin at a Chevy's in San José in October of 1998. Perhaps because this is one of the more important pieces in the game as a whole -- it is the first underground fighting locale if the player decides to explore beneath Bloodraven's graveyard -- it was edited to death. Many four-bar sections were scrapped and new sections added before I was finally happy with this one, with the original "rock-out" beat which comes in at 1:30 being cut to roughly a third of the original size.
As much fun as it is to play metal guitar solos, they can be less exciting to listen to repeatedly. Deep in the mix alongside the rainsticks and cymbal scrapes, you may notice the choral phrase "Miserere". Though I wanted to use more of the phrase clips from Spectrasonics' excellent "Symphony of Voices", this was the only one which seemed to have the proper diabolic ambience. I suppose the misery of souls in eternal anguish just has a more appropriate ring to it than the grateful praise of the saved.
Liner Notes - October 25, 2000
Scott Petersen's snare playing gets a nice spotlight in a final march on my lovely old Slingerland. This piece recaps that original title theme from both the first and second Diablo soundtracks. The final minute has some decent countermelody going on, despite the general danger of sounding too much like a marching band.
I wish I could have come a bit closer to capturing the sound of the Semana Santa marches in Guatemala. While there in the spring of 1997, I was struck by the sound of the small marching bands which follow the incredibly heavy wood "floats" carried by the community's youth over the beautiful sand "alfombras" in the Holy Week parades. The marches are paced with a truly gothic sound, like a less-swinging New Orleans funeral band. Still, there remains what could have been - three years is not nearly enough time to make a true epic.
Liner Notes - October 11, 2000
I originally began this one thinking that it would be the tune for the showdown with Mephisto underneath Kurast, but realized midway through that I actually had the town music for Act IV. Almost everything in my more electronic bag-of-tricks makes an appearance here, with the starring role definitely going to the nasty old monophonic Korg micropreset. I had promised myself throughout the writing of these tunes that I would get some sweeping electronic stuff into the game once the player left behind the silly mortal realm.
The real reason the name stuck is because of a melody directly lifted from Franz Liszt's Mephisto Waltz, a piano piece which one day I will be able to actually play. Though I liked the way the town in Act IV looked, I was a bit dissapointed that we did not do something colder, and more mechanical- looking, for Hell. Of course, I am one of those sick individuals that likes to destroy genres more than anything else. Lasers in hell... HELL NEEDS LASERS!!
Liner Notes - October 18, 2000
The musical inspiration for this one came after a night of bar-hopping with Bernie Wilkens last December through the Irish drinking establishments of San Francisco. Around 2 AM in the final pub, we ran across were some folk musicians doing a really annoying version of the "Titanic" theme with a folk harp and a strangely gigantic set of uilleann pipes. After a few shots of whiskey, Bernie picked up a bodhran and, oblivious to the pipe player and harpist, started banging a march rhythm on it with his gnarled left hand. The musicians were very annoyed and quickly got us thrown out of the bar.
In his drunken state, Bernie had produced a very memorable rhythm, however, that gave me the structural basis for this tune. You may recognize one of those beats which dominate the beginning of the second minute of the piece if you played through the second set of levels in the original Diablo. I loved the animating tiles in the lava set in this level, though I still feel like Act IV could have used still more love, both musically and otherwise.
Liner Notes - October 4, 2000
So, did EVERYONE think I was lazy to reuse the original dungeon track? I suppose I have no excuse. This track actually has some respectable writing for strings in the newer half, even if they are totally samples. Of course, this is the strange fate of those of us who work on sequels - where does laziness end and reinvention begin?
Since I have already mentioned Penderecki in this series, I am forced to name-drop the other person who I hear when I listen to this - Henry Manfredini. Though it was placed behind a slasher series which was never particularly inspired, Manfredini's arrangements and textures in the first few Friday flicks were truly original, influential and SCARY. That strange timpani bass line is two different timpani samples stacked up, one with a strange gate-tremolo effect on top of it. The artistic setting of the Spider level was quite well done, making my job much easier again.
Liner Notes - September 27, 2000
More great architectural stuff here, which always makes the background tunes much easier to write. I loved the truly gross subtext implied in the Kurast sewer system: The sinister altars of blood sacrifices trailing through the underground pipes to a final lake found in Mephisto's chamber...
Often, when we were developing some original sketches back in 1997, I remember Bernie Wilkens showing off concept art to our background team guys (Ben Boos, Alex Munn and David Glenn). Bernie, who had spent three years working as a blockage specialist for the New York Sanitation Department in the late 60s, had a habit of constantly drawing disturbing, nightmarish scenes in spite of himself. He would say, "it helps me work out my dreams". Truly cool stuff, and obviously very inspiring for our art crew.
While adventuring through this formerly-proud civilization you may hear a little bit of the Kurastafarian language, which bears a strange similarity to Vulcan. Don't be alarmed. Don't try to understand it, or the true secrets of their dark perversion of the formerly beneficent faith of Zakarum may become all too clear.
Liner Notes - September 20, 2000
Bandit, look out! The CE edition didn't get those last three minutes, which seem particularly inspired by the uber-cheese we all know and love as the classic 70s Johnny Quest. Blame the notorious Kris Renkowitz, who made showings of "Johnny" episodes a staple of lunchtime around when the first part of this track was composed. How can you go wrong with cavemen brainwashed by renegade Nazis?
This TV show, like Barbarella, has had a rather horrible influence upon me. Stieg Hedlund, designer on Diablo II, was the only one here to correctly identify the absolute devastation that "Jesus Christ Superstar", also from that era, has had on my musical development. But there's that big pentatonic melody on the tubular bells! Those are the extra points I mentioned two months ago. The first part of this track is also a relative moldy oldie from those last few days of my youth in the spring of 1997.
Nostalgia . . . Beer with Ben and Patty, a Macintosh that never worked and a strange instrument sold to me by the neighbor of our producer, Matt Householder. Developed by the world famous Sputnik Percussion, it is a stick with a thick rubber band around it, like a bull-roarer, and is responsible for that neat little 16th note wooshing sound which holds this oddity together in the first few minutes. No animals were harmed in the making of Diablo II.
Liner Notes - September 13, 2000
This track never really lived up to its promise, in my opinion. That percussion loop could have been much more if I had dug into the beats more. It is moments like these that the limitations of sampling can really be horrible - if anything called for a loopy, 60s style brass chart, this one was it. The marimba lines are fun, though, and the bass flute gets a nice little melody at the end.
Act III was a great deal of fun for me, in part because of a trip to Guatemala shortly before writing it. I think there is a bit more "Rain Dogs" in here, though, than anything too tropical. The brass just needed more personality than I knew how to give, at the time. Thankfully, I didn't need too - Alex Munn did some really fun stuff for the backgrounds, and Ormus was probably the only NPC who I didn't instantly want to kill. I had a strange, begrudging respect for the Act II palace guards, though.
Liner Notes - September 6, 2000
Incredibly silly. I am very surprised that this one actually made it out there. Stick Spectrasonic's "Heart of Asia" Sample CD in a blender: get instant shektibihi. Perhaps it does smack of cultural imperialism, but I am a big fan of goofy impressions of other musical cultures. Turandot is funnest when all eight gongs are droning, Butterfly is at her most vulnerable when the melody references something innocent and pentatonic and "Rondo Alla Turca" is the most entertaining thing Mozart wrote for the keyboard.
I have often hated my lack of ability to put a voice out front and center, though with this track I managed to get a nice alto up there. Hindi? Sanskrit? Someone out there knows. The last two minutes are goofy, but in a much different way. I am a great fan of the music of the "Twilight Zone" series, and loved being able to use the vibraphone, even if it was only samples.
Liner Notes - August 30, 2000
Sand, sand, sand. If there is an unsung instrumental hero of the Diablo soundtrack (for both games), it would have to be the humble maraca. Though the exotic, droning tambura and the lovely sitar both make appearances here, this track is really all about that sand.
Much like the sewers, where the dripping of the environment almost wrote itself, the insectoid tunnels of the maggot lair demanded the full complement of rain sticks, guiros, thumb pianos and other scratchy percussion effects. The primitive quality of the architecture in this level - worm tunnels and icky green doors - would have been mismatched and overwhelmed by bombastic brass or epic strings. Hence, I tried to underplay the music in this track. It seemed silly to suggest anything terribly triumphant when you are burrowing through sand and killing overgrown insects. This is exactly the kind of musical enviroment where something positioned could be fun in the game context - it would be fun to drop those 5 second rain stick loops in different places throughout the tunnels themselves.
Although big percussion stacks with little or no harmonic structure may be musically shallow, they are incredibly fun ear-candy. In a world where I have more talent, this would sound much like Takemitsu's "From Me Flows What You Call Time".
Liner Notes - August 23, 2000
I was introduced to Mustafa Waiz through our sound designer, Scott Petersen, in February of 1999. Scott was responsible for a great deal of sound work as well as much of the drum samples heard on Diablo II, and had been rehearsing with Mustafa in his Oakland, California basement studio for a performance at a soccer game that spring. I was gearing up to get some material rolling for Act II, and was excited about getting some authentic flavor in the mix for these tunes. Mustafa put down some truly amazing stuff on the dumbek, djembe, and finger cymbals which was a real pleasure to build tracks around.
I generally spend a great deal time more cleaning up my own instrumental performances than I do with the actual recording of them, so I was pleasantly surprised to have tracks that were so good that almost no editing was needed. I have a vivid memory of sticking an eight bar sample into the sequencing program I use - an ancient windows 3.1 relic - and being shocked to find that it needed absolutely no tempo adjustment. Every beat was as perfectly timed as if it had come from a machine.
The material I came up with is a definite mixed bag - somehow I ended up with moments that seemed more like 70's jazz fusion or particularly strange euro-disco than anything "middle eastern" in spots, but I was still largely happy with the results. I could not resist putting down that synth bassline which enters at 1:00 in the track - the 303 had been trying to work its way into the soundtrack from the beginning, and I had to give it its half-minute of raver glory somewhere.
Liner Notes - August 16, 2000
This piece, which needed to be reworked from a 50 second quickie into its current state when the size of the area grew exponentially over the course of 1999, provided the first chance to put the chinoiserie of Act II in an action setting.
The Clarion music store in San Francisco was a great resource for all kinds of exotic musical loot during the making of Diablo II, and provided me with my first glimpse of an erhu (a kind of two-stringed chinese violin) in action. This instrument, briefly darting through the Thai gong and rain sticks which predominate in Act II, was a good example of the unusual elements I tried to use throughout the middle acts of our little game. Writing the music for this act was a constant battle between seeing what strange sounds I could get away with versus maintaining the atmosphere needed to create the proper monster-skewering ambience.
This track was a bit easier than most, though, simply because the drips and echoes of the sewer enviroment suggested a relatively clear musical direction. I tried to take a few pages out of the classical playbook in the pacing used around 3 minutes into the piece, and enjoyed tweaking the tempo faster and slower to create a more definite climax and resolution than the piece might have had otherwise.
Liner Notes - August 9, 2000
Standing in your own shadow can be a truly strange experience. Although I feel like we more than lived up to the pressure to improve upon the original Diablo, some elements were particularly sticky. The opening town theme was a good example of this.
Try as I might, it was impossible to get too far from the trusty 12-string. Though the first half of this track, which dates back to September 1998, works well, I did not feel like this tune came together until January 2000. It was then when I found the last toy (of many) which I bought in the making of this soundtrack - the hammered dulcimer. The ancient sound of this ancestor of the piano finally gave me the truly medieval effect that I had been seeking for years. The instrument itself has a pretty-but-tough texture which worked well with the image of the Rogues and their strange mixture of sadness and bloodthirstiness.
If this piece has any problems, they are probably due to my excess of fascination with texture, at the occassional expense of melody and rhythm. It was too much fun to contrast the acoustic 12-string with its electric counterpart in the first half and then to mix it up with the mandolin and the dulcimer in the newer half. As far as that slide part goes, I could not resist taking the Joe Walsh shtick to its logical extreme after all of the "Hotel California" comments I heard from Diablo players. I am a weak man...
Liner Notes - August 2, 2000
In all careers there are moments when everything comes together easily, coalescing in a spontaneous way where the right moves seem natural and self-evident. That was not the case here. This was the toughest tune of all -- a piece which went with the open pastoral feel of the wilderness in Act I (with the cows, farm fences, cabins and trees) while also being scary, exciting and distinctively "Diablo". It also had to transition well into not only the rogue encampment but also the various indoor slaughter-fests, as well.
My initial pass on this material, from November 1998 through to the following January, yielded a six minute piece which stayed in the game until January of 2000, at which point I was finally able to come back to it, giving it six new minutes and only keeping two minutes of the initial material. Those "lost" tracks will eventually show up here as outtakes. In the track that remains, everything but the kitchen sink makes an appearance. From 7/8, 11/8, 3/4, 4/4, to no real signature at all, twelve-tone lines, punky open chords and well-behaved waltz melodies all show up somewhere in these eight minutes.
My favorite moments on this piece come with the pedal steel lines supplied by Bernie Wilkens. Bernie Wilkens, of course, is the video game legend who currently runs our HR department. Few people know that Bernie also worked as a pedal steel player in Nashville back in his teenage years. He has a real gift for ripping off that great Dave Gilmour creepiness. John Carpenter and Johnny Marr also fight for space here.
Liner Notes - July 26, 2000
This is another of the older tracks in Diablo II, going all the way back to summer of 1997. This was the last track to be largely assembled on the Ensoniq ASR-10 sampler, and was originally intended to be in Act IV. Because I felt it had some of the better elements of the dungeon music in Diablo, it seemed appropriate as the music for the first indoor enviroment the player would face in the game, giving a sense of familiarity after what might be the strange experience of fighting in the open air in the first few moments of play.
The creaky orchestrations of the first minute were created over a year after the middle section, which uses the heavy beats and choral textures which predominate many of our indoor/dungeon sequences. When we finally inserted musical resolutions for the quests in March 2000, it was fun to hear a track which had existed for so long in a new context, providing a glimpse of the kinds of musical interactivity which I hope we will be exploring in the future. I originally threw this one out, along with the rest of the original pass at Act IV music, in 1997, but reinserted this track in the game at the insistence of Bernie Wilkens. Edits from this tune also appeared under the title screen of the DVD which came with the Collector's Edition. There's some very strange stuff in those last twenty seconds, if you listen closely enough...
Liner Notes - July 19, 2000
Poor, poor, Tristram. What did such an innocent little village do to deserve such a dark fate? This track originally consisted of only the newer music - the last three minutes of the current selection - until Max here at Blizzard North suggested using the original Diablo town music. As it turned out, both are actually in the game, though the original Diablo track is what greets you first when you return to the hometown of that strange evil which swept through Khanduras.
I would like to consider the original track, presented here in the first 4:45 of the tune, as being a victory of inspiration over limited resources. All of the guitar, flute and ocarina in the original tune was recorded directly into a $150 AKG microphone attached to a Ensoniq ASR-10 sampler with exactly 16 megs of memory.
This tune is the grandfather of the Diablo musical world, first commited to paper in the spring of 1995. The main musical themes of Diablo, which can be heard in almost every tune in one way or another throughout both games, make their first appearance in this piece. Though I was originally attempting to capture a medieval sensibility with this tune, it is funny how stylistically far away from the music of that period this particular song is. I would hope that no one thinks I recorded this tune in a few straight takes and finds themselves frustrated when trying to reproduce it.
The track was recorded bar by bar, and originally consisted of at least two dozen chords and phrases which were stitched together in the sampler. Some retuning was done to make those harmonic runs possible, and some of those chords are impossible to perform in a manner which sounds as smooth as the final product. What strikes me when I listen to this track now is, believe it or not, the Peruvian influence. The selection of tunes on my favorite tape back in 1996 featured many gorgeous waltzes written by the legendary Chabuca Granda, and I spent a fair amount of time trying to emulate the finger-picking style used by the guitarist who accompanied the vocalist on this tape. The newer material was originally intended to be used as the Act 1 music in Diablo 2 way back in 1997, though I ended up finding the pacing a bit too tense and linear for the dreamy feel that makes for ideal shopping music.
Liner Notes - July 12, 2000
This edit is the original incarnation of the "Monastery" as it first appeared back in October 4, 1999. The first 1.5 minutes, particularly the opening 30 seconds, provide a good example of what may work as title music but suffers a bit as game action music. The initial voice and string clusters (a technique largely inspired by the Polish master, Penderecki) slide into a big, expectant chord with a bit too much drama. I ended up moving this first minute and a half to the title screen because it stuck out from under the game action in a way which seriously disturbed the flow of the play.
I was quite fond of the piece, however, and thought it worked very well in contrast to the new reworked Leoric march which ended up beginning the title sequence. Big dissonant clusters helped dispel the way the march could seem to be some kind of strange theme from a Main Street, Hell, parade in a Blizzard-inspired theme park. (Lazarus as grand marshal . . . The Gharbad float . . . Can you see it? . . . )
The middle section, which ended up getting 8 or so bars cut out in the final game edit, is based on the 4/4 pitter-patter of a heartbeat. This musical trick is used to great effect in dozens of horror flicks (perhaps used best in the Giorgio Moroder score for Midnight Express). It is a nice, cheap way to generate tension and also gave me a chance to put that big, beefy 909 kick drum front and center while engaging in some dub-style shennanigans with my trusty tape-delay space echo. Stylistically, this tune doesn't deviate too far from the classic Diablo formula - heavy beats around 75 bpm, slow, ominous, choral clusters, very wet delay effects all around.
It seemed appropriate for the game, seeing as the monastery/cathedral sequence in the last third of Act I aims to give the player the sense of indoor claustrophobia that Diablo did so well. Big extra points are awarded to those who notice that the prepared piano melody in the last few seconds makes an appearance again in Act III town as well as the jungle.
Lord of Destruction Tracks
The following are Matt Uelmen's liner notes. Source.
Earlier this year , a composer and crew from Blizzard North went to Bratislava, Slovakia to record the Diablo II: Lord of Destruction score with the Slovak Radio Philharmonic. Kirk Trevor of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra conducted.
"Ice Caves" - Liner Notes - June 4, 2002
Though I was hoping for a combination of some of my favorite moments from Bernard Herrmann's "Vertigo" and a sequence in Orff's "Trionfo di Afrodite" with this one, I ended up with a rather frustrating product which really didn't work as well as either of my two models. The jarring breaks between the hypnotic harp ostinato and the brass hits succeeded more in breaking a consistent mood than creating one. If I were to step back into the time machine and rewrite this one, I would try to keep the pacing away from the extremes used here, and would have also used a bit more of the electronic and choral textures which I consciously avoided in these sessions. What remains after too much editing only goes half of the way there - a bit of a shame seeing as how interesting an enviroment like "ice caves" should be.
Halls "Halls" - Liner Notes - May 31, 2002
If one were to break down the structure of the levels of Diablo 2 into a flowchart, you would make the surprising discovery that some areas, often including some excellent unique background art, are able to be ignored without impeding completion of the act. Though it might seem strange to "waste" perfectly good content, I have always like the idea that the player can either choose to rampage through the level or can opt for the scenic route, letting no miniboss escape their wrath. On my end, this structure creates a different set of demands from pieces located in different places in the structure of the act. Tunes like this one, featured in a "sidequest", have much more freedom to explore different musical elements than music which the player will face inevitably and repeatedly, like the songs featured in the town or opening fight sequence. I attempted to take advantage of this freedom with this track, pushing the elements of the horror soundtrack - clusters, atonality, glissandi, sudden hits - as much as possible. I was quite happy with the way this worked in the game, and felt it did the job as a backdrop to the nefarious plans of Nihlathak.
"Ancients" - Liner Notes - October 1, 2001
This track, heard in the final showdown with Baal, is in many ways the omega to the alpha that was the original Diablo® theme. Most of this track is structured around the core motives heard throughout the Diablo series, fleshed out in as bombastic as way as possible. The transformation from the gentle but menacing guitar and flute of the original Tristram is now complete, though the melodic structure still remains. During a pleasant lunch at the cafe in the Slovak Radio building, Maestro Kirk Trevor related how he had spent his early teenage years immersed in the world of Wagner's Ring. Perhaps because of the familiarity of these Wagnerian textures to the Maestro and the players, this track was easily the most pleasant and quickest to record of all of the tunes that week. Though Tolkein is the more obvious and common reference for the fantasy genre, I find Der Ring der Nibelungen to be the final word in the genre which Diablo and other sword-and-sorcery titles inhabit. Siegfrieds Tod is either used directly or strongly referenced in films like Excalibur and Gladiator for good reason - nothing captures the struggles of mortals amongst gods quite like the original recipe.
"Siege" - Liner Notes - September 19, 2001
"This roots of this piece go back to a tune dubbed "March of the Sparkies" in the hazy, distant days of 1995, when the first musical sketches for Diablo were being written. I was attempting to get the sound of a big orchestral march from a somewhat skimpy library of samples without much of a result. Though I stubbornly refused to give up in my quest to get the proper sound, ending up with a decent march as the opening theme for the original Diablo (and a not-quite-so-decent leftover used in "Hellfire"), it was not until this was recorded in February 2001 that I felt I had realized the proper formula. Of course, having the help of ninety or so skilled musicians often helps in situations like these.
This one was an absolute bear to record, largely due to my amateur notation of time values and a high violin part, but it ended up being the single track which I am most proud of from the sessions recorded in Bratislava. I felt like I was employing every other musician in Slovakia on the day of this recording, as we called for an extra set of percussionists to handle the snare part, which I insisted needed to be at least tripled. Though classic marches like Ravel's "Bolero" or Holst's "Mars" call for only one snare drum, I was aiming for the more Hollywood drum chorus effect, best shown in soundtrack patriarch Alfred Newman's original Fox theme."
"Fortress" - Liner Notes - March 27, 2001
"This track invites the player into the snowy, violent world of our expansion pack. The barbarians and their endless war against the forces of evil required something that explored the lyrical side of the orchestra without becoming too feminine or frilly. Though people here at the office teased me with tortured renditions of Luke Skywalker monologues while mixing this one down, the direct influences on this were a bit more highfalutin'. A variety of operatic scores provided inspiration for the textures and pacing which I hoped to achieve in the all-important "town" theme. The use of pentatonic themes in Debussy's Peleas and Melisande deserves a special mention as a nice model for what I wanted to do harmonically. The pentatonic scale (the black keys on a piano) was the ideal sound for the barbarians, as it suggests all of the qualities we associate with the classic image of a warrior--primitive but grounded and not prone to emotional extremes. This simple melodic framework provides a nice contrast to the chromatic writing found in the unpredictable world that awaits our heroes later on in the quest to destroy Baal and his nasty minions. Conductor Kirk Trevor and the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra hit this one out of the park, with the violins and horns making good use of the spotlight."
Liner Notes - October 31, 2001
The original Diablo II mp3s are complete! And you thought we would never get around to it. For those of you of who wondered what we actually do here at Blizzard in our marathon development cycles, this outtake provides a pretty good example of the difference another year or two can make. This track is the original tune recorded around January 1998, which became the fifth minute of what was eventually the wilderness combat music in Act 1 when I was able to take a look at her again in January 2000. The first half made it into the game with many snips, additional pedal steel and orchestral sample textures, and some mastering magic from Scott Petersen. The second half of the piece in all of its rocker glory was chucked entirely, unheard by the public until now. Much like a fine piece of california cheese sitting in the backyard sun for weeks, we will release no track before the appropriate time. This particular tune tries pretty hard to rock out, but seemed pretty silly as a background to the opening few scenes of the game.
Liner Notes - December 6, 2000
This track, which dates back to the first pass on Act II music in early 1999, was almost the track for the Harem. It is a fun piece of music, but it is pretty easy to see why it did not make it into the final game. The Diablo universe is many things, but funky is not one of them. Like much of the music found in Act II, this piece is based on samples of Chinese and Indian instruments, with the spotlight going to a four-bar tabla loop.
The flowing triplet pattern found in the loop reminded me of some of the go-go music I enjoyed in Washington D.C. when I went to school there in the early 90's. The breakdown also reminds me a great deal of some of the music made by The Orb around that time as well, with all of it being anchored by the humming 909 kick drum. Pump up that 20hz range and visualize yourself in a minivan somewhere in East San Jose for the intended effect.
A rented mandolin and a Roland space echo do not a soundtrack maketh. This track was on the cusp of making it into the game, but, fortunately, I had the time to do better material in January 2000. Even though this track uses many of the elements which ended up being quite successful in the rest of the first Act, it still had more than enough problems to earn its place in the great musical recycle bin. Though I liked the sound of the mandolin, and ended up using mandolin sounds elsewhere in this Act, this piece suffered from a serious lack of harmonic development.
When you are creating a track which loops, chief among the things to avoid is a lack of harmonic movement. If you stay in the same place for too long, as this piece does with its simple mandolin open chords, you run a big risk of creating deadly monotony. This stasis earned the piece a yellow card that turned into a red card when stacked up with the echoing whisper effects which never quite worked, as they were much too obviously derived from the whispering voices used to such great effect in "Friday the 13th".
One of the most enjoyable things about the stylistic diversity of the background art in this game was the oppurtunity it gave me to do variations on certain themes. Though the choral elements, strings and heavy drumbeats used often in the Diablo music are obvious choices as material for creepy ambience, it was fun to work with instrumental textures which are not so obviously heavy or gothic. The marimba and log percussion featured in this tune are good examples of this - wheras marimbas usually suggest a fun tropical holiday, and african percussion is usually associated with a sunny, celebratory feeling, this piece tried to subvert these sounds into something much darker and more menacing.
Often, composers will exploit the stranger sounds possible with conventional orchestral instruments to get the sense of anxiety that atonality gives you. With the log drum and other percussion elements, I tried to use the naturally semi-tonal qualities found in these instruments to create a similarly menacing atmosphere. Of course, the use of these African percussion textures also helped to integrate act 3 as a whole, which had the conga-driven jungle as its centerpiece.