tiistai 7. joulukuuta 2010

MUSIC REVIEW - The Black Mages: The Black Mages III - Darkness and Starlight (2008)

Tsuyoshi Sekito : guitars
Michio Okamiya : guitars
Keiji Kawamori : bass guitar
Arata Hanyuda : drums
Nobuo Uematsu : keyboards
Kenichiro Fukui : keyboards

01. Opening - Bombing Mission (Final Fantasy VII)
02. Neo EXDEATH (Final Fantasy V)

03. The Extreme (Final Fantasy VIII)
04. Assault of the Silver Dragons (Final Fantasy IX)
05. KURAYAMINOKUMO (Final Fantasy III)
06. Distant Worlds (Final Fantasy XI)
07. Premonition (Final Fantasy VIII)
08. Grand Cross (Final Fantasy IX)
09. Darkness and Starlight (Final Fantasy VI)
10. LIFE ~ In Memory of KEITEN ~

It seemed like it was never going to happen, but here's the third and final album by The Black Mages, released four years after their most popular CD. As pretty much expected, Darkness and Starlight is the band's most experimental album. Most of the songs are marginal tracks, not the most obvious choices - for example, an instrumental version of "Distant Worlds", the originally vocalized ballad from the online curiosity Final Fantasy XI, tracks from Final Fantasy III and V, games that were only recently up for international release for Nintendo handhelds, and simply some tunes that I would imagine not being on many a man's actual wishlist. There's also another original track, a piano piece dedicated to Nobuo Uematsu's young fan who died of leukemia. It's an album the guys made with themselves in mind instead of the franchise's mainstream fans, which is quite respectable.

How about the band's sound on this last piece of theirs? The first album was a very industrial record, the second a full-blooded metal album, this one's perhaps a little too balanced, so balanced that these songs could easily be featured in the games themselves - or their possible remakes? (A certain someone got his hopes up with the opening track again...) It's not too heavy, and not too light, either. It's smooth and flowing, video game music with an edge. That said, it's all a bit bland. Quality music, no doubt - fun to listen, but the album has the weakest variety in truly remarkable tunes out of all three, and it doesn't really catch a rock and metal fan's interest like the previous CD did.

One of the previous CD's element is carried over, too bad it's the worst quality of it: lead vocals, this time sung by the guys themselves. Three songs which make up the legendary opera scene in Final Fantasy VI have been clamped together as a 15-minute medley that serves as the album's title track - and yes, since the opera scene became famous for its synthesized vocals, unheard of in the golden era of the SNES, they just had to re-record them with real singing. Once again, the guys prove that Japanese people, no matter how talented musicians they are, really aren't capable of judging good singing. Well, at least they sing in their own language instead of coming up with some bad English lyrics sung in even worse English.

Had enough of all the negativity? Well, I've got good news for you. First of all, an album that begins with a medley of two songs that brought me into this great series along with millions of other people, can't be all bad. Second, even if these songs aren't the best material the Final Fantasy franchise ever had to offer and true climaxes are nowhere to be found, it's all quality music. Seriously, the only truly unlistenable song here is "Darkness and Starlight", and it's made unlistenable only by the lead vocal parts and distracting narrative - the band's musical performance is outstanding. The album might have a lame sound and the tracklist might be as lacking as always, but I think we have a decent ambient album here. A good listen, if nothing more.

RATING : 6.5

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