I’m not familiar with the HAEL setting—except for what I learned in the bonus “Welcome to HAEL” track included with this collection—but I’m always interested in new gaming soundscape products.
“Cavern of the Soul” is a subdued, mysterious track, excellent background for scenes of exploration where you want to create a sense of isolation, mystery, and a lurking danger. The track doesn’t loop very well, however; the abrupt beginning is jarring following the decrescendo at the end. “A Chant for the Dry Bones” evokes a tribal ceremony of some kind through the use of percussion and long ambient vocals, and the track loops pretty well. The moans that punctuate “Danger in the Forest” are less effective; they overpower the music and are so inarticulate that they almost become comical. That’s a shame, because “Danger in the Forest” has some really good musical lines, even though it doesn’t loop well at all.
“Journey of the Warlord,” a percussion-only track as far as I can tell, offers a good bed for scoring a battle against primitive or savage humanoids (like gnolls). The first 20 seconds or so have a clearly introductory character, so this track doesn’t loop very well. Also, in the ID3 tags, “warlord” was misspelled as “warlard” (is a “warlard” the chief battlefield chef?). “A Military Engagement” starts out percussion-only as well, but adds other instruments beginning around 45 seconds into the seven and a half minutes of this track. The other instruments fall out near the end, such that “A Military Engagement” loops perfectly. I don’t really get the idea of a large battle from the music, though; the relatively slow tempo and ponderous beat make it more like “preparing for” or “marching toward” a military engagement.
The longest piece in the collection is “Kirene Dreams,” weighing in at over ten minutes in duration. I don’t know who the kirene are, or why their dreams require ten minutes of vaguely Asian-sounding music with an odd “growly” undertone. Still, it’s a flavorful, exotic track that loops pretty well.
The ID3 tags have the album, track, and composer’s names in all the right places—something that publishers of RPG background music sometimes overlook. However, the tracks aren’t numbered. Album cover artwork would have been nice, too, and would help the collection stand out better. The poor looping on several tracks hampers the overall collection, but you can probably put all of these tracks (well, except the “Introduction to HAEL”) to good use in any fantasy world.
[4 of 5 Stars!]