The Black Mages II -The Skies Above-

Black Mages II -The Skies Above-, The. Передняя обложка. Click to zoom.
Black Mages II -The Skies Above-, The
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Composed by Нобуо Уэмацу
Arranged by Кэнъитиро Фукуй / Митио Окамия / Цуёси Сэкито
Published by Square Enix
Catalog number SQEX-10111
Release type Game Soundtrack - Official Release
Format 1 CD - 11 Tracks
Release date March 19, 2008
Duration 00:50:50
Genres
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Overview

After the success of The Black Mages' first album released in 2003, fans were anticipating a new album. About 22 months later, the fans got their wish when The Black Mages' second album The Skies Above was released. For those of you who don't know who The Black Mages are and what they do, here's a little introduction. Simply put, they take battle themes from the Final Fantasy series and arrange them into a rock style. In the new album, they went further and arranged some non-battle tracks as well, but most of the arrangements are still of battle tracks.

Body

The first piece on the album is aptly called "The Rocking Grounds" and is an arrangement of the normal battle theme of Final Fantasy III. The arrangement of this piece is actually pretty nice, keeping with the original enough but also straying from it to make the piece more interesting. Of course the guitar and keyboard have solo jam sessions in the middle are very typical of The Black Mages in general.

Next on the list is "Zeromus" which, as most people can guess, is an arrangement of the battle theme for the fight against Zeromus in Final Fantasy IV. The beginning of the arrangement almost captures the ominous mood of the original piece. Well, about as well as guitars can anyway. Then the piece gets intense for a little bit with a fast paced drum beat in the background. After that, well, it sounds a lot like the original piece, just with guitars and a keyboard. Way too much keyboard, in fact. And of course, there's another jam session in the middle of the piece, which seemed VERY out of place. The piece started out so well and had lots of potential, but I think it was ruined pretty fast.

Ah, next up is "Vamo' Alla Flamenco". I'm sure you can guess what the original piece was (since it had the same name). This is one of the pieces a lot of people looked forward to. For enjoyment, this piece is great to listen to, but it is an odd arrangement. The original piece simply does not work well with electric guitars, but I think The Black Mages actually did a decent job of arranging it, as it doesn't sound completely horrible. The best part of the piece is in the middle, where instead of an electric guitar playing they use an acoustic guitar (or at least the sound of one) and a very different style. If they had used that sound and style for the whole piece, this would have been the best piece they'd created. While I do disagree with their choice of arrangement style, I do respect The Black Mages a lot for being able to pull this off without it sounding horrible.

The next piece, "Hunter's Chance", was also highly anticipated by fans. I guess after neglecting Final Fantasy IX in their last album, The Black Mages decided to give a double dose this time. Simply put, this piece sounds amazing in a rock style. Definitely one of the better arrangements on the album. The biggest problem with the piece is the end, where the piece goes into a more laid-back style with a keyboard solo. It just simply does not fit. They should've just stopped the piece a minute earlier instead of ruining it like that. Oh well, still a solid arrangement as a whole.

"Otherworld" is arranged from hard rock to... hard rock. BIG change there. I wonder who thought of that one. Although, here's where the irony strikes; there IS a big change. The new vocalist is a female. Personally I found the vocals in the original piece to be horrible and unintelligible. Now they're halfway decent and halfway intelligible. As for the instrumental part itself, it does sound different, mostly due to different equipment and a slightly lighter sound. This is one of those love it or hate it tracks, and mostly depends on how you like the original track. Fans of the original tend to hate it while dislikers of the original tend to love it. Of course, there are exceptions.

With the next piece, the album goes a bit old school with an arrangement of "Matoya's Cave". This new arrangement goes much slower than the original, which actually sounds much better. The piece starts out with an acoustic guitar before going to electric, which actually sounds great despite the dubious move to a rock style. It must be noted that the style is much lighter than the earlier pieces, which actually saves the arrangement as a whole. Almost half of this nearly five minute piece is one big jam session, but unlike the others, the keyboard jams in a blues style rather than rock. It may seem slightly out of place, but it's not too bad. Overall, this is one of the best pieces on the album.

Next up is "The Man with the Machine Gun"... except like twice as fast. They really kicked up the tempo on this one. Anyways, the original piece was just itching to be remade in a rock style, and that's what was done. Most of the actual arrangement actually sounds very similar to the original, except for the guitars… again. They don't waste any time getting to the jam session this time, as it is only a minute and a half in. After that, they throw in another familiar piece into the mix. Turns out it's from "The Legendary Beast" from the same game. Other than that, there's not much to note about this piece. It had lots of potential but didn't really use much of it.

Staying with Final Fantasy VIII, The Black Mages move onto "Maybe I'm a Lion". Since the original piece had a bit of a rock feel in it, it was a good candidate for an arrangement to complete rock. The biggest problem with the piece is that it lost some of the drum groove during the transition to rock. On the other hand, the rock style itself also lends itself well to the piece. The jam sessions in this piece actually fit well and have better transitions. Personally, I found this arrangement to be one of the better ones on the album even despite the loss of the great drum groove.

Next on the lineup is "Battle with the Four Fiends", an arrangement of "The Dreadful Fight" from Final Fantasy IV. This is another piece that sounds great in rock style. Personally, I find this to be the best piece on the whole album, and is definitely worth a listen. By this time of the album, The Black Mages must have run out of ideas for jam sessions, since this one seems smaller than the earlier ones. Definitely a good thing since it's getting a bit old...

After the greatness of "Battle with the Four Fiends", the album starts to go downhill with the next piece, "The Skies Above". This piece is an arrangement of "To Zanarkand" from Final Fantasy X. It starts out with the simple piano playing the theme as normal. After that's finished, the guitar starts an intro to the main piece. And as soon as the vocals come in, it goes downhill. Well, not really, but the vocals do sound awful. The instrument arrangement is amazing though, although it is downplayed by the vocals obviously. Unsurprisingly, the best part of the piece is the instrumental in the middle. Without the vocals there, this would easily be the best piece on the album, but that's not the case. Still, the piece isn't completely ruined if you just try to ignore the vocals.

The last piece on the album, named "Blue Blast - Winning the Rainbow", seems to be an original piece. I really enjoyed the melody and overall style of this piece, even though it wasn't anything really spectacular. Even though the piece is original, the jam session is still very apparent. But also because the piece is original, it doesn't seem like it's "butting in" or anything like in the other pieces. Overall, this is probably one of the best pieces, if not the best piece, on the album, but it doesn't really seem as interesting since the whole point of The Black Mages was to rearrange Final Fantasy pieces. Think of it as a bonus though.

Summary

There are a few problems with the album as a whole. First off, several of the pieces sound exactly the same as the original counterparts except for a change of instruments and a slight change of style. It would have been nice if they had changed it just a little bit more, perhaps adding a bit more flair to the pieces. Ironically, the biggest change of the pieces is the other problem, the frequent jam fests. They're good and all, but they just don't fit and get old by the end of the album. Also, the overall structures of the pieces always seem the same: piece, jam session, piece. That gets old too. But despite those, most of the pieces are still good to listen to.

Now the main questions still remain: Do the pieces sound good? Did it live up to the hype? Is it better than the first one? The pieces do sound good, but I don't think the album lived up to the hype. I expected more. The first album had a number of great pieces, and the rest were still pretty good. This one is more of a mixed bag. There are some great pieces on here, such as "Battle with the Four Fiends", "Blue Blast", "Hunter's Chance", and "Matoya's Cave". But there are also some disappointments, like "Vamo' Alla Flamenco", "The Man with the Machine Gun", and "The Skies Above". I'd say there were actually more great pieces on this album than the last, but the last album didn't really have any disappointments. So comparing this one to the first album is a bit hard; it really depends on what you want. Either way, this is really a great listen and definitely worth a purchase.



Album
8/10

Music in game
0/10

Game
0/10

Talaysen

Overview

The original The Black Mages album is very much an oddity in the world of Squaresoft's arranged albums. Square's arrangements rarely extend beyond the token Piano Collections, soft vocal albums, or moderately paced orchestrated albums. I'm sure some people enjoy the softer, more classical approach to arranging the music of Final Fantasy (as seen in basically every single Final Fantasy arranged album EXCEPT for The Black Mages), but I'll assure you that I'm not one of them. It's not that I feel that albums like Final Fantasy IV Celtic Moon, Final Fantasy VI Grand Finale, or any of the Piano Collections don't have their place. They do, but my response to them as a whole can be summed up in a single shrug of my shoulders. Compared to companies like SNK, Konami and Falcom, which tend to release arranged albums in a much greater variety of styles, I find Square's output pretty outright anemic. I'd much rather listen to a Konami Battle album or a King of Fighters Arranged album or an Ys Perfect Collection anyday, over your typical orchestral or piano hack-job. Some tunes are just designed to have their powerful melodic prowess expressed by the sound of screaming guitars, pounding drums and electrifying synthesizers. Konami, SNK, and Falcom have these kinds of themes in abundance (among others) and it shows on their brilliant arranged albums. However, if you were to listen solely to Final Fantasy's arranged albums, you would almost have to consider their original scores as the snobby overseers to their loud cousins and almost believe that they're 'above' such ruffian filth. It's a fair conclusion in that situation, but one that can't be further away from the truth: When arranged properly, Final Fantasy's music can kick just as much ass as anything. I'm not talking about the crappy arrangements of the series' most energetic pieces on the various piano albums (I laughed my head off when I heard "Zeromus" on the Final Fantasy IV Piano Collections), albums like Final Fantasy IV Celtic Moon (which now sits idle on my mom's music shelf), and Final Fantasy VI Grand Finale, which blatantly ignore the series' battle themes entirely; I'm talking about Japanese fan-made CD's from the likes of Akineko (CD Name: Matsu Meta) and Hellion Sounds (CD Name: The Sentence of Death) which focus almost solely around the already-kickass battle themes and put the notes to synths and guitars and jam away. By the same note, I'm also talking about The Black Mages, a group comprised of none other than longtime series' composer Nobuo Uematsu and longtime Square composers Tsuyoshi Sekito and Kenichiro Fukui, who decided to release Square's first official rock arranged album, The Black Mages.

I was quite the fan of the first The Black Mages album. I defended it quite a bit against the constant accusations that it didn't use enough guitars and played much of the main melodies with the synthesizers. I even tried to make light out of some of the more lackluster arrangements like "Dancing Mad" or "Battle Scene 1"... As long as I had my powered up arrangements of "Clash on the Big Bridge" and "Force Your Way," I was more than content. However, two years later, I will readily admit that I rarely listen to the album anymore. Despite the arranging of some of my favorites, the only time I really listen to it seriously is when I'm doing old-new comparisons or if I'm in the mood to hear one of the original pieces and I want something a little different. The low-quality, overused synths, and somewhat lacking arrangements keep it far away from the greatness of the J.D.K. Band, SNK's New World Sound Team, or the ever-present Guilty Gear albums when I need to rock out. And yet, knowing this, there has been no greater anticipation for an album from myself like there has been for The Black Mages II ~The Skies Above~. For that matter, there isn't an album I've listened to more than this one upon tearing the shrinkwrap off and tossing the disc into the CD player. For about two weeks since I first got it, it's been the sole listening getaway at both my computer and in my car and that probably includes well over 50 listens.

One reason for my enthusiasm towards the album is because of the track selection. It's quite diverse to say the least. There are a fair number of old-school Final Fantasy tracks, as well as plenty of tracks from the series' more recent years. For both types of tracks, this is good news... Fans of the older games (especially Final Fantasy IV) have been long clamoring for powered-up arrangements of themes like "Zeromus" for ages now. For the more recent entries in the series, some fairly interesting pieces have been marred by horribly limited PlayStation synth (read: Final Fantasy VIII and Final Fantasy IX) and are begging to have their potential expanded upon. Even more interesting is an arrangement of "Otherworld," the heavy metal song you all know and love from Final Fantasy X, the transformation of the same game's "To Zanarkand" into a rock ballad, and the arrangement of an original unreleased piece by Uematsu. As for the performances themselves, I thought it was somewhat of an improvement over the original album. The synths aren't quite as annoying, the drums and bass carry more of an overall punch to them, and the guitar work sounds better (and there's more of it). Lead guitarist Tsuyoshi Sekito still has somewhat of a rigid playing style, as if he's being too careful to hit the notes and there are pretty strong complaints that Uematsu's organ is too loud in some places. It's more of the same, but matured, if that makes sense. I doubt those who didn't enjoy the first album will regard the performance as charitably as I've described, but I thought it was better overall.

Body

Overall, the "old-school" tracks made the transition to rock arrangements pretty cleanly, though unremarkably in a few cases. Despite my unfamiliarity with the source of "The Rocking Grounds" from Final Fantasy III, 20 seconds into the piece told me I was in for some good rockin'. Right off the bat, the guitars make their presence felt, opening with some strong riffs and letting the bass enhance the power. At about the 1 minute mark, the main melody starts up and it comes off very effectively, using the guitar for the first part and the organ for the second. This is probably the best example of the two working together, as the organ doesn't dominate the piece like it would have in the first album. It has a solo and some parts of the melody, but the highlight here is clearly the guitar. This one is a classic. Another track, "Battle with the Four Fiends," is just as good. This time, the organ pretty much dominates everything (the guitar comes in for some key chords), but people who are familiar with the SNES sound of the original probably won't mind, as it's this sound that keeps it faithful to the original. I'm all for that: It's a powered-up remake that loops twice and has some sweet solos inside. As a bonus, the introduction for the original is played at several intervals. This is noteworthy because the original's intro never played when the song looped. In fact, it's one of the few pieces I went to record onto my portable tapedeck many years ago and wasn't exactly sure where the loop was. "Matoya's Cave" has something of an interesting history behind it. It was played at the first The Black Mages concert, but was absent from the first album. There is a new version here, specifically for this release. For those familiar with the original of this piece, it's basically everything you hoped for... In some parts. Sekito's rigid guitaring comes in handy, as he doesn't miss a single note of the 8-bit melody on either the acoustic guitar (1st playthrough) or the electric guitar (2nd playthrough), making for a beautiful power-ballad of the original. Unfortunately after that, comes one of the low points of the disc: A horribly placed organ solo literally burns its way in between the guitars and goes completely off on its own in a jazzy little number. This interlude is so embarrassingly bad and outright jarring, I thought my CD player had skipped! The main melody mercifully comes back after about a minute or so of this nonsense, but you're not missing much if you skip to the next track after the second playthrough of the main melody.

And now, we come to the big momma! The track every old school Final Fantasy fan and their cousins dreamed about... The track that set the standard for final boss battles for many, many years to come for anyone not named Falcom... The track that sent fear down the spines of fools who thought they could use "Exit" to avoid all of their battles on their way down to the center of the moon... The track that was literally synonymous with Final Fantasy IV's cheap-ass, transforming, final badass itself, Zeromus, is up for its long-awaited rock arrangement. Well, keep dreaming because this arrangement is the biggest disappointment on the album. I apologize if my long build-up has lead you to believe that this track is anything spectacular, because it's not. Let's examine why. First off, this arrangement is way too slow. I remember the frantic pace of the original music had me so fired up, I was misfiring commands and downright freaking out, trying to heal from constant "Big Bangs". Here, the notes are held much, much longer than they should be. It's as if the band was attempting to give it an epic/drawn-out sound instead of a fast-paced one. The climax of the piece feels like the speed with which the original zipped along at is stuck in glue, basically killing any power it may have had. Second problem: This is the one piece where Sekito's rigid playing really got on my nerves, as he sounds as if he's really struggling to hit the notes the piece calls for. You can almost hear him struggling along. Third problem: I stand by my theory that Sekito couldn't handle this piece because the climax is done entirely with synths. The one place that absolutely demanded guitars and it misses completely! Argh! Final problem: The layout of this track is complete rubbish! The first two minutes are the original melody playing through once, the third minute is a long string of solos that really fail to do anything for this piece and the final minute has parts of the beginning of Zeromus' theme, before it fizzles out on a few crappy notes. My response when I first heard the piece just fizzle out was as follows: "That's it? That's just it!? I waited 13 years to hear a decent arrangement of this piece and that was it?" I mean, the original melody is there once, so I don't exactly skip this track, but it should have been so much more. Another full loop with guitars at the climax at the very least. As it is, Zeromus just sucked... There's no way around it.

My dreams for a good version of "Zeromus" dashed, I turned to the arrangements from Final Fantasy VIII and Final Fantasy IX. Thankfully, these are handled with a bit more class. "Vamo' Alla Flamenco" is hardly my ideal candidate for this type of arrangement, but the arrangement is entirely geared towards proving me wrong. The strong melody lines are kept intact and the emergence of an acoustic guitar in the middle and near the end help it retain the Spanish feel of the original. "Hunter's Chance" has always been one of my favorites from Final Fantasy IX, but the original grew quite dull to listen to because of the underpowered synths and bass support, despite the rocking nature of the melody. No such issues are present here; the drums and bass hold up the strong electric guitar-driven melody, giving this awesome piece the power it needs to truly shine. There is a small break in the frantic action with a soft piano, but it works well, as it comes in well after the original has been playing for awhile. I don't see any possible way a fan of Final Fantasy IX's soundtrack can walk away from these two pieces disappointed.

Final Fantasy VIII's "The Man With The Machine Gun" is a pretty standard arrangement. The lead instrument is mostly the organ and the background instruments are rarely enough to make it stand out. It's not bad, but it's not that special either. This was primarily a techno/dance song on the soundtrack, so I'm not that surprised at how it turned out. Oddly enough, it seems to be moving TOO fast. If only the tempo of this and "Zeromus" could only switch places... "Maybe I'm a Lion" is easily one of the best pieces on the CD, however. It opens with the line "Maybe I'm a Lion!" spoken by Alexander O. Smith (the singer of the original "Otherworld") before the bass kicks into overdrive. Since the original was already loaded with killer guitar riffs, this arrangement looks to only mildly resemble it while building itself around them. This is pretty fine by me, as the original melody never did much to impress me. In about five minutes, it loops once and there are only two parts that should be readily recognizable to fans of the original (well, three, but the riffs near the beginning of the original appear twice). Everything else is loaded with powerful solos and killer chords, backed up by the powerful bass and drums. One of my few positive memories of Final Fantasy VIII (the game) was this piece playing with the boss just floating there in the sky and that is exactly what this track reminds me of: A giant beast hovering in the sky and coldly calculating their next swoop-in attack, as the heroes struggle to find enough slings and arrows to shoot it down. I have to say, this is a pretty daring arrangement that could have floundered (because it ignores much of the main melody), but is so well-done, I find it playing probably the most out of any track on here.

Finally, there are the oddities of the album. "Blue Blast-Winning the Rainbow" is a typical Uematsu melody with a typical The Black Mages arrangement. To Sekito's credit, this is probably his best performance on the disc, as there is some real power behind the tune and even a bit of reflective emotion that makes it a great song to bring the disc to a close with. After the first loop, there is a slight hint at the battle theme from Final Fantasy VII. You're not going to believe what they did to "Otherworld" though, even after I tell you. Considering this was a rock album, I didn't think The Black Mages would alter it that much to begin with, so I certainly wasn't expecting such a cute (yes, cute! There's no other adjective to describe it!) version of it. The roaring, howling, furious metal vocals of Bill Muir in the original have been replaced by KAZCO, a girl who sings it as a straight "Engrish" pop vocal. Only thing is, the lyrics hardly make sense in real English, so hearing her stumble over them can only best be described as... well, cute. Appropriately, the instrumentals have been way scaled back for KAZCO's softer voice...There is no pulse-pounding bass or so-wickedly-awesome-you-want-to-die guitar solo here, just fairly light The Black Mages fare. Only real problem is the so-wickedly-awesome-you-want-to-die guitar solo is now the so-wickedly-average-you-want-the-guitar-solo-back keyboard solo. It's not disappointing, just different. In a good way, I guess. Lastly, I'm not even going to break into a separate paragraph for the cover track "The Skies Above" because it's a sad joke that isn't worth the extra press of my "enter" key. First off, it starts off by replaying the original of "To Zanarkand." Once that ends, the guitars come on full blast, making you think you're ready for all-out awesomeness. Instead, you are quickly greeted by Mr. Goo, a guy who sounds like Dudley Doo-Right singing along to the powered up version of "To Zanarkand" in the background. And yes, he sucks. His perfect Canadian accent is far more intolerable than KAZCO's "Engrish" can ever hope to be. She was cute... This guy sounds retarded, especially with the cheesy lyrics of the song itself. I generally don't mind being labeled as weird for listening to game music, but this is something I don't even want my parents to hear me listening to. Too bad... Removing the lyrics would make this quite enjoyable, as the guitars are nice even for a simple tune like "To Zanarkand." As it is, this track is noticeably absent from the copy I burnt myself for use in my car stereo.

Summaries

Disappointments aside, I'm happy with the The Black Mages II ~The Skies Above~. From the kick-assness of "The Rocking Grounds" to pretending "Zeromus" doesn't suck to the awesome Final Fantasy IX tracks to the supercute version of "Otherworld" to the head-banging goodness of "Maybe I'm a Lion," "Battle With the Four Fiends," and "Blue Blast," it's been worth my time. In any case, it's nice to see Final Fantasy breaking the classical-only mold it's been saddled with for so many years. Hopefully, to the chagrin of those that want to keep it that way, The Black Mages II ~The Skies Above~ won't be the last to fully explore the possibilities of hard rock in the series. Like most Final Fantasy albums, this CD is readily available at most game music retailers.



Album
8/10

Music in game
0/10

Game
0/10

Andy Byus

Overview

The first Black Mages album was an instant classic in my books, thanks to some fantastic arrangements and a killer low-level that literally ruined my last set of speakers. Sure, it isn't perfect, but it's A grade material in my eyes. Nobuo Uematsu and his band returned for round two with their follow-up album "The Skies Above" with mixed results. Not only is this album less enjoyable than the first altogether, but some poor instrument choices and intolerable vocals make Skies Above enjoyable in spurts, but somewhat passable when taken in as a whole. That said, there are several arrangements here that are well worth your time; it's just a shame that the entire album doesn't share the same level of quality.

Body

Surprisingly enough, the disc opens with the relatively unknown "The Rocking Grounds", effectively fooling the listener into thinking that the rest of the album will be equally potent and expertly arranged, which is a shame. There's some really interesting guitar work here (courtesy of Tsuyoshi Sekito) coupled with gripping time and tempo changes that really keep the listener enthralled. Along the same lines are "The Man with the Machine Gun" and "Maybe I'm a Lion", two themes from Final Fantasy VIII that pack quite a punch and are pleasantly reminiscent of the first Black Mages disc. Neither of them top the masterful "Force Your Way" from the first album, but they're enjoyable all the same.

The pair of arrangements from Final Fantasy IV are solid at best. I think that the two main battle themes from FFIV are some of the best in the entire series and are both perfect fodder for being shot into heavy metal stardom; unfortunately, that chance has passed with Skies Above. "Zeromus" is a fairly typical excursion into 4/4 territory, but falls short as a follow-up to the previously mentioned "Rocking Grounds". It's decent, but I know the Mages are capable of more than this. "Battle with the Four Fiends" shows off some of the true talents of the Mages, led by Sekito and his great guitar lines, and shines as the superior arrangement of the two. Final Fantasy IX is present and accounted for, albeit slathered in mediocrity. "Vamo' Alla Flamenco" sounds much like its original counterpart and "Hunter's Chance" suffers a similar fate.

Interestingly enough, there are two vocal tracks included on the disc. One is delicious in that "so bad it's good" way ("Otherworld" redone with a female vocalist) and one is, quite possibly, the least enjoyable feature of the whole album. The "operatic" (read: terrible) male vocals over "The Skies Above", a rehash of a rehash of FFX's "To Zanarkand" theme, completely ruin any and all chances of redemption that the song may have had prior to the point when the vocals start. And to think, this song had a genuine chance at being somewhat pleasant, yet it trips over its own feet and spills face forward at an alarming rate.

The worst aspect of the entire album, save for the vocals on "The Skies Above", is Uematsu's organ. Some of the underlying synth like the intro to "The Man with the Machine Gun" is courtesy of Kenichiro Fukui, but the gospel-gone-obnoxious organ instrument Uematsu uses is pretty poor and extremely overdone throughout the disc. Ironically enough, it's the loudest part of the whole album, and when the organ comes careening out of the speakers like a drunk train flying off of icy tracks it makes it seem like Uematsu broke into the studio and fiddled with his levels post-mixing so his organ would be louder than everything. The levels on the other members' instruments are perfectly fine — Uematsu just needs to relax and turn that damn organ down.

"Matoya's Cave" is a perfect example of how that organ manages to ruin an arrangement in two minutes or less. The track starts off as a slow-paced light rock song that sounds nothing short of awesome. The acoustic guitar intro and the smooth progression through the song is fantastic, planting the classic theme from Final Fantasy in the listener's mind with able means. Around the two minute mark things start to pick up a bit, but instead of having a guitar solo or one of Fukui's synth leads, Uematsu takes over and derails the arrangement with an awful organ solo. I can picture Uematsu in the studio wearing a New York Yankees cap, proudly exclaiming, "Baseball! Baseball!" as he plays an homage to the seventh inning stretch. It makes my head ache.

Summary

I can't whole-heartedly recommend buying The Black Mages II ~The Skies Above~ unless you want to risk being disappointed, especially when compared to the first album. What could have been an excellent CD stands as flawed due to some lackluster arrangements and obnoxious organ solos. I respect Uematsu for his prior accomplishments, but that doesn't mean he's untouchable anymore. My recommendation for future albums? Spend some more time arranging and turn the organ down, man. That thing hurts.



Album
7/10

Music in game
0/10

Game
0/10

Tommy Ciulla

Reprint of UPCH-1377

Track 1 from Final Fantasy III
Tracks 2, 9 from Final Fantasy IV
Tracks 3, 4 from Final Fantasy IX
Tracks 5, 10 from Final Fantasy X
Track 6 from Final Fantasy I
Tracks 7, 8 from Final Fantasy VIII
Track 9 from Final Fantasy III
Track 11 is an original piece specifically written as a theme song for Japanese wrestler Takehiro Murahama.

"The Rocking Grounds"
Composed by Nobuo Uematsu
Arranged & Synthesizer Programmed by Tsuyoshi Sekito
Electric Guitar: Tsuyoshi Sekito
Organ: Nobuo Uematsu
Bass: Keiji Kawamori
Drums: Arata Hanyuda

"Zeromus"
Composed by Nobuo Uematsu
Arranged & Synthesizer Programmed by Kenichiro Fukui
Electric Guitar: Tsuyoshi Sekito
Synthesizer & Organ: Kenichiro Fukui
Bass: Keiji Kawamori
Drums: Arata Hanyuda

"Vamo' Alla Flamenco"
Composed by Nobuo Uematsu
Arranged & Synthesizer Programmed by Tsuyoshi Sekito
Acoustic & Electric Guitar: Tsuyoshi Sekito
Organ: Nobuo Uematsu
Bass: Keiji Kawamori
Drums: Arata Hanyuda

"Hunter's Chance"
Composed by Nobuo Uematsu
Arranged & Synthesizer Programmed by Tsuyoshi Sekito
Electric Guitar: Tsuyoshi Sekito
Organ: Nobuo Uematsu
Synthesizer & Piano: Kenichiro Fukui
Bass: Keiji Kawamori
Drums: Arata Hanyuda

"Otherworld"
Composed by Nobuo Uematsu
Lyrics by Alexander O. Smith
Arranged & Synthesizer Programmed by Michio Okamiya
Vocals: KAZCO
Electric Guitar: Michio Okamiya
Organ: Nobuo Uematsu, Kenichiro Fukui
Synthesizer: Kenichiro Fukui
Bass: Keiji Kawamori
Drums: Arata Hanyuda

"Matoya's Cave"
Composed by Nobuo Uematsu
Arranged & Synthesizer Programmed by Tsuyoshi Sekito
Acoustic Guitar: Tsuyoshi Sekito
Electric Guitar: First Solo / Tsuyoshi Sekito
Second Solo / Michio Okamiya
Organ: Nobuo Uematsu
Bass: Keiji Kawamori
Drums: Arata Hanyuda

"The Man with the Machine Gun"
Composed by Nobuo Uematsu
Arranged & Synthesizer Programmed by Kenichiro Fukui
Electric Guitar: Backing & First Solo / Tsuyoshi Sekito
Second Solo / Michio Okamiya
Synthesizer: Kenichiro Fukui
Bass: Keiji Kawamori
Drums: Arata Hanyuda

"Maybe I'm a Lion"
Composed by Nobuo Uematsu
Arranged & Synthesizer Programmed by Michio Okamiya
Electric Guitar: First Solo / Michio Okamiya
Second Solo / Tsuyoshi Sekito
Organ: Nobuo Uematsu
Bass: Keiji Kawamori
Drums: Arata Hanyuda
Voice: Alexander O. Smith

"Battle with the Four Fiends"
Composed by Nobuo Uematsu
Arranged & Synthesizer Programmed by Tsuyoshi Sekito
Electric Guitar: Tsuyoshi Sekito
Organ: Nobuo Uematsu
Bass: Keiji Kawamori
Drums: Arata Hanyuda

"The Skies Above"
Composed by Nobuo Uematsu
Lyrics by Alexander O. Smith
Arranged & Synthesizer Programmed by Kenichiro Fukui
Vocal: mr.goo
Electric Guitar: Tsuyoshi Sekito
Synthesizer, Organ & Piano: Kenichiro Fukui
Bass: Keiji Kawamori
Drums: Arata Hanyuda

"Blue Blast - Winning the Rainbow"
Composed by Nobuo Uematsu
Arranged & Synthesizer Programmed by Kenichiro Fukui
Electric Guitar Intro: Kenichiro Fukui
Electric Guitar: Tsuyoshi Sekito
Synthesizer & Organ: Kenichiro Fukui
Bass: Keiji Kawamori
Drums: Arata Hanyuda
Album was composed by Нобуо Уэмацу and was released on March 19, 2008. Soundtrack consists of tracks with duration over about 50 minutes. Album was released by Square Enix.

CD 1

1
The Rocking Grounds
03:56
2
Zeromus
03:51
3
Vamo' Alla Flamenco
04:25
4
Hunter's Chance
04:44
5
Otherworld
03:14
6
Matoya's Cave
04:44
7
The Man with the Machine Gun
04:17
8
Maybe I'm a Lion
05:34
9
Battle with the Four Fiends
03:58
10
The Skies Above
07:18
11
Blue Blast - Winning the Rainbow
04:49
30.04.12
  STATISTICS
  • Average album rating: 7.0 (2)
  • Page views: 28384
  • Album achieved 523 place in our Hall of Fame
  • 1 person have this album in collection

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