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Mage – Key To The Universe Award winner

Key To The Universe
by Dave Nowels at 28 May 2019, 5:25 PM

I consider this one of those really cool, unexpected discoveries. Before diving into my research for this review, I knew nothing about MAGE. Immediately upon checking out the downloaded track listing, I was drawn to the mention of David Day of ALUNAH performing on two tracks, “Facts” and the title track, “Key To The Universe”. ALUNAH released one of my favorite EPs late last year, so my interest was immediately piqued.

MAGE hails from Leicestershire, England and “Key To The Universe” is the band's fourth release since forming in 2010. This release is also the band's first since the death of  founder Ben Aucott in 2015. The band is self described as “Goddamn Heavy”, and that they are. Citing a sweeping variety of influences touching on just about every corner of metal genres, the band is firmly entrenched in Stoner/Doom.

The album kicks off with the  immensely heavy riffs and thunderous rhythms of “Zen Blues”. This is simply the definition of those “slow heavy music playing” memes, and Jesus, they even slow them down more for those perfect breakdown moments. Andy Moore's drum work throughout the album is stellar as I his low end mate Mark Challis' bass work. Both really stand out here and on “You Hate Speech”. But this isn't an album that simply relies on the low end, speaker destroying rumbles. As established in the first track, the guitar work of Woody Woodfield is a huge part of the successful formula at play here. The riffs are slow and menacing, while the solo runs seemingly rise from the doomish sludge and soar. Woodfield's support team is pretty impressive as well, and just adds to the magic being conjured. “You Hate Speech” features Adrian Mayes (KRYSTHLA) and “Facts” in addition to Mayes again, also features ALUNAH's David Day.

Throughout, vocalist Tom Smith impresses with mostly clean, yet gritty vocals with an occasional bit of growl when needed for emphasis. The title track, “Keys To The Universe” not only features guitarist David Day again, but also his wife and former ALUNAH vocalist Sophie Day lending some haunting harmonies. Quite a powerhouse indeed, and their inclusion is far from squandered as the track was easily one of my favorites. I also really enjoyed, “Zen Blues” and “You Hate Speech” with “Black Totem” and it's interesting mix of genres also making it's impression known.

“Keys To The Universe” is a pretty impressive independent release to be sure. The album was recorded at Firebug Studios and was well produced and mixed by Chris Fielding and mastered by James Plotkin.  Overall, MAGE have presented an album of ballsy swagger into a crowded field contending for album of the year. It's been an impressive year of releases already, and they may fall a bit short of that top honor, but let it be known, “Keys To The Universe” is a potent challenger.

Songwriting: 8
Originality: 9
Memorability: 8
Production: 10

4 Star Rating

1. Zen Blues
2. You Hate Speech
3. Facts
4. Grind
5. Key to the Universe
6. Le Destin Tragique
7. Black Totem
Tom Smith – Vocals
Woody Woodfield – Guitar
Mark Challis – Bass
Andy Moore - Drums
Record Label: Independent


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Edited 03 June 2023

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