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The Black Mages - The Black Mages CD (album) cover


The Black Mages


Progressive Metal

3.55 | 38 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars I love Nobuo Uematsu's music more than I can even describe in words. He is one of my all-time favorite composers, and the work he did for the Final Fantasy soundtracks is just astounding. Setting the record straight right this moment: yes, this is video game music. No, it does not suck. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a better collection of video game soundtracks than the repertoire Mr. Uematsu has built up over the years. His Prog Metal band, The Black Mages, takes the themes and stories from the series and presents them in a way that impressed me quite a bit.

Having said that, things are bit different when you consider that this is music often meant for orchestra and/or midi. Some of the tracks here are indeed tracks that had that 'Heavy Metal' edge anyway, and I suppose Uematsu chose which tracks he felt were best suited to be turned into full-blown Metal music. Despite that, though, I found myself wishing these guys had ventured into the more orchestral territory of Uematsu's back catalogue. But no matter. After all, if you want to hear the Final Fantasy music as it was originally composed, buy the soundtracks to the games themselves. In fact, I would recommend that. The Black Mages are a different breed. They are taking the most majestic, heavy-hitting tracks from the series and beefing them up with Prog Metal stylings. It works, but it may shock some listeners who were expecting more of the same.

There are variations made to the arrangements in some cases, and more often than not I agree with them. Some of them are minor and seemingly unnecessary, but they suit the style of music better. Other changes are more drastic, and the songs in those cases have been expanded and fully realized from the stubs they once were. This takes place when playing the much older work from the midi days of video game composition when real instruments weren't a part of it. Now we get to hear what was in Uematsu's head the entire time when all we heard before were blips and beeps representing a much more majestic song hidden underneath. I find this all very fascinating and it makes the album worth listening to, even if you're already familiar with the music as it existed before.

However, I do feel that Prog Metal is only one aspect of this man's musical abilities, and you want to truly experience his genius full-tilt, you'll need to hear ALL sides of his work, and not just the heavy stuff. Since The Black Mages don't really deliver in that regard, and I know what else Uematsu is capable of, I feel I cannot give this album a super-high rating. It's good. Very good. But I have heard better from this man, and while I enjoyed this music very much, it merely whetted my appetite for the main course, which is his vast, expansive work in many other musical realms.

If you enjoy Prog Metal or video games, this will be especially remarkable for you. If you don't really like Prog Metal OR video games, I think you might still like this, though personally I think it would be the wrong place to start if you want to get into Nobuo Uematsu's work.

JLocke | 3/5 |


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