Words cannot describe how ecstatic I was to hear that Uematsu was going to release an arrange album of various Final Fantasy battle themes redone in heavy metal. "Official" metal or rock arrange albums have an incredible track record. Konami's "Battle Perfect Selection" series was the first crusade into metal arrangement of video game music. Since those five CDs were released in 1993-1995, only F-Zero X Guitar Arrange has been nearly as good. The Black Mages puts an end to the drought.
Almost every song has a synth lead, with guitar playing rhythm in the background, eventually emerging to do a solo or to switch places with the synth. "Battle Scene I" is a good example of this. The guitar is not used ineffectively, however. At about 3'09", the guitar re-enters after a short interlude, and kicks back into the chorus, with the guitar joining the bass in the background rumblings, adding a whole new dimension to the song. Brilliant.
As you may have noticed, I said "almost" every song was synth led. "Force Your Way" is a prime example of an exception. There is a short, synthy opening, but after that two guitars (as opposed to the one featured in most other songs) take over. From 1'25" to about 2'25" there is nothing but chaos. Guitar solo, synth solo, guitar solo. It's truly crazy. After that, the song enters a slower part, and eventually ends where it began.
The last song I should mention is "Dancing Mad", a 12 minute epic. A lot of people have felt disappointed with this arrangement. Some say the synth sample quality is too low, others complain that the guitar barely plays for five minutes. While both points are true, I still love this song. It's easily the best arrangement I've heard of the theme. It's a lot heavier than the original, and although it's not so guitar heavy, it still sounds distinctly rock-ish.
The rest of the album is just as good as the songs mentioned above. Tracks like "Those Who Fight Further" ("Still More Fighting") were just itching to have a real guitar thrown into the mix, while others will have you saying, "Wow, I never imagined the song could sound like this." On another note, this CD is very loud. If you keep your speakers set at a certain loudness all the time, I'm pretty sure you'll have to turn them down. It's easily the loudest CD I own.
In whole, this album is nothing short of brilliant. A fair warning: It is not going to be everyones cup of tea. However, it's a soundtrack that every Final Fantasy fan who even mildly likes rock music should have.