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

VOL. II:THE SKIES ABOVE

The Black Mages

 

Progressive Metal

3.39 | 20 ratings

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ProgBagel
Prog Reviewer
3 stars The Black Mages - Vol. II: The Skies Above 3.5 stars

Much better then the debut.

Uemastu and crew are back for a second album. This time he chooses a much more diverse and classic set of songs. The difference in sound between this album and the debut is much less keyboard work.which is a bit upsetting but there is some guitar work on here that makes it seem like it could have been a valid move. There is also very few vocals (on two tracks) on this album that are just not convincing to take the music seriously at all which is why I can't rate this good album any higher. Most of the tracks outshine even the best on the debut.

'The Rocking Grounds' is a very strange opener indeed. It has a very retro 80's metal flavor towards it. Think of a Metallica song with a video game like twist. One of the few bad songs on the album.

'Zeromus' is a Final Fantasy IV tune. This track is far more band oriented then anything The Black Mages did on the debut and can really describe what the album is really going to be like. There are a lot of strange scales used in this.and some nice guitar solos. Pretty good track.

'Vamo' Alla Flamenco' is from my personal favorite Final Fantasy IX. The soundtrack is one of the reasons why it is my favorite too. Anyway, judging by the title, we are not in for a normal video game tune. Two acoustic guitars are used in the intro, obviously using a Flamenco style. After that is finished, there is a nice guitar lead backed by some harmonics and arpeggios with the other. Then a keyboard emulating the last guitar lead is brought in. The guitar repeats and then a keyboard solo is made. Then, one of the best flamenco guitar solos is played, a very serious one to consider too. This is my favorite track on the album due to the excellent guitar work. I haven't personally looked at the guitar player's history, but he should be in some big band some day.

'Hunters Chance' is another good track. It is mostly copied note for note from the original, featuring cartoony leads throughout, but with a major twist towards the end. There is a bit of a jam at the end, even sounds like it is improvised, nothing like the original at all. Made what would've been a normal track into a great one.

'Otherworld' is the strangest song in Uematsu's repertoire. Sounds like a crap metal band in the game itself. This is the same song except with vocals from the band instead. They are intensely lame and not convincing to take this piece seriously.

'Matoya's Cave' is an absolute classic from the first Final Fantasy game. The intro is yet another guitar duet. The very slow and catchy melody is played, followed by a blues jam! Very experimental track, certainly showing more maturity as a band.

'The Man with the Machine Gun' is a classic taken from Final Fantasy VIII. This song is copied from the original except it turns into a shred fest. I immediately thought of Dream Theater's 'Scenes From A Memory' when listening to this. A lot of talent is shown on their instruments is shown on this track.

'Maybe I'm a Lion' is pretty much the same as the prior track.

'Battle with the Four Friends' is taken from Final Fantasy IV in crisis-like times. The song is very representative of that; most of the leads are very minor, not happy.

'The Skies Above' takes the main theme from Final Fantasy X and then after that gives it vocal accompaniment. Like the other track that has vocals, they completely ruin it again.

'Blue Blast - Winning the Rainbow' is a decent track to go out on. It's another one of those shred fest songs though, perhaps they might of done one too many.

This was much more diverse and complete then the debut album. However, due to a few track utterly ruined and not done too well, it can only stay at 3.5 stars. Pretty damn good though.

ProgBagel | 3/5 |

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