[REVIEW] The Black Mages – The Black Mages (2003)

It may be a few years old, but The Black Mages still rocks my box even five years later. Since it’s on my PMP (iPod 5G Video 30 GB), I consider it review worthy (even if only to pad the blog).

To remind y’all if y’all forgot, or to educate y’all if y’all didn’t know, The Black Mages (by the group of the same name led by Square-Enix composers Nobuo Uematsu and Tsuyoshi Sekito) was an album of remixes of assorted battle themes from many console Final Fantasies. IMO, this album had more hits than misses, and more than the second album, The Skies Above. I do have tracks from all three albums on my two daily playlists (one for morning to keep me awake on the train and time my trip to work, and one for evening to keep me entertained and time my trip home), so it’s not as if I don’t appreciate a song just because it’s on a particular album.

The breakdown:

“Dancing Mad” is a masterpiece worthy of the full-length OST version and, if split and looped properly, could easily replace it in any Final Fantasy VI remake.

“Clash on the Big Bridge” is arguably the best track on the album, and hearing it makes you think you’re fighting Gilgamesh for the umpteenth time without skipping a beat.

I’m personally a fan of “Force Your Way” for two reasons: 1. it was the first BM song I ever listened to (back when it and “Those Who Fight Further” were available for free download from Square’s old site); 2. the original FF8 version was the first song I ever tried to record straight from the TV to an audiocassette (by plugging a microphone into a tape recorder and holding it up to the TV speaker during a boss battle).

“Fight with Seymour” surprised me the first time I listened to it; I totally didn’t remember what the original sounded like when I played FFX, but I re-listened to it after the remix and I would change the instrumentation of the remix based on the original (ie, use the original choir ahhs and organ).

“Battle Scene” (FF) is a long overdue update of the original, though there are a few spots here and there that could’ve been split instead of overlapping.

The rest, while they were nice to have, weren’t the best arrangements they could’ve made. Overall, love the instrumentation, though – the guitars were biting (and I STILL don’t know what the gear setups were :/ ), the drums were hard (as opposed to the more classic sounding drums of the later albums), the organs were very Hammy (Uematsu is a musical mad scientist; maybe he titled “Dancing Mad” after himself?), and the synthesizers very synthy (the “Jump” sawtooth makes an updated appearance). It’s a shame there were some glaring absences, but fortunately some of them are answered in the later albums.

8/10

The track listing:

  1. “Battle Scene” Final Fantasy I 4:19
  2. “Clash on the Big Bridge” Final Fantasy V 4:16
  3. “Force Your Way” Final Fantasy VIII 3:51
  4. “Battle Scene II” Final Fantasy II 3:52
  5. “The Decisive Battle” Final Fantasy VI 4:02
  6. “Battle” Final Fantasy VI 3:21
  7. “J-E-N-O-V-A” Final Fantasy VII 6:08
  8. “Those Who Fight Further” Final Fantasy VII 4:25
  9. “Dancing Mad” Final Fantasy VI 12:04
  10. “Fight With Seymour” Final Fantasy X 5:05

Next up – The Skies Above


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