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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
4 stars First of all, Thank you Progtologist for the addition to this unique Japanese band.

The Black Mages is a progressive metal group formed by Nobuo Uematsu. This album covers battle themes from various Final Fantasy games. Most of them were already good on midi. Imagine them on good audio quality with a raw metal band!

Make sure you pay attention to Nobuo: he's a pretty good keyboardist! The musicianship in this album might not be excellent, but the songwriting is great. The weaknesses are the jams.

Note: This is an instrumental Album. The melodies are played mostly on the guitars.

The album begins strongly with the Battle Scene from the First Final Fantasy. This is a mid-tempo song that astronomically improves the midi predecessor. The melodies are good, and the synth riffs are masterfully done. Clas on the Big Bridge is actually the Giglamesh Theme from FFV. It is a heavy metal song that starts with synthesizer quick arpeggios. The song features catchy guitar leads. Force Your Way is a rocker with very nice keyboard riffs. Definitively a highlight! Battle Scene II is low tempo and doesn't reach the standards of the previous tracks. IT is still good though. Decisive Battle is from VI, another catchy unusual track greatly improved by the usage of electric guitar leads. Battle Theme was originally a poor track. Now, it is a decent rocker. Jenova is not much better than the original. This one sounds more techno, heavier and more complex. I think it is far too loaded with instruments (the weakness). Still, it is a very good track with lots of energy. Those Who Fight Further is another highlight of the album. Not much better than the original, but it was already a perfect track. Beginning with a powerful and fast guitar riff, it leads to many different themes and changes without changing the rhythms too much. The keyboard playing in this track is worthy to mention, and some synths remind me of the 70s. Fight with Symour has touches of electronic-rock, making it a fast paced jewel.

I skipped a track, didn't I? Yes, of course: the masterpiece! Dancing Mad! In a midi file, it was already one of the best songs from Nobuo. Now, he decided to use his band and make it a 12+ minute long epic. This track is very unique. The first 6 minutes of it is obviously a classical. The difference is that it has electric guitar and keyboards, not just the pipe organ (which sounds gorgeous by the way). This Church Organ plays some neat riffs, rhythms, and chord progressions that rival Wakeman's "Judas Iscariot." It is not that easy to get into at first, but after a few listens, it will be impossible to resist.

That is only the first half. The second half is even better! (Kefka Theme). You get hinted at what style of music will be when you hear the rocking bass riff. However, I got fooled a bit. This is like Emerson Lake And Palmer: fast hammond-organ riffing (including one that is similar to Tarkus' Eruption). The verses have very complicated and unusual hammond organ stabs while the chorus has a catchy complex melody. After a couple of minutes, the notes ascend like in Starship Trooper and you get a new part of the song. It has a slow chord progression played by the church organ that gives a feeling of terror. After the chord progression ends, there is a loop. Because repetition sometimes is not tolerated (as this goes for 3 minutes), you hear the first guitar note. What a wonderful note! The guitar solo is about 2 minutes long. It initially plays the melody of the chord progression, but later plays some very complicated stuff that fits in the song perfectly. The loop ends and the song finishes with the riff heard in the opening of the song.

And that is all: A great collection of songs with a big standout that would surely please most progressive rock fans.

Highlights: DANCING MAD, Clash on the Big Bridge, Force Your Way, Those Who Fight Further

Let Downs: Battle Theme, Battle Scene II

My Grade: B+

Zitro | 4/5 |


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