The Black Mages III -Darkness and Starlight-

Black Mages III -Darkness and Starlight-, The. Передняя обложка. Click to zoom.
Black Mages III -Darkness and Starlight-, The
Передняя обложка
Composed by Нобуо Уэмацу
Arranged by Arata Hanyuda / Кэйдзи Кавамори / Кэнъитиро Фукуй / Митио Окамия / Цуёси Сэкито
Published by Dog Ear Records
Catalog number DERP-10002
Release type Game Soundtrack - Official Release
Format 1 CD - 10 Tracks
Release date March 19, 2008
Duration 01:00:40
Genres
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Overview

It's been a long time since I've eagerly anticipated an album as much as The Black Mages III ~Darkness and Starlight~. The promotional videos and music samples really wet my appetite and the declarations from the band members that this was 'their masterpiece' convinced me to purchase the album from Nobuo Uematsu's Dog Ears Records. It was clear from the videos that its production time was about three months even though its predecessor was released over three years ago. As a result, the previously anticipated rock-operatic second disc was not present and relatively few new arrangements were offered compared to their previous albums. The band nevertheless ensured the album excelled in terms of quality. For the first time, the arrangements used the talents of all members of the band except Nobuo Uematsu. The members focused meticulously on the often extremely complicated material provided to them in order to excel in the recording sessions at several major studios. Explicit efforts were also made to diversify and mature the band's sound. The result is the The Black Mages' finest effort to date.

Body

Symbolic of a new dawn, Final Fantasy VII's "Opening ~ Bombing Mission" appropriately opens the album. It begins almost identically to the original with a synthetic violin note preparing a sorrowful bell motif, creating bundles of atmosphere and nostalgia. After 0:45, the band is heard for the first time with an electric guitarist playing the theme's fanfare against dense drums with impressive prowess. The heavy bass riff of the "Bombing Mission" section provides the backbone for the rest of Kenichiro Fukui's arrangement. With gritty overdriven guitar solos, flashy keyboard work, and integration of the previously acoustic motifs from the original piece, the band members declare themselves back with even more attitude than before while preserving the imagery and mood of the original.

The subsequent two tracks are arrangements of the final battle themes for Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy VIII by Michio Okamiya. His gliding electric guitar work provides a definitive highlights of the album in "Neo ExDeath"; he presents the main melody with astonishing lyricism at a racing tempo and shines with a virtuosic solo in the centre of the piece. The dabs of the hilariously cheesy ExDeath motif only adds to the fun factor here. As for "The Extreme", the atmosphere of the opening of the original is maintained with a gentle combination of acoustic guitar, piano, and suspended synthetic strings. The intensity and velocity of the piece increases convincingly in the development section and there is a metamorphosis from use of acoustic instruments to purely electronic ones. It peaks with fast-paced keyboard runs and even faster arpeggiations and, after five minutes playtime, leads to a fantastic guitar-dominated coda. It's a small but substantial improvement on the already exceptional original.

Drummer Arata Hanyuda succeeds arranging Final Fantasy IX's "Assault of the Silver Dragons" despite having no prior experience. He focuses on several core leitmotifs from the original and transforms them from their original militaristic setting to something more synthy and uplifting. The arrangement is excellently paced, articulated, and layered, featuring probably the most experimental keyboard and guitar solos from the band to date. The fifth track is actually Kenichiro Fukui's arrangement of "This is the Last Battle" from Final Fantasy III's DS soundtrack. While the decision to recycle it adds to the disappointment about the lack of new material in this album, it's an incredibly solid track that most casual fans wouldn't have previously heard. The primary and secondary melodies here are fantastic here and the solos give Fukui a chance to show his amazing skills as a keyboardist.

Fukui also offers the central arrangement on the album, Final Fantasy XI's "Distant Worlds". Slow-paced, predominantly acoustic, and mostly ambient, the piece differs from anything the band has previously created. A mellow soundscape is provided in the introduction with a poignant mix of harp arpeggios, warm synth pads, and choir notes. A duet between Fukui on acoustic piano and Okamiya on acoustic guitar provides the verse from 1:20 and the fleeting appearance of a cantabile synth line leads to their initially contemplative version of the chorus. The unexpected addition of a drum kit and synth instruments in a pop-like manner leads to Okamiya's absolutely beautiful gut string guitar solo and an equally affecting recorder solo. Following the return of the piano passage to present the verse once more, an electric guitar from Sekito interrupts the arrangement at 5:30 and takes listeners on a lush romantic ride. Completely unexpected, this solo provides the definitive moment of the album for me before the piece ends as quietly and atmospherically as it begun.

Final Fantasy VIII's "Premonition" is the only solo arrangement of guitarist Tsuyoshi Sekito, previously the band's main arranger. Its dissonant ghostly introduction leads to a body focusing on resolute electric guitar melodies. Emphasising the irregular metre, an aggressive bass riff punctuates most of the piece in a way that resembles Sekito's approach on Dawn of Mana's battle themes. Indeed, the darkest, coldest, and most enigmatic arrangement on the album. Bassist Keiji Kawamori subsequently arranges Final Fantasy IX's underrated final battle theme "Grand Cross". My personal favourite on the album, it reflects the ideas of every member of the band — it incorporates an acoustic introduction, rough bass riffs, flashy solos, wonderful melodies, and plenty of hard rock flair. The last battle arrangement on the album is also the one that binds them all together. But the album doesn't end there... What of the title track?

Sekito, Fukui, and Okamiya join forces to create the arrangement of the opera sequence from Final Fantasy VI, "Darkness and Starlight". A track of epic proportions, it incorporates a dramatic atmospheric overture, a stunningly beautiful rendition and recapitulation of the aria, a duel sequence with powerful Japanese narration from Koori Masao, and, best of all, a completely original rocking section featuring bass, tenor, and chorus by four members of the band. I felt the brief appearance of the "Wedding Waltz" slightly disturbed the coherency of the piece and I also regretted the lack of "Grand Finale?", actually my favourite part of the opera sequence. However, the piece is still 15 minutes of pure bliss and the combination of rock instrumentalists and opera singers works surprisingly well. The album ends with Nobuo Uematsu's solo piano tribute "LIFE ~in memory of Keiten~", an original composition about Yoshitaka Tagawa whom the album is also dedicated to; the sad and profound backstory of this piece is explained on the album's official site.

Summary

The band was right to describe The Black Mages III ~Darkness and Starlight~ as 'their masterpiece'. Issues of quantity aside, the production values are top-notch, the track selection is excellent, and every single arrangement is fantastic. The band retains their attitude and sense of fun while also demonstrating their maturity and versatility with the superlative "Grand Cross", "Distant Worlds", and "Mario and Draco". Everything comes together excellently resulting in a diverse, emotional, and entertaining experience. Highly recommended.



Album
9/10

Music in game
0/10

Game
0/10

Chris Greening

All Music Composed by Nobuo Uematsu

01. Opening - Bombing Mission
from FINAL FANTASY VII "Opening~Bombing Mission"
Arranged by Kenichiro Fukui
(C)1997 SQUARE ENIX CO.,LTD.
(P)2008 SMILE PLEASE CO.,LTD.

02. Neo EXDEATH
from FINAL FANTASY V "The Final Battle"
Arranged by Michio Okamiya
(C)1992 SQUARE ENIX CO.,LTD.
(P)2008 SMILE PLEASE CO.,LTD.

03. The Extreme
from FINAL FANTASY VIII "The Extreme"
Arranged by Michio Okamiya
(C)1999 SQUARE ENIX CO.,LTD.
(P)2008 SMILE PLEASE CO.,LTD.

04. Assault of the Silver Dragons
from FINAL FANTASY IX "Assault of the Silver Dragons"
Arranged by Arata Hanyuda
(C)2000 SQUARE ENIX CO.,LTD.
(P)2008 SMILE PLEASE CO.,LTD.

05. KURAYAMINOKUMO
from FINAL FANTASY III "This is the Last Battle"
Arranged by Kenichiro Fukui
(C)1990, 2006 SQUARE ENIX CO.,LTD.
(P)2006 SQUARE ENIX CO.,LTD.

06. Distant Worlds
from FINAL FANTASY XI "Distant Worlds"
Arranged by Kenichiro Fukui
(C)2005 Solid Co.,Ltd. & SQUARE ENIX CO.,LTD.
(P)2008 SMILE PLEASE CO.,LTD.

07. Premonition
from FINAL FANTASY VIII "Premonition"
Arranged by Tsuyoshi Sekito
(C)1999 SQUARE ENIX CO.,LTD.
(P)2008 SMILE PLEASE CO.,LTD.

08. Grand Cross
from FINAL FANTASY IX "The Final Battle"
Arranged by Kenji Kawamori
(C)2000 SQUARE ENIX CO.,LTD.
(P)2008 SMILE PLEASE CO.,LTD.

09. Darkness and Starlight
from FINAL FANTASY VI "Opera ~Maria and Draco"
Lyrics by Nobuo Uematsu/Yoshinori Kitase
Part 1 arranged by Tsuyoshi Sekito
Part 2&4 arranged by Kenichiro Fukui
Part 3 arraned by Michio Okamiya
(C)1994 SQUARE ENIX CO.,LTD.
(P)2008 SMILE PLEASE CO.,LTD.

10. LIFE ~ in memory of KEITEN ~
(C)&(P)2008 SMILE PLEASE CO.,LTD.


All Music Produced by Nobuo Uematsu

THE BLACK MAGES are
Organ:Nobuo Uematsu
Guitar:Tsuyoshi Sekito/Michio Okamiya
Keyboards:Kenichiro Fukui
Bass:Kenji Kawamori
Drums:Arata Hanyuda

Additional musicians of Tr#9 "Darkness and Starlight"
Mezzo Soprano: Etsuyo Ota
Tenor: Tomoaki Watanabe
Bass: Tetsuya Odagawa
Female chorus: Manami Kiyota
Male chorus: THE BLACK MAGES

Narration: Koori Masao


Track#1
Recorded by Yasuhisa Kataoka (I to I communications Inc.)
Assisted by Yasuaki Kishimoto (MARUNI STUDIO),
Wataru Namifusa (MARUNI STUDIO)
Recorded at MARUNI STUDIO

Track#4, 5, 6, 7
Recorded by Naoki Uehata
Assisted by Wataru Namifusa (MARUNI STUDIO)
Recorded at MARUNI STUDIO

Track#2, 3, 8, 9
Recorded by Naoki Uehata, Hiroaki Ohgushi
Assisted by Wataru Namifusa (MARUNI STUDIO)
Recorded at MARUNI STUDIO

Track#9 Bass singer, Female chorus and Narrations
Recorded by Katsumi Sanbongi (SOUND ARTS)
Recorded at SOUND ARTS

Mixed by Kenichiro Fukui

except Tr#1
Mixed by Yasuhisa Kataoka (I to I communications Inc.)
Assisted by Yasuaki Kishimoto (MARUNI STUDIO)
Mixed at MARUNI STUDIO


Mastering Engineer:
Hidekazu Sakai (Sony Music Communications)
Mastering Studio: SONY MUSIC STUDIOS TOKYO

Illustrated by Hideo Minaba

Package Art Direction: Tadashi Shimada (Banana Studio)
Design: Tadashi Shimada, Norie Kadokura (Banana Studio)
Photographer: Hiroshi Shibaizumi, Mari Kurihara (Hand Made)

Product Management: Hiroki Ogawa (Dog Ear Records)

Executive Producers: Kensuke Matsushita (Dog Ear Records), Reiko Uematsu (SMILE PLEASE)

Special Thanks to:
Izumi Tsukushi, Yasuhiro Takamatsu, Hiromichi Tanaka, Ryo Inakura from SQUARE ENIX, Masataka Saitou, HAL TOKYO, AQ INTERACTIVE, Isamu Koyama (MARUNI STUDIO), Naomi Kobayashi (I to I communications Inc.)


This album is dedicated to Yoshitaka Tagawa

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Album was composed by Нобуо Уэмацу and was released on March 19, 2008. Soundtrack consists of tracks with duration over more than hour. Album was released by Dog Ear Records.

CD 1

1
Opening - Bombing Mission from FINAL FANTASY VII
04:39
2
Neo EXDEATH from FINAL FANTASY V "The Final Battle"
04:39
3
The Extreme from FINAL FANTASY VIII
05:51
4
Assault of the Silver Dragon from FINAL FANTASY IX
05:00
5
KURAYAMINOKUMO from FINAL FANTASY III "This is the Last Battle"
04:56
6
Distant Worlds from FINAL FANTASY XI
07:31
7
Premonition from FINAL FANTASY VIII
05:22
8
Grand Cross from FINAL FANTASY IX "Final Battle"
05:33
9
Darkness and Starlight from FINAL FANTASY VI "Opera ~ Maria and Draco"
15:32
10
LIFE ~ in memory of KEITEN ~
01:37
30.04.12
  STATISTICS
  • Average album rating: 8.5 (2)
  • Page views: 28242
  • Album achieved 616 place in our Hall of Fame
  • 1 person have this album in collection

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