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The Black Mages - Vol. II:The Skies Above CD (album) cover


The Black Mages


Progressive Metal

3.33 | 24 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Rockin' the video game music.

The Black Mages have always been an inventive band, despite the limited size of their discography, being able to translate game music so well onto the guitar is definitely a gift. For fans of the popular video game franchise, Final Fantasy, this band is a gift from god, for all others they're still a wonderful mostly instrumental group. The fantasy inspired tunes all have a great life to them thanks to the skill of the Black Mages. This second album is definitely sharper, better produced and has better music than the first (if maybe lesser known songs and some tracks given vocals), and fans of the first will love this one.

Among the tracks given vocals OTHERWORLD is a fairly repetitive song with a heavy riff, but hey, it was a basic death metal song before, so you have to respect what they did to it. It is not, however, the best song on the album, nor is it a great prog (or metal) track by any means. However, it may likely be the only weak track on the album. On the other end of things, the title track THE SKIES ABOVE starts out with that familiar piano riff then explodes into some great guitar until it's voiced by an opera singer which is well done, if an acquired taste and hard to get into. Adding lyrics was definitely a step forward for the band (if maybe a misplaced one), but where their true talent lies is in instrumentals.

That being said, there are some wonderful instrumentals on here. ROCKING GROUNDS kicks off the album quickly and is followed up by the equily heavy ZEROMUS, both songs complex and great to listen to. VAMO ALLA FLAMENCO and HUNTERS CHANCE are another couple of great heavy tracks that continue the album's general sound until we get to MATOYA'S CAVE. This is easily the standout of the album. Some slow, beautiful guitar work starts off the track until we get to a speedier part and some kind of jazzy thing going on in the middle that really helps this track stand out above the rest. A really good progressive flavored rock instrumental.

The rest of the songs filling the album are just as heavy, and just as good as the opening tracks, there's really no weak instrumentals to be found here. Each is a construct of grandeur compressed into a short time frame. Really the most progressive song of this album is THE SKIES ABOVE, but each track has a fairly progressive-metal sound to it. It's too bad that it doesn't seem like the band will put out any more efforts, because this alum is definitely an improvement from the first, if they'd have more time to evolve they surely would have been a powerful force.

This is a great album for fans of heavy , complex instrumental work as well as fans of the Final Fantasy series. Recommended to all, it's unfortunate however that this is a very tough band to track down, your average record store might not carry it. Regardless of availability this is a great album that will fit well in most discographies. 4 stars.

Queen By-Tor | 4/5 |


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