Sunday, May 25, 2008

CD Review: The Black Mages - Darkness and Starlight

The Black Mages cater to a very specific niche - that is, they play prog rock remakes of battle themes from the Final Fantasy video game series. I was a fan of their first two releases. They were musically interesting, and they were a rare instrumental group that could be listened to as music, rather than just enjoyable background noise (though they worked pretty well for that, too).

However, in the second release, a few cracks began to show. In order for this music to really work, there has to be at least some connection to the source material. Simply put, they were running out of interesting themes to duplicate. That problem is only exascerbated on Darkness and Starlight, and it quickly becomes apparent that the best songs have long since been exhausted.

Something that quickly becomes noticable is that these songs become monotonous quickly. There are no fun quirky songs like 'Vamo Allo' Flamenco' to break things up, no 'Matoya's Cave' to slow things down, just wave after wave of very similar sounding music. It ends up failing where the first two offerings succeeded - with very few exceptions it only works as background music.

Things come to a head on the painfully overlong title track, where the Mages take an interesting concept (an epic metal opera), then continue to play it until the listener's attention span begs for mercy. DOn't get me wrong, I love some Sigur Rós, and I actually found 'Dancing Mad' to be enthralling for it's 12 minute duration, but 15 minutes for this particular track is too long by about 10 minutes.

After the disc comes to a close, the first thought in my mind is that the Black Mages had a good run, but this particular gimmick has completely run its course. I can't imagine a Black Mages IV (or, at the veryleast, not one base don FF music); and I have to say, that really doesn't bother me.


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