The Black Mages II: The Skies Above is an arranged soundtrack album of video game music from the Final Fantasy series of role-playing video games. Like the previous album, it contains a selection of musical tracks from the games, arranged and performed in a hybrid of hard rock and progressive metal by The Black Mages. Unlike their first album, The Skies Above includes other pieces besides battle themes; the album also features songs, which were performed by Kazco Hamano, credited as "KAZCO", and Tomoaki Watanabe, or "Mr. Goo". It also includes a non-Final Fantasy track, "Blue Blast — Winning the Rainbow", an original piece that was created for Japanese K-1 fighter Takehiro Murahama. The Skies Above, as opposed to the first album, features real drums rather than sequenced drums, as the band had expanded from its original three members, none of whom played drums. The line "Maybe I'm a Lion" in the track of the same name was spoken by Alexander O. Smith, a translator for Square Enix and close friend of Okamiya, one of the new members. It was released on December 22, 2004, by Universal Music Group. The album spans eleven tracks, and covers a duration of 50:56.
The album received mixed reviews from critics; Jesse Jones of RPGFan said that he was "simply amazed" by the album, though it was not without flaws. While terming the music overall as "excellent", he disliked the vocal arrangements in "Otherworld" and "The Skies Above", finding that the voices of the singers did not match with the songs' instrumentals. Zane of Square Enix Music Online was less approving of the album, calling it "passable" and saying that the new arrangements gave "mixed results". He blamed the "intolerable vocals" and occasional poor choices in instruments as the problems with the album, concluding that the second Black Mages album was inferior to the first.
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