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The Black Mages :: Review by Jonno

The Black Mages Album Title: The Black Mages
Record Label: DigiCube (1st Edition); Square Enix (Reprint)
Catalog No.: SSCX-10080; SQEX-10019
Release Date: February 19, 2003; May 10, 2004
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


When I first heard of The Black Mages, I was a little apprehensive, as the last time Final Fantasy had tried rock, in Final Fantasy X's "Otherworld," it had been a bit of a failure. But not anymore. This has to be one of the greatest Final Fantasy albums released to date. Finally rock fans and Final Fantasy fans have something new to be proud of: The Black Mages!

Track-by-Track Reviews

1) Battle Scene [Final Fantasy I]

A lugubrious start to the track leads to a great riff from an electric guitar. I really like this track, mainly because of the great melody which has been carefully integrated with some great guitar and synth work. A great, positive start to the album. (9/10)

2) Clash on the Big Bridge [Final Fantasy V]

Could this be any greater? The best track out of Final Fantasy V Original Sound Version and Final Fantasy V Piano Collections has been given a superb revamp. I didn't think anything at all could top the marvellous "Battle with Gilgamesh" theme from Final Fantasy V, but this arrangement beats even the original. The brilliant melody sounds even better on the guitar and synth organ. One of my all-time-greatest air guitar moments comes at 2:16 when a guitar takes over the lead and leads you into an amazing solo. Simply marvellous! (10/10)

3) Force Your Way [Final Fantasy VIII]

When I heard the Final Fantasy VIII battle theme for the first time, I was quite impressed, as it had a good theme, a good introduction, and wasn't a track that would get annoying after listening to it for the 40th time. This is exactly the same, but with some rock organ and guitar of a very high calibre. Extremely impressive, although you would expect it by now. This track is well worth listening to, and unlike some others, has a pretty good ending. Brilliant. (9/10)

4) Battle, Scene II [Final Fantasy II]

After an unimpressive start, the theme fails to redeem itself. It's a poor melody, though there is great skill in some guitar movements, and this lifts the track up. Not one of my favourites, as it lacks in the feeling you get from "Clash on the Big Bridge" (my definite favourite!) and "Dancing Mad." (6/10)

5) The Decisive Battle [Final Fantasy VI]

Though a little strange, the opening to this track is great, just like the rest of the theme! A track you could easily hum to, and the great upbeat feeling it gives off is amazing. If my band could get their act togther I'd love for this to be performed. It's one of those tracks that you have to listen to twice to really feel the piece. If only they were like this originally in the game. (10/10)

6) Battle Theme [Final Fantasy VI]

Hmm... Not as successful as its predecessor, but still a worthy piece. More rocky than some on this album, the guitars in this piece add to it a lot. A bit too repetitive, but the different styles of accompaniment are decent. (8/10)

7) J-E-N-O-V-A [Final Fantasy VII]

An intresting introduction leads to the familiar tune of "J-E-N-O-V-A." Its Piano Collections counterpart was, as you all should agree, very disappointing. Hardly different from the original, this one is a mixed blessing. Strangely, a violin is in this, and it works really well. Sadly, however, the piece sticks to the original tune like glue. More variation is needed in future please! (7/10)

8) Those Who Fight Further [Final Fantasy VII]

This well-liked theme was a very welcome addition to The Black Mages. It did stick a bit too much to the original tune for my liking, but when the tunes are that good, who cares!? Ridiculously good, it is the best in my opinion of all the Final Fantasy normal battle themes (narrowly beating Final Fantasy X, which was also impressive). Some spellbinding cadenzas break up the tune, getting rid of the repetitious felling. Very very good! (10/10)

9) Dancing Mad [Final Fantasy VI]

When you first hear that there's a track on the album which lasts over 12 minutes, you instantly think 'Wow! That's long', but you also think, it must be amazing if they think it'll work. This has to be the longest Final Fantasy tune (well apart from the original) that has worked. Personally, I think Kekfa was so good that he easily deserved a 12 minute piece. In fact, it could go on for 12 days, and still be superb. If you like the original, you'll love this, while if you didn't, you'll love it anyway! Well-used organs and tubular bells show the sheer beauty of this track. No repetition is obvious. Not as rocky as you may expect, but still a treat. The epicentre of greatness (if that is a real thing) comes at around the 9 minute mark when an electric guitar takes the organ melody, providing something that'll make youre ears think they've gone to Nirvana (the rock music and the Buddist heaven). Simply the greatest track on the greatest album. (10/10)

10) Fight With Seymour [Final Fantasy X]

You thought nothing could beat "Dancing Mad"? Well, let's be honest nothing can, but this comes close. An evil character deserves an evil theme right? Well Seymour's theme on the Original Soundtrack was awful, but his battle theme isn't in the slightest. It is very similar to the original but sometimes that's good. A little bit repetitive, but when the tunes are that memorable, who cares? (9/10)


Well what can I say? (A lot but that's for another time.) If this album doesn't blow you away, there's something wrong. Pure Final Fantasy at its best and with the Black Mages II ~The Skies Above~ recently out, you know what you're gonna be listening to this year, next year, and for the forseeable future.


Overall Score: 10/10