The Black Mages is a Japanese instrumental rock band formed by Nobuo Uematsu, composer for various video games in the Final Fantasy series. The band arranges Uematsu's musical compositions in a rock style often similar to progressive metal, achieved with the additional use of synthesizers.
The band has released three studio albums, the first containing only combat-related instrumentals. 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. Guest vocalists Tomoaki Watanabe (as "Mr. Goo") and Kazco Hamano appear on separate tracks, and an original track titled "Blue Blast - Winning the Rainbow" was created for Japanese K-1 fighter Takehiro Murahama. The Black Mages have appeared on several other video game-related (mostly Final Fantasy) albums. The band released their third album on March the 19th 2008.
Live performances are rare, with only three 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. A third concert—"Darkness and Starlight LIVE"—was held in Yokohama BLITZ! in Yokohama and is still awaiting DVD release. However, The Black Mages have made appearances in various Final Fantasy-related concerts, such as "VOICES" and "More Friends."
On March 1, 2008, it was announced at the Distant Worlds concert in Chicago by Arnie Roth, that the Black Mages have completed their third recording that will include a version of Maria and Draco. Nobuo Uematsu later said there will be a concert in Japan for the third album sometime in August 2008.
In 2003, Kenichiro Fukui and Tsuyoshi Sekito arranged, interpreted and sequenced 10 combat themes from various Final Fantasy video games, with Nobuo Uematsu as producer. An 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 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. Later in July he announced that the album was in the recording stages. Earlier 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." 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. Additionally, The Skies Above features vocal tracks written by Alexander O. Smith, the translator for Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy XII. "Otherworld" was sung by Kazco Hamano and "The Skies Above" by Tomoaki Watanabe (as "mr.goo"), while "Maybe I'm a Lion" features a small vocal introduction by Alexander O. Smith. In 2005, the album was the subject of a concert on January 22, January 23 in Kanagawa and January 28 in Osaka.
|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 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||The third album by the band was originally thought to consist of two discs, but Uematsu later decided on a single disc.|
|2003||"THE BLACK MAGES" LIVE||A promotional DVD given to Nobuo Uematsu fan-club members. Recorded in Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan.|
|2006||LIVE "above the sky"||A promotional DVD given to Nobuo Uematsu fan-club members. Recorded in Kawasaki City, Japan.|
|April 21, 2004||Dark Chronicle Premium Arrange||"Flame Demon Monster Gaspard"|
|September 28, 2005||Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children - Original Soundtrack||The Black Mages, together with orchestration conducted by Koji Haijima, performed "Advent: One-Winged Angel" arranged by Shirou Hamaguchi.|
|September 20, 2006||Final Fantasy III: Original Soundtrack||"Last Battle -THE BLACK MAGES Ver.- (later appears as "KURAYAMINOKUMO" on The Black Mages III: Darkness and Starlight)|
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 Theme and Nobuo Uematsu performed the intro to Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water."
This free concert was part of the Kanagawa Jindai Festa. As Nobuo Uematsu graduated from the University they were performing in, The Black Mages all wore the student uniform colors (white shirt, black pants).
This was The Black Mages' first appearance in North America. Advent: One-Winged Angel was performed with orchestral accompaniment.
This was a concert featuring performances of various Final Fantasy vocal tracks. The Black Mages played Advent: One-Winged Angel (from Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children) along with the Prima Vista Philharmonic Orchestra and GYA. The song was played a second time as an encore.