[REVIEW] The Black Mages – Darkness and Starlight (2008)

The much awaited third album from what may be the most legendary video game band of all time, The Black Mages – Darkness and Starlight turns out not to be my cup of tea. While half the album remixes some of my favorite Final Fantasy songs, I’m not quite a fan of these particular remixes and the other half is pretty much “meh” for me.

Darkness and Starlight rearranges some of the more obscure Final Fantasy tracks, with the title track 9th in the 10 track playlist. For the hardcore completists who just want every single Squaresoft album, this album is worth it, but just barely. For the casual listener, you pretty much just want one or two tracks.

The breakdown:

“Bombing Mission” has always been my favorite FF7 track. The remix is ok, but I actually prefer the Crisis Core version. I think I’ll just leave it alone for now.

“Neo EXDEATH” sounds awesome rearranged and might fit into FF8, replacing The Extreme if it was to do so. Speaking of which…

“The Extreme” is meh in my opinion. It’s pretty much a reinstrumentation of the original, with maybe a small solo near the end.

I have fond memories of “Premonition.” It was the second song I recorded from the TV speaker to an audio cassette (“Force Your Way” being the first). The solo makes this song listenable, but otherwise I’d skip it.

“Darkness and Starlight” is the English name of the “Aria di mezzo carattere” from Final Fantasy VI. The name comes from the English lyrics, and the song does not disappoint. The Black Mages themselves sing the song, one as the spoken word narrator, one as Draco, knight of the western kingdom Garou, one as Maria, his lady love torn away from him at war’s end, and one as the eastern Prince Lars (everyone mistransliterates it as Ralse, but it’s really quite simple to make it Lars, and Square “fixes” it in FF12 with Larsa). The tale itself when narrated is pretty epic, and I would love to see a feature-length film made of it. This remix was on my evening playlist until I found the Final Fantasy – More Friends version with a full orchestra and English lyrics. Sorry Japan.

The rest of the album is pretty meh – two FF9 tracks (I’ve made my stance on FF9 pretty clear in the past), a previously unreleased FF3 track, an FFXI track (I’ve never played XI, so I don’t know it or its music), and an original track (too short for me to enjoy it). I wouldn’t spend more than US $10 on this album. MAXIMUM.

5/10

The track listing:

  1. “Opening ~ Bombing Mission” Final Fantasy VII 4:39
  2. “Neo EXDEATH” Final Fantasy V 4:39
  3. “The Extreme” Final Fantasy VIII 5:51
  4. “Assault of the Silver Dragons” Final Fantasy IX 5:01
  5. “KURAYAMINOKUMO” Final Fantasy III 4:56
  6. “Distant Worlds” Final Fantasy XI 7:32
  7. “Premonition” Final Fantasy VIII 5:23
  8. “Grand Cross” Final Fantasy IX 5:34
  9. “Darkness and Starlight” Final Fantasy VI 15:32
  10. “Life ~ in memory of KEITEN ~” 1:38

What a shame…


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