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THE BLACK MAGES

Progressive Metal • Japan


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The Black Mages biography
Nobuo Uematsu was born on March 21, 1959 in Kochi, Japan. After graduating from Kanagawa University, he composed music for commercials before joining Square Co., Ltd. (now Square Enix Co., Ltd.) in 1986. He went on to compose music for over thirty game titles, including the award-winning FINAL FANTASY series. The FINAL FANTASY franchise has developed into one of the best-selling video game series across all platforms, selling over 60 million units worldwide (as of March 2004). Uematsu's soundtracks were a key element in the success of the series, carrying the deep storylines with sweeping emotional scores. In October 2004, Uematsu formed SMILE PLEASE Co., LTD. and continues to compose for Square Enix along with several other works.

Uematsu is a renowned composer who has been touted as increasing the appreciation and awareness to the advancements made in videogame music. A prime example is the FINAL FANTASY VIII theme song, "Eyes on Me," composed and produced by Uematsu. The theme song featured Hong Kong pop diva Faye Wong and sold a record 400,000 copies. It then went on to win "Song of the Year (Western Music)" at the 14th Annual Japan Gold Disc Awards in 1999-- the first time music from a video game won the honor.

The music from the game series has grown to such notoriety, Nobuo Uematsu was named as one of the "Innovators" in Time Magazine's "Time 100: The Next Wave - Music" feature. Uematsu's approach to FINAL FANTASY music is diverse, encompassing many styles. This diversity along with the popularity of the music has resulted in a variety of musical performances including classical symphonies, rock and acoustic.

After a string of successful concert performances in Japan including a six-city, seven-show concert series titled "Tour de Japon - music from FINAL FANTASY-," the first stateside concert, "DEAR FRIENDS -music from FINAL FANTASY-," followed May 10, 2004 at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, Calif. selling out in 3 days. The performance featured music from world-renowned FINAL FANTASY video game series, performed by the acclaimed Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Due to the positive reception for this performance and clamor from fans for more, a concert series was recently announced for North America.

In February 2003, Uematsu formed a group called "The Black Mages," producing a self-titled album composed of FINAL FANTASY battle music arranged in rock style.The line-up consists o...
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Black Mages 2: The Skies AboveBlack Mages 2: The Skies Above
Import
Sony Japan 2008
Audio CD$19.08
$12.58 (used)
Black Mages 3: Darkness & StarlightBlack Mages 3: Darkness & Starlight
Import
Sony Japan 2008
Audio CD$27.71
$17.04 (used)
Black Mages 2: The Skies Above by BLACK MAGES (2008-03-25)Black Mages 2: The Skies Above by BLACK MAGES (2008-03-25)
Sony Japan
Audio CD$65.96
Black Mages 2: The Skies Above by Sony JapanBlack Mages 2: The Skies Above by Sony Japan
Sony Japan
Audio CD$68.52
Black Mages 3: Darkness & Starlight by Black Mages (2008-03-25)Black Mages 3: Darkness & Starlight by Black Mages (2008-03-25)
Sony Japan
Audio CD$69.92
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THE BLACK MAGES discography


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THE BLACK MAGES top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.45 | 32 ratings
The Black Mages
2004
3.34 | 20 ratings
Vol. II:The Skies Above
2005
3.04 | 24 ratings
The Black Mages III:Darkness and Starlight
2008

THE BLACK MAGES Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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THE BLACK MAGES Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Black Mages by BLACK MAGES, THE album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.45 | 32 ratings

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The Black Mages
The Black Mages Progressive Metal

Review by JLocke
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.

 The Black Mages by BLACK MAGES, THE album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.45 | 32 ratings

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The Black Mages
The Black Mages Progressive Metal

Review by Alitare

4 stars The Black Mages' first studio album.

This is a japanese metal band headed by Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu. Their style is symphonic power prog, and I quite enjoy it. The songs are fairly straightforward, though. None of them hold up too well to the prog label, and it shows. Some of the songs feel like Dream theater mixes, while others are almost opera style in their instrumental metal approach.

Consisting of battle music from the game series, each one tends to pack quite a punch, and enjoyable listens, but show their slight shallow nature with repeated listens. The melodies are fantastic, the playing is top notch, and the memories some of these songs bring up are more powerful than the songs, themselves.

One track of note, is Dancing Mad. This 12 minute long masterpiece of music is the main reason I recommend this album. It is extended, powerful, progressive, and the album's one true highlight. I could give this album an extra star and a half just for this song, alone.

Not for everyone. If you aren't too keen on power prog, or symphonic metal, you won't like this, and if you aren't into instrumental music, this might put you off. In all, it is an excellent release. Fans of the series should buy this, now. Four Stars.

 The Black Mages III:Darkness and Starlight by BLACK MAGES, THE album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.04 | 24 ratings

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The Black Mages III:Darkness and Starlight
The Black Mages Progressive Metal

Review by Sinusoid
Prog Reviewer

2 stars It holds a special place for Final Fantasy fans as select songs from certain games get a prog metal treatment. I've never played a FF game in my life, even coming from the generation that grew up with video games and owning a couple of PlayStation consoles in my adolescence, so I have no emotional attachment to the pieces here. Musically, it's just a cross of Dream Theater and ELP with no vocals; hardly an original musical style even if Uematsu's compositions are original. The only song I like is the epic title track and that's due to the operatic vocals and dramatic setup of the piece. Mainly for FF fans as I really cannot see the necessity of DARKNESS AND STARLIGHT.
 The Black Mages III:Darkness and Starlight by BLACK MAGES, THE album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.04 | 24 ratings

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The Black Mages III:Darkness and Starlight
The Black Mages Progressive Metal

Review by Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

2 stars I hope they've got some Phoenix Down in their bags...

Japan geek-metallers, The Black Mages are back for more, but something seems to be missing this time out. While the band has released two exquisite albums before this one capitalizing on making progressive-metal out of the soundtracks to the Final Fantasy video game series it seems by this point the band is running out of ideas. While there's still a few classic moments to be had on this album for the most part it feels samey and, at times, uninspired.

One of the biggest draws for video game fans is the knowledge that you're going to hear your favorite 8-bit tunes brought to life by some excellent musicians. One of the biggest problems with this album is it's selection of such tunes. While the previous albums rang true on just about every track it seems that the band ran out of familiar tunes and has had to revert to using the more obscure songs from the soundtracks. Only a few of the songs are recognizable, even to the hardened Final Fantasy veteran and while this certainly would not be a valid point if where the only thing holding the album down there's other factors at play as well. The songs that are recognizable are the shortest of the bunch, and while that's not a bad thing in general there's always the hope that a song like the excellent opener, Bombing Run, will run for more than 5-minutes, but to no avail. KURAYAMINOKUMO is the other song that's immediately recognizable, and it's another good one that runs unfortunately short. Some songs should have been very noticeable off the bat, especially a tune like the final-boss fight from FFV, Neo EXDEATH, a tune that (if you're familiar with the series) most hardcore fans could whistle to you at a moment's notice. Here it sounds familiar, but vaguely.

The musicianship on the record is impressive as always, but there's a certain energy that is strangely absent. Even in the good songs like Bombing Run there's an overplay of a strangely soft keyboard that doesn't seem to demand much of the audience. One of the best things about these guys is the aggression that they've put into some of their previous albums, especially on songs that are meant to represent grand battles. Assault of the Silver Dragons is a point where this does not apply - and this one is an absolute classic that every Black Mages fan should hear. This is everything the band has done well before - aggressive guitars and keyboards with flashy soloing and a good hook.

Most of the rest of the songs on the album are strangely unremarkable. What's odd about that is that on the band's previous albums most of the tunes had a life of their own and each one had a kind of personality. On the first record, even Battle Scene and Battle, Scene II were very different in approach and memorable in their own ways. On this record it gets hard sometimes to tell a distinct difference between something like The Extreme and Grand Cross, and everything turns in wailing on chords.

Luckily the end of the album is supported well by the band's most ambitious effort to date, the 15-minute long title track. For those who are unfamiliar with the game series, there's a scene in Final Fantasy VI in which one of the characters has to perform in an opera, and this song is the score to that opera. Of course, in the game the cut scene was not 15 minutes long, so the boys had some room to experiment and add pieces here. The singing is in Japanese and in an operatic manner with spoken word throughout. Some parts come off as forced while others shine through beautifully as the song makes its way to the end. A few weak moments, but overall a great track that has made significant improvements on the style of the title track from the previous album, The Skies Above. After that the album ends with a reflective and short, touching piano piece called Life ~In Memory Of Keiten~.

So while the album has its moments this one is definitely aimed more at the hardcore fans than a general populous. Fans will still get a kick out of select songs while the broader range of people might just wonder what it is they're listening to. If someone were to ask which Black Mages album to buy, however, this would be the last one in line for recommendation. 2.5 stars out of 5, good to have the boys back on the scene, but hopefully their next effort has a bit more oomph to it.

 Vol. II:The Skies Above by BLACK MAGES, THE album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.34 | 20 ratings

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Vol. II:The Skies Above
The Black Mages Progressive Metal

Review by merrickyoung87

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(japanese 3), 9 or 10 so I didn't really try so hard to get into those songs. The FF 8 songs left alot to be desired because both of those songs are really nice in the OST. The over-the-top cheese that came from Maybe I'm A Lion is the worst part of the album. I just can't get over the completely unnecessary interjection that comes in 10 seconds when the song begins.
 The Black Mages by BLACK MAGES, THE album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.45 | 32 ratings

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The Black Mages
The Black Mages Progressive Metal

Review by merrickyoung87

3 stars I always had thought that if a band did a really decent cover of Final Fantasy music (video game music in general) that it'd be excellent. The first Black Mages album certainly holds up to that concept. Ran by the composer of Final Fantasy music himself, Nobuo Uematsu hand picks and revamps some of the more intense pieces of music from the beloved Final Fantasy Games. He sticks with the older games and picks songs that truly fit in this more progressive metal style. Most of the album is fairly enjoyable if you can get over the some of the really cheesy synths (Clash on the Big Bridge) and some of the less inspired solos that take place in this album.

Highlights from Most awesome to not as awesome but still awesome are: Dancing Mad Decisive Battle Battle Theme Jenova Clash on the Big Bridge (possibly my favorite FF piece from the OST and the piano versions... kind of disappointing but still enjoyable)

 The Black Mages III:Darkness and Starlight by BLACK MAGES, THE album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.04 | 24 ratings

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The Black Mages III:Darkness and Starlight
The Black Mages Progressive Metal

Review by merrickyoung87

2 stars Undoubtedly some of the best and some of the worst of all the Black Mage Output. The album opens well with the previously missing Opening - Bombing Run from FF7 followed by a decent FF5 final boss song NEO Exdeath. The Extreme and Premonition are the two other highlights for me. The rest was of this was poorly inspired especially the horrible rendition of the FF6 operas (one of Uematsu's finest pieces in the original soundtrack). This album is not recommended unless you must have the tracks in highlighted in the beginning of the review. 2 stars
 The Black Mages III:Darkness and Starlight by BLACK MAGES, THE album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.04 | 24 ratings

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The Black Mages III:Darkness and Starlight
The Black Mages Progressive Metal

Review by ProgBagel
Prog Reviewer

3 stars The Black Mages - 'Darkness and Starlight' 3.7 stars

Another solid and best (so far) effort from these gamers.

Nobuo Uematsu and his team came back very strong after being quite for nearly 4 years. They seem to have decided to span the tracks from across the vast timeline that is Final Fantasy; grabbing a little bit from here and there.

The musicianship is again, a top notch performance. The main difference in all of the Black Mages albums is the choice of songs, in my opinion, and I feel like they chose some great tracks and kept it varied very much.

The disc starts out quite strong with the classic bombing mission song from Final Fantasy VII. It is by far one of their best renditions of the original work, capturing the original feel to turning it into a very good track to appeal to the masses. There were two tracks that I despised quite a bit on this album which are 'Neo-EXDEATH' and 'KURAYAMINOKUMO'. Neo is the kind of video game song that cannot be redone in a modern setting; it is way too dull and cannot be taken outside its original form. The latter I mentioned just didn't really go anywhere, I found myself to be really bored listening to that track.

Other than that, all the tracks worked out well. I'll have a little section for the two intense tracks that really separate this work from the previous two outputs. 'Grand Gross' turned the last boss battle in FFIX into a ridiculous fully blown out prog-metal masterpiece. The track was all over the place on the guitars, but the keyboard kept the melody flowing. I was extremely impressed by the musicianship on that track. The title track is the other track that is great. I might be subjective here since this track might take a real big Final Fantasy fan to appreciate. Basically, the track is a rendition of an 'opera' featured in one of the games. Except, this version is a 15 and a half minute blow out version of it. It still features some of the opera vocals and some by the band, which can also be a turn off since it is in Japanese. The solos carry the music beautifully; it is really the first solos on any Black Mages albums to be a soft, melancholic and ultimately beautiful solo.

All in all..a great effort by this band. Recommended to fans of their music and any newcomers willing to try should check this one out first.

 The Black Mages III:Darkness and Starlight by BLACK MAGES, THE album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.04 | 24 ratings

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The Black Mages III:Darkness and Starlight
The Black Mages Progressive Metal

Review by Winand007

4 stars The 3rd album from the Black Mages is here, and i'm reliefed that it's better then their 2nd album let's start with the opener - Opening - Bobimg Mission (Final Fantasy VII) is a very great opener, nice keyboard sounds and imo one of the best songs on the album - Neo EXDEATH (Final Fantasy V) not bad, nice guitar playing, but could've been better - The Extreme (Final Fantasy VIII) great prog version of this FFVIII song, with good keyboards and guitars - Assault Of The Silver Dragons (Final Fantasy IX) song from FF9 when Kuja attacks on his Silver Dragon it's a nice song, starts weak, but gets better to the end, again great keyboards - KURAYAMINOKUMO (Final Fantasy III) A song from FF3 that not everyone will know, the song suprised me with nice guitar sounds, nice solo - Distant Worlds (Final Fantasy XI) song from the online Final Fantasy game, FF11, and probably the least known one, it's a very calm song, which makes it just great, a very symphonic sound, a nice rest from the other songs - Premonition (Final Fantasy VIII) A battle song from FF8 against the sorceress, a great song with amazing keyboard sounds in it. and good guitar sounds - Grand Cross (Final Fantasy IX) another great song from ff9, starts with the hauling of souls, or something like it, after it great synthesizer and guitar playing - Darkness And Starlight (Final Fantasy VI) Opera song from the opera scene in FF6, it's a nice song, that grows on you, the japanese opera singing is getting used to, but once the song has grown on you, you'll like the singing, The singing didn't bother me - Life ~ In Memory Of KEITEN ~ a short piano piece in memory of someone, it's a nice tune and nice outro to the album

The album is very good, not as good as their 1st, and the epic song on this one isn't as good as Dancing Mad on their first, but still good album, better then their 2nd

I give it a 4 star rating, making it an Excellent addition to any prog music collection

 The Black Mages III:Darkness and Starlight by BLACK MAGES, THE album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.04 | 24 ratings

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The Black Mages III:Darkness and Starlight
The Black Mages Progressive Metal

Review by Kapitan_Mrok

4 stars well... i'm a huge fan of Nobuo Uematsu and other japanise composoers of game music so Black Mages are nothing new to me. Also the idea of creating a prog metal band by Uematsu and his companions didn't surprised me, because i know about music fascinations and roots of Nobuo's music (he listen to evrything: from Elthon Jon by camel, rush and king crimson trough some chease j-pop celebrities).

First cd was an medicore album on i'ts own, dedicated only to fans of Final Fantasy. But it was a succes. Second cd was more ambitious, but in artistic field it failed. But this also was a succes. Now after 4 years of silence Black mages comes with their trhiud longplay. Is it good? Lates see

1.Opening - Bomboing mission- final fantasy 7- a memorable opening, with mystical keyboard intrudaction and powerfull guitar work wich comes after one and a half minute in elp style rocker based on superfast kayboard work. Wonderfull guitar work and stunning drums over whole song. This what i wanted. 10/10

2.Neo EXDETH- final fantasy 5- a hard rocking final batlle theme from ff5. I has it moments, but for me the base song is not so good itself. It's a kind of old DT- rocker... hmmm... lets say 7/10

3.The EXTREME- final fantasy 8- theme from final batlle with Ultimecia. I always liked this song. It has beutifull acustic-ambient opening and then speed up to bulid a fascinaiting keyboard based rocker. Some misplaced tunes here, but overral great work. Espaccialy a somwhat weired guitars and great keybord play. 8,5/10

4.Assult of the silver dragons -final fantasy 9- theme ending third disc of this game (or beginnig of fourt, i'm not sure now). Another good, keyboard driven rocker. In the end it builds to one of the most noble Nobuo's themes... wonderfuul, airy, somwhat melancholic, it can take you to the skies. Overall 8/ 10

5.Dark Cloud-final fantasy 3- theme of main evil in ff3- it's not a first rearange of this tune, you can find one in a music novel maked from ff3. BUt this version is better- it's have a strong retro feeling wich fits here perfectly. If you know previos BM cd you can describe it as a continuation of batlle with four fiends. Very rocky, and with guitar riffs on first plan. Some graet symphonic moments invluded. 7,5/10

6 Distatnt world- final fantasy 11: online- long and non composed by Uematsu but beutifful and mystical. Sounds rather like MItsuda's work (but it's not his work after all)... after all this metal storms a perfect theme for some rest: great harp and piano cooperation and some heartcatching keyborad melodies. 9/10

7.Permonition: final fantasy 8. - theme from batlle with sorceress. A great metal, DT-like, song. Wonderfull drumming and guitar soloing. But song is somwhat annoying, it loses melody somtimes. 7,5/10

8. Grand Cross: final fantasy 9. Another final batlle theme. Starts with great intro with some weired painfull screams in the background. After that we aproach a powerfull , hard, riffy metal smasher. A song to play loud and disturbing neighbours. Very good one. Riffy, catchy, with a great rythm and incredible guitar and keyboards solos. 9,5/10

9.Darkness and starlight: final fantasy 6. -opera from the game, now with singing , not writen text and MID voice. Long piece with horrible japanse narration. The song itself is good but i'm not a lover of this kind of tracks, opera vocals and stuff... for me only real flaw of the album. 6/10

10LIfe- short piano outro by Uematsu

Lets see... 4 stars. The best black mages album. Not only for fans of final fantasy. For all fans of prog metal.

Thanks to Epignosis for the artist addition.

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