Back for their third outing, The Black Mages return with their stadium rock anthemic arrangements of Final Fantasy songs with “Darkness and Starlight”. The main change this time round is that there is a lot more keyboard work at play with the guitars and the interplay between them all makes it a real treat to listen to.
“Opening – Bombing Mission” is just as much about the keyboards as the guitars which chug away while the melodies fly at you at speed. It’s only at half way the guitars really power in and even then an organ boogies away. “Neo Exdeath” is very 80’s in its sound with lots of synths, its power rock drum beats and its chorus reprise guitar riffs. Is that a bad thing? Your opinion on 80’s rock will decide that.
“The Extreme” starts off eerily with acoustic guitar and various ambient noises and with added piano comes across like a space oddity. When the band kicks in its rocking hedonism all the way. “Assault of the Silver Dragons” comes across more like a half arranged song as it uses some very dated sounding synths and doubles them up with guitars which as a result doesn’t quite sound like a proper band. The song works with pace and drama but it sounds a little funny first time round. “Kurayaminokumo” works very well as an arcade track. It sounds like it belongs to a sonic boss instead of a Final Fantasy game which is a good thing as the music is playful, memorable and infectious.
“Distant Worlds” is an interesting one to arrange and its done mostly acoustically with additional piano until the final reprise which is like an Ayumi Hamasaki ballad! I actually really enjoyed the arrangement and am glad they done something a bit different.
“Premonition” again is able to come across dramatic and all encompassing with some excellent riffs and “Grand Cross” particularly works well for me because of the chugging guitar riffs throughout and the heavy drum work.
Then the finish “Darkness and Starlight” appears to be a rocked opera which takes some real getting used to. The song covers every genre ever made particularly in what seems to be a medley of various different songs (including the opera). It’s great to have a 15 minute freakout of all different things even if it is a tad random at times. The closer is “Life (In Memory of Keiten)” which is a short piano version of Final Fantasy VII’s Farm Boy.
I chose to not tell you what songs are arranged in a rock way so that you can enjoy discovering the opening chords to them but I can tell you that the arrangements are great. Some of the novelty has worn off from The Black Mages and the fact we still love them three albums in means the music stands on its own two feet. I recommend this to all fans of the first two albums which just a word of caution for those that don’t like keyboards taking over the main tunes to preview first.