14 June 2013

The Black Mages

Recently I blogged about an old game soundtrack favourite I finally added to my CD collection. Well, here's another one.

When I discovered Final Fantasy in the late 90's, there was no going back. The unique flair of Japanese fantasy, both in games and in anime and manga, were a huge influence on me – as was the music. Nobuo Uematsu's Final Fantasy soundtracks were not only utterly addictive, but also a big influence on my musical experiments of the time (for which check out, for example, this blog post).

Cut to 2003. A small group of composers working for Square Enix decide to record an album of rock arrangements of Final Fantasy tunes. The group came to be known as The Black Mages. Uematsu himself produced the album, and also played keyboards in live shows and on the two subsequent albums. The tracks on the first, eponymous, album were all battle themes, which goes well with the chosen style. The sequels would branch out a little more stylistically, and add vocals on a few tracks, but mostly remained true to the style of the original.

For me it was love at first sight. Or hearing. Whatever. These tunes and rock instruments are simply a perfect match. Wikipedia labels the style as 'progressive metal'. I guess it may contain such elements, but to me, well, soundtrack music is a thing of its own, shaped as much by context as instrumentation. (Though of course I enjoy progressive metal as well!)

But, once again, Japanese video game soundtracks aren't exactly available on every corner here, so it took me a long while to get around to actually consider buying them. But now, at last, I have all three CDs in my collection. They weren't quite as pricey as the Silent Hill 2 soundtrack I bought recently, but still pricier than most CDs I buy... Certainly worth it, though.

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