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The Black Mages (band)

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Blackmages2

The Black Mages. From left to right: Arata Hanyuda, Kenichiro Fukui, Nobuo Uematsu, Tsuyoshi Sekito, Keiji Kawamori & Michio Okamiya.

The Black Mages were a Japanese hard rock band formed by Nobuo Uematsu, composer for various video games in the Final Fantasy series, that played Uematsu's musical compositions in a progressive rock or prog-metal style. The band was formed in 2003, and disbanded in 2010, after seven years and three studio albums.

The band's first studio album contains a selection the series' battle themes. It was released eponymously as The Black Mages in 2003. The second album, The Skies Above, was released in 2004 and features a wider array of pieces. The third album, Darkness and Starlight, was released in 2008. The Black Mages have appeared on several other video game-related (mostly Final Fantasy) albums.

The band's live performances were rare, with only two concerts that celebrated album releases. The first — "The Black Mages LIVE" — was held in Shibuya and later released on DVD exclusively to fanclub members. A second concert — "LIVE above the sky" — was held in Kawasaki City and similarly released on DVD to fanclub members. However, The Black Mages have made appearances in various Final Fantasy-related concerts, such as VOICES: Music from Final Fantasy and More Friends.

On 7th of August 2010, Nobuo Uematsu announced the band has disbanded.

HistoryEdit

Blackmages
The idea of rearranging the Final Fantasy music into rock style and putting that out as an album/CD was my idea, but initially I wasn't going to take part in the band. I was just going to be taking on the producer role. But the members -- especially the guitarist -- said, "If Uematsu-san's not going to be part of the band then I'm not going to do it either." I was sort of brought back into being a part of the band. That's how we got together.
—Nobuo Uematsu

In 2000, Square Enix employees Kenichiro Fukui and Tsuyoshi Sekito formed an experimental partnership to compose for the All Star Pro-Wrestling video game in a rock music style. After the video game's success, the two continued to compose in the same style. In 2002, Fukui and Sekito decided to arrange some of Nobuo Uematsu's compositions. Uematsu, a fan of rock music himself, enjoyed the arrangements. Regretting that the public would not be able to appreciate the duo's talents, he decided to form the Black Mages. One of the band's staff members, Mr. Matsushita, suggested the name "the Black Mages," (in Japanese) but they thought the name wouldn't stand out enough, so they would use the English version of that.[1]

In 2003, Kenichiro Fukui and Tsuyoshi Sekito arranged, interpreted and sequenced ten combat themes from various Final Fantasy games, with Nobuo Uematsu as producer. Album containing these tracks was released eponymously on February 19, 2003. After being met with success, Uematsu decided to organize a concert in tribute to the album. Fukui chose to play keyboards, while Sekito chose to play guitar. Because this was not enough to perform the arrangements, several members from Square Enix joined. Keiji Kawamori joined to play bass guitar, Michio Okamiya to play guitar, and Arata Hanyuda to play drums. With persuasion from the group, Nobuo Uematsu began playing the keyboards. The Black Mages performed on April 26, 2003, at Shibuya-AX in Tokyo. This was followed by a 30-minute performance at the Kanagawa University festival on November 3.

At the beginning of 2004, Nobuo Uematsu announced the prospect of a second album. On April 21, an arrangement album for the Dark Cloud 2 video game titled Dark Chronicle Premium Arrange was released. It features the first full appearance of The Black Mages on a studio album, who were asked by TEAM Entertainment (the publisher) to arrange and interpret "Flame Demon Monster Gaspard". This performance heightened anticipation for the second album, and in July, Uematsu announced that the album was in the recording stages. On December 22, 2004, The Black Mages II: The Skies Above was released. The Skies Above features a wider array of pieces by not focusing on battle themes, unlike the first. In 2005, the album was the subject of a concert on January 22, January 23 in Kanagawa, and January 28 in Osaka.

On March 19, 2008, The Black Mages III: Darkness and Starlight was released. Like The Skies Above, it does not only feature battle themes, but also other, more melodic themes or the album naming rock arrangement of Final Fantasy VI's opera Maria and Draco, "Darkness and Starlight". Special mention should also be given to the track "Life ~ In Memory of KEITEN ~", which was included on the album as tribute to a fan who died from leukemia two months prior to the album's release.

Sadly, Nobuo Uematsu declared the Black Mages disbanded on 7th of August 2010 due to scheduling conflicts between the band members and copyright issues with Square Enix.

Recording processEdit

When it came to selecting songs for an album, Uematsu would choose a song, after which the other members would give their feedback so as to evaluate if it was going to be recorded or not. When deciding on the arranger of each piece, the members would have a show of hands first, and afterwards decide who would be the best choice for each song. The other band members would send demos to Uematsu, and then discuss what the final arrangement would be like.[2]

Most of the basic synth parts were programmed by each arranger. If there were instruments the band members felt needed to be recorded live, they would go to the studio. The band used the studio for the drum recordings and for re-recording the guitars using an amplifier. However, it was difficult for all the members find the time to record together and as a result, the band never had much time to gather in the studio at the same time, so sometimes recordings started late at night.[2]

Band membersEdit

DiscographyEdit

Studio albumsEdit

Date Title Notes
February 19, 2003 The Black Mages During an interview, The Black Mages stated this album utilized sequenced drum tracks. This was not repeated in the following album.
December 22, 2004 The Black Mages II: The Skies Above Their first album to feature vocalists, "Otherworld" is performed by Kazco Hamano and "The Skies Above" by Mr. Goo in a quasi-operatic style reminiscent of power metal.
March 19, 2008 The Black Mages III: Darkness and Starlight Arguably their most eclectic album. It contains tracks that cover a variety of genres, from progressive metal, such as "Neo EXDEATH" to orchestral arrangements, such as "Distant Worlds".

Videos and DVDsEdit

Date Title Notes
2003 "THE BLACK MAGES" LIVE A promotional DVD given to Nobuo Uematsu fan-club members. Recorded in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan.
2006 LIVE "above the sky" A promotional DVD given to Nobuo Uematsu fan-club members. Recorded in Kawasaki City, Japan.

AppearancesEdit

Date Title Notes
April 21, 2004 Dark Chronicle Premium Arrange "Flame Demon Monster Gaspard"
September 28, 2005 Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children OST The Black Mages, together with orchestration conducted by Koji Haijima, performed "Advent: One-Winged Angel" arranged by Shirō Hamaguchi.
September 20, 2006 Final Fantasy III: Original Soundtrack "Last Battle -THE BLACK MAGES Ver.-

ConcertsEdit

Black Mages - First Concert

The Black Mages perform at "THE BLACK MAGES" LIVE.

The Black Mages have participated in several concert events.

"THE BLACK MAGES" LIVEEdit

  1. "J-E-N-O-V-A" from Final Fantasy VII
  2. "Force Your Way" from Final Fantasy VIII
  3. "Battle Theme" from Final Fantasy VI
  4. "Battle, Scene I" from Final Fantasy
  5. "Battle, Scene II" from Final Fantasy II
  6. "Matoya's Cave" from Final Fantasy
  7. "Those Who Fight Further" from Final Fantasy VII
  8. "The Decisive Battle" from Final Fantasy VI
  9. "Clash on the Big Bridge" from Final Fantasy V
  10. "Dancing Mad" from Final Fantasy VI
  11. "Fight With Seymour" from Final Fantasy X
Shibuya-AX

This overnight concert introduced the song "Matoya's Cave" (which would feature in their next album) and included additional solos not seen in their first album. During the introduction of band members, Michio Okamiya performed a rendition of the "Chocobo's Theme" and Nobuo Uematsu performed the intro to Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water".

Kanagawa University
  • Date: November 3rd, 2003 (doors opened at 4:00 PM, commenced at 4:30 PM)
  • Location: Kanagawa University, Auditorium #2 - Kanagawa, Japan

This free concert was part of the Kanagawa Jindai Festa. Because Nobuo Uematsu graduated from the university they were performing in, The Black Mages all wore the student uniform colors (white shirt, black pants).

LIVE "Above The Sky"Edit

Black Mages TWF

Nobuo Uematsu playing "Those Who Fight Further".

  1. "The Rocking Grounds" from Final Fantasy III
  2. "Zeromus" from Final Fantasy IV
  3. "Hunter's Chance" from Final Fantasy IX
  4. "Battle Theme" from Final Fantasy VI
  5. "Battle with the Four Fiends" from Final Fantasy IV
  6. "Vamo' Alla Flamenco" from Final Fantasy IX
  7. "Maybe I'm a Lion" from Final Fantasy VIII
  8. "Those Who Fight Further" from Final Fantasy VII
  9. "The Man with the Machine Gun" from Final Fantasy VIII
  10. "Clash on the Big Bridge" from Final Fantasy V
  11. "Otherworld" from Final Fantasy X
  12. "The Skies Above" from Final Fantasy X
  13. "Blue Blast - Winning the Rainbow" (encore)
Club Citta
  • Date: January 22nd and January 23rd, 2005 (doors opened at 5:00 PM, commenced at 6:00 PM)
  • Location: Club Citta - Kawasaki City, Japan
  • Price: ¥5,000
Namba Hatch
  • Date: January 28th, 2005 (doors opened at 6:00 PM, commenced at 7:00 PM)
  • Location: Namba Hatch - Osaka City, Japan
  • Price: ¥5,000

These concerts featured Kenji Ito who performed piano renditions of SaGa Series songs. Also featured were muZik, a group who performed seven Techno and Pop-style Final Fantasy arrangements.

More Friends - Music from Final FantasyEdit

Black Mages OWA

The Black Mages performing "Advent: One-Winged Angel" at More Friends - Music from Final Fantasy.

  1. "The Rocking Grounds" from Final Fantasy III
  2. "Maybe I'm a Lion" from Final Fantasy VIII
  3. "Advent: One-Winged Angel" from Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
  • Date: May 16th, 2005
  • Location: Gibson Amphitheater - Los Angeles, California, United States of America
  • Prices: $40.00, $60.00, $85.00, and $120.00

This was The Black Mages' first appearance in North America, and thus far only performance outside of Japan. "Advent: One-Winged Angel" was performed with orchestral accompaniment. A synchronization conflict between drummer Arata Hanyuda and composer Arnie Roth forced Uematsu to cease the performance of the song entirely, leave to the backstage alone, and remedy the issue personally before returning. The result was a rendition of "Advent: One-Winged Angel" that is dissimilar to that which appears on the film's OST.

VOICES: Music from Final FantasyEdit

The Black Mages performed "Advent: One-Winged Angel" along with the Prima Vista Philharmonic Orchestra. The song was played twice, the second time as an encore.

ReferencesEdit

External linksEdit

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