The Black Mages Review: Their Music is on Firaga!

Posted: 12/22/2012 in Articles, Music
Tags: , , ,

By Keith Crandell Jr.

This review pertains to all three albums released by the Black Mages.

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What happens when you take Nobuo Uematsu, the composer for a wide variety of Final Fantasy games, and throw him in a band? The Black Mages, that’s what. This band formed in 2003, but after seven years and three studio albums, it was officially disbanded in 2010 due to scheduling conflicts and copyright issues with Square Enix. The band is known for taking music from the Final Fantasy series, arranging them, and playing them in a hybrid form of power and progressive metal.

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The band’s first album was released in 2003 and was appropriately called The Black Mages. All of the songs on the album are battle themes of various sorts, and all used sequenced drums as the three person band did not have an actual drummer. The most notable issue with this album is the previously mentioned sequenced drums, but also the overabundance of synthesizers instead of actual instruments.

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The Black Mages II: The Skies Above released in 2004 and featured more than just battle themes, and an original song. In my opinion this is the best album of the trio, mostly due to the fact that live instruments were used, including real drums. The album contains 11 songs, including an original by the band called “Blue Blast ~ Winning the Rainbow.”

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The Black Mages III: Darkness and Starlight was released on March 19, 2008, and features the band’s vocals on a single song, “Darkness and Starlight,” the only vocal piece on the album, which coincidentally also takes up a quarter of the disc. It also features the band’s second original track, “Life ~ in memory of KEITEN.” This album is the most diverse of the three, in terms of the games, from which it draws music from, as well as the tone and sounds of the album. Received much better by the Japanese audience than the other two, I think it is the weakest of the three, if only because of the song selection.

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All three Black Mages albums are good, but some of the songs should be avoided. In my opinion, “J-E-N-O-V-A” from the first, “Otherworld” and “Matoya’s Cave” from the second, and about half of the third album can be skipped, while all of the Final Fantasy VIII and IX music should be listened to, as it is the best across the three albums. My favorite song is “The Skies Above” from Final Fantasy X, a power ballad of sorts which is an arrangement of the song “To Zanarkand” which starts and ends with beautiful piano movements, and the middle is comprised of surprisingly good vocals and rock themes. A Final Fantasy power ballad. HOW AWESOME.

Overall, the Black Mages albums are something worth looking into, especially if you like Final Fantasy music. However, I would recommend going through them track by track instead of outright buying all three albums since the songs, at least for me, are hit or miss.

Score: 7/10

Keith Crandell Jr. is a Political Science major at Slippery Rock University, and believes that comedy can be found in just about anything. His favorite Playstation 3 game is Flower, and he has 30 Platinum Trophies (much to the disappointment of his mother). Follow his insanity on Twitter @kmcrandelljr and continue to read his reviews at www.thosereviewguys.wordpress.com so he can do more awesome things like this!

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