The sequel to what I consider an overall excellent video game album, The Black Mages – The Skies Above continues what The Black Mages started. I know it’s a few years old, but since it’s on my PMP, I consider it review worthy (even if only to pad the blog).
To recap, The Skies Above is similar to the first album in that the same people (plus a couple of surprise extras) rearrange classic, present, and eventually future Final Fantasy tracks, though where the first one was just battle themes this one adds a few non-battle tracks. The games not featured in the first album come in full force for this one, and this album features not one but two tracks with…wait for it…LYRICS! Yes, it’s time to hear some singing on this album.
“Zeromus” is fantastic, featuring a loop that many Final Fantasy IV fans wished the original had. The “Jump” sawtooth makes a glorious return in a solo showing off keyboardist Fukui’s chops, as well as his skill with the keyboard’s pitch and mod wheels. Possibly the most requested song not on the first album. Love it.
“Otherworld” is one of the two songs arranged with sung lyrics. While the instrumentation was fine by me, I wasn’t fond of the bubblegum factor introduced into the lyrics by the vocal talents of Hamano Kazco. As such, my morning playlist has the original version instead. Sorry, Kazco.
“Battle with the Four Fiends” has a classic Metallica flair to it, and may very well be my favorite track on this album. I can’t even put into words how much I love this song.
“The Skies Above” is the other song arranged with lyrics. For J-Pop fans, Tomoaki Watanabe (aka mr.goo) was tapped for the new vocals. With a powerful, booming voice, he does the lyrics proud and IMO would only be beat by a Bruce Dickinson-like singer instead (at least, that’s how I sing it in my head 😉 ). A true rock ballad, this may be the most epic song Uematsu ever wrote and had arranged.
I’m half and half on the rest of the album, but overall the tracks that should’ve been in the first album but weren’t make this album listenable. As a bonus, we get a Japanese pro-wrestler’s theme along with the Final Fantasy fare (try saying that one three times fast 😛 ). There’s still one or two songs fans clamor for that aren’t in this one or the first one, but that’s probably one of the reasons why the Black Mages made a third album.
The track listing:
- “The Rocking Grounds” Final Fantasy III 3:56
- “Zeromus” Final Fantasy IV 3:56
- “Vamo’ alla Flamenco” Final Fantasy IX 4:25
- “Hunter’s Chance” Final Fantasy IX 4:44
- “Otherworld” Final Fantasy X 3:14
- “Matoya’s Cave” Final Fantasy I 4:44
- “The Man with the Machine Gun” Final Fantasy VIII 4:17
- “Maybe I’m a Lion” Final Fantasy VIII 5:34
- “Battle with the Four Fiends” Final Fantasy IV 3:58
- “The Skies Above” Final Fantasy X 7:18
- “Blue Blast – Winning the Rainbow” 4:49
Finally – Darkness and Starlight…