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The Black Mages

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The Black Mages The Black Mages II: The Skies Above album cover
3.38 | 28 ratings | 6 reviews | 22% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 2005

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Rocking Grounds (3:56)
2. Zeromus (3:51)
3. Vamo' Alla Flamenco (4:25)
4. Hunter's Chance (4:45)
5. Otherworld (3:14)
6. Matoya's Cave (4:44)
7. Man with the Machine Gun (4:17)
8. Maybe I'm a Lion (5:35)
9. Battle with the Four Fiends (3:58)
10. The Skies Above (7:19)
11. Blue Blast (4:49)

Total Time 50:53

Line-up / Musicians

- Nobuo Uematsu / keyboards
- Kenichiro Fukui / keyboards
- Tsuyoshi Sekito / guitar
- Michio Okamiya / guitar
- Keiji Kawamori / bass
- Arata Hanyuda / drums

Releases information

CD Universal Japan B0006GAXU0 (2005)

Thanks to TheProgtologist for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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Buy THE BLACK MAGES The Black Mages II: The Skies Above Music

THE BLACK MAGES The Black Mages II: The Skies Above ratings distribution

(28 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(22%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(41%)
Good, but non-essential (30%)
Collectors/fans only (7%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

THE BLACK MAGES The Black Mages II: The Skies Above reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Zitro
3 stars 2.6 stars

The follow up to the excellent debut. This album is not bad, but nowhere as great as the previous one. The music is very similar: Prog Metal covers of Final Fantasy tunes. Some of these are not as well known as the ones in the first album, but I've grown to like most of those. The progressive feel is a bit lost here, and there are less keyboards.

The Rocking Grounds begins the album in a high note, a rocking battle tune with memorable melodies. There's a keyboard riff that marks a different tempo which is done very well. Zeromus is a bit more complex and one of the proggiest tracks in the album. There is a lot going in there! Vamo' Alla Flamenco, as its title suggests, is influenced by flamenco. Both acoustic and electric, this is a groovy piece with a great flamenco section in the middle. Hunter's Chance is another soft metal piece with good melodies. The song is a bit upbeat and contain a wild moment around 2 minutes into the track. Good synthesizer work here. Matoya's Cave is easily the best track in the album. It is one of the few tracks where The Black Mages soften up a bit. The song starts acoustically, goes through brilliant bluesy music with keyboard soloing, guitar soloing, and the great melodic theme. A man with the Machine Gun is a fast paced metal song with a weak theme, but a wild soloing section saves it. Maybe I'm a Lion has good guitar work, but it is not one of the highlights.

Overworld just does not work. The original was a death metal song with grunts, while this is softer and has a female vocalist way out of place. The Skies above is a disaster. It begins with the piano theme of Final Fantasy 10 but unexpectedly goes through metal riffery very out of place. This is the proggiest track of the album, but also the worst one. The singer ruins everything and just mutilates the song. Battle with Four fiends is not bad, but not interesting enough. the last song of the album "Blue Blast" is another typical heavy metal tune, but is unmemorable and do we really need another of these songs?

Highlights: Matoya's Cave, Vamo Alla Flamenco, Hunter's Chance.

Let Downs: Otherworld, Battle with the Four Friends, The Skies Above, Blue Blast

My Grade: C-

Review by 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.

Review by ProgBagel
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.

Latest members reviews

3 stars Nobuo Uematsu and his dastardly clan of Black Mages are back with 'The Skies Above', a sequel to their self-titled debut which features progressive metal versions of music composed for the Final Fantasy video games (composed, I should add, by Uematsu himself). Random nugget for you, but I've ... (read more)

Report this review (#1791000) | Posted by martindavey87 | Friday, October 6, 2017 | Review Permanlink

3 stars This album although not as quite as solid as the first album contains some gems. The two final fantasy 4 songs Zeromus and Battle With The Four Fiends are definitely the best tracks on this album and well worth listening to regardless if you enjoy video games or not. I never completed FF 3(japa ... (read more)

Report this review (#179915) | Posted by merrickyoung87 | Monday, August 18, 2008 | Review Permanlink

3 stars What a surprise! Could'nt have guess I'll found some Black Mages stuff reviewed here. Well, I suppose I might just add a little something then :) The Skies Above is a dream come true for every Final Fantasy/ prog metal fan. After a nice eponymous debut, The Black Mages here started some more ... (read more)

Report this review (#88067) | Posted by ValhallFR | Wednesday, August 23, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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