Rating:
5.5
The Black Mages - The Black Mages II: The Skies Above
22 December 2004


01. The Rocking Grounds (Final Fantasy III)
02. Zeromus (Final Fantasy IV)
03. Vamo' Alla Flamenco (Final Fantasy IX)
04. Hunter's Chance (Final Fantasy IX)
05. Otherworld (Final Fantasy X)
06. Matoya's Cave (Final Fantasy I)
07. The Man With The Machine Gun (Final Fantasy VIII)
08. Maybe I'm A Lion (Final Fantasy VIII)
09. Battle With The Four Fiends (Final Fantasy IV)
10. The Skies Above (Final Fantasy X)
11. Blue Blast Winning The Rainbow


Unleashing all my spells and summons upon the keyboardist

Round 2 for the Black Mages, band composed by Nobuo Uematsu and friends (for those who don't now, Mr. Uematsu is the composer behind popular video games series Final Fantasy). Once again they bring us a selection of songs from the Final fantasy series, done in Heavy Metal style. Just like you dreamed!

Let's head back a little while first, the first (and self-titled) album of The Black Mages was both a surprise and a deception to me, some songs featured some awesome arrangements, but in general the album lacked a little more aggression and the keyboards were kinda annoying (courtesy of Mr. Uematsu himself).

At first sight you got a nice selection of songs In here, the album starts with a killer but almost unknown track from FF III (this game never saw occidental shores), next is Zeromus theme from FF IV and here lies my first problem, the song lacks aggression, come 'on is the main theme from the evil overlord in the game!

Anyway, moving on, next is "Vamo' Alla Flamenco" and as the title hints, a song done in flamenco style, very Chocobo-ish if you ask me, in this song those damn keyboards make an appearance, the guitar (acoustic and electric) is very well executed, but sadly the keyboards ruin any chance of enjoying the song.

A "surprise" is next, do you remember the final battle in Final Fantasy X? remember the main theme? Heavy Metal song with rough, raspy, almost Death Metal vocals? If you do, remember it that way, because The Black mage offer us a softer version of that song, singed by a girl named Kazco, and I must say this is totally awful, the song has been stripped away to a uninteresting piece with horrible vocals, and not only that, the pronunciation is terrible also! I swear if I had the phone number of Kazco I would call her to tell her how much she sucks, I bet she would answer: "Moshi-moshi, I'm sory, mee Engrish no-good".

The hope returned with "Matoya's Cave" from FF I, I'm currently playing this game for the Gameboy Advance version, so the song is fresh in my mind. It starts really nice with some acoustic arrangements, then slowly builds up with some nice guitar work, maiking it a bluesy-jazzy power ballad… until those vile keyboards appear, making this song a complete joke! I would expect this kind of arrangements in a Final fantasy All-Stars baseball game, NOT in a FF Heavy Metal album, skip this at all costs.

"The Man With The Machine Gun" , "Maybe I'm A Lion" and "Battle With The Four Fiends" prove to be listeanable pieces and much more enjoyable than the other I mentioned.

Before wrapping the Cd, Mr. Uematsu unleashes a great idea, how about transforming the "To Zanarkand" song into a full-fledge Heavy Metal song with lyrics and all? Sounds really good right? Yep. Until the vocalist comes in, what's the deal with this guy and his clownish vocals? I've never heard such awful male vocals in my life! I won't even bother making fun of this song, is just too bad (maybe without vocals…).

The Black Mages II fails miserably in my books, while some songs are quite catchy, the honky-tonk keyboards and the poor vocals (male & female) are unbearable. I think we just witnessed the demise of Mr. Nobuo Uematsu, he reaches his highpoint doing Final fantasy VI, and then it went all downhill until everything came to this: Nobuo Uematsu worst work ever.

Still, this album is mandatory for fans of the series, since is always good to listen your videogames tunes done in heavy metal, although not in the proper way, if you don't believe me, check out here.


Band profile: The Black Mages
Album: The Black Mages II: The Skies Above


 


written by Undercraft | 10.11.2005



Comments

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BloodFireDeath - 19.03.2010 at 20:47  
Yes terrible vocals for the most part. The female vocals mistep so hard that it shatters their kneecaps and the male vocals are well goofy. I still think this is a good album because it is of diverse flavor and colour. Yes the keyboards are ever present and it lacks the aggression of the previous effort but that is done in part of the fact that all of these tunes are not battle music. Good cd though. Definintely worth the listen.
ErnilEnNaur - 15.07.2010 at 02:10  
Uematsu made the mistake of inviting a professional opera singer who had never sang metal in his life to sing The Skies Above. The guy has a good voice, but he has no experience.
snipo101 - 22.07.2010 at 19:54  
I respect this reviewer's opinions on keyboards, but while I was reading his review, I couldn't help wanting to punch him in the face. As a reviewer, you have to be open-minded to innovation. I think the main problem is that as metalheads, a lot of the people on this site can't comprehend the idea of an instrument other than guitar having the melody. This single-mindedness is exactly what really needs to be fixed, or music will have a hard time evolving. That said, to be honest, I didn't like this album that much when it was first released either for the same reason. But you have to let material like this grow on you. For example, Matoya's Cave is among my favorite songs of all time because there's so much atmosphere and emotion that you can feel resonating throughout the entire song. It's a shame that some people can't appreciate this album for what it is, because with the exception of Otherworld, every song in the album (including Blue Blast, which the reviewer conveniently forgot) is powerful and melodic, and the keyboards enhance that by capturing the feel of the song.

Final verdict? Approach this album with an open mind, and this is music at its best.

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