Ruff Majik are an abrasive but humorous, stoner-rock band formed in South Africa in 2012, originally featuring the talents of guitarist/vocalist Johni Holiday, bassist Jimmy Glass and drummer Ben Manchino, but now augmented by guitarist Cowboy Van and guitarist/keyboard player (and long-time friend and producer) Evert Snyman. Their early work was pretty heavy, basic, stoner metal, as featured on their debut EP The Bear in 2015, which was recorded with just two mics and a garage studio – a true, distorted testament to the “Ruff” ethos of the band’s music. Several EPs and three full-length albums have since followed, 2016’s fan favourite Wax Wizard, 2018’s excellent Seasons and last year’s Tårn.
Now signed to an imprint of Just Music called Mongrel Records, Ruff Majik might just be about to break out. Their lineup has expanded but they remain true to the core rawness of their foundation, even though song-writing duties are now shared by Johni with newcomer Evert. This album is certainly still hugely reminiscent of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, as Classic Rock Magazine suggested earlier in the summer. Anyone who’s heard ‘UA’ will know exactly what to expect – pounding fuzzed guitar chords thrashing away, a ‘marmelising’ rythmn section, a definite touch of Black Sabbath, plus high-pitched stylised vocals over the top that also remind me of early Supergrass tracks – spot the connection! All Great Fun!
WHAT THE MEDIA SAYS ABOUT RUFF MAJIK:
“Ever imagined what Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats might sound like after inhaling a load of Wolfmother records, then downing a large pot of really strong coffee?”
Classic Rock Magazine
“World-class stoner doom”
Pure Grain Audio
“There’s an authenticity to Ruff Majik that is just as valuable as the other metallic exports from their homeland even though no amount of gold can buy it”
The album really kicks off big-style with All You Need Is Speed, a high-octane, riff-fuelled, all-round stoner statement of intent hurled into the sand by the band (see video below, featuring an array of occult, Norse mythology, Americana, and Africana imagery.) Musically, it serves as a marker for the rest of the album to follow, whereas the second track Swine Tooth Grin is the start of a strand of story-telling that is more overtly concerned with the devil and religious mysticism / spiritualism generally. Shrug of the Year is (I think) an invective against the need for people to want to follow some sort of leader – whether religious or political. I may be wrong but that’s my take on the lyrics! A quote from this track could well sum up Riff Majik – “Hideous but Eloquent”?!! (love it!)
Heart Like An Alligator is perhaps back to the ‘Need for Speed’, hah hah! Its a basic high-volume three-chord thrash with howled vocals, over the top in every sense, and great fun.
Gregory then comes as a complete surprise, it takes the pace big-style, a loping bass-line leading a curious, echo-ey number. I love the brooding nature of this song, and I’m intrigued by the lyrics, it’s another song that seems to have a ghostly but spiritual, piratic but voodoo-like story at the back of it. An ongoing fascination with all things other-wordly?, leading you into….the title track The Devil’s Cattle.
Jolly Rodger is straight forward pirate-rock, these guys clearly want to be Captain Jack Sparrow! Who Keeps Score, following, is riotous, dusty and distorted, and was the first video single released off the album. It came out on 17 July and was featured in Classic Rock Magazine’s Tracks Of The Week feature upon release. It actually has different vocals – makes me think of Queens Of The Stone Age, and it works really well. Lead Pills And Thrills has also been released as a single, it’s the first time the band have experimented with piano driven rock ‘n roll. Lyrically, the song deals with crippling addiction to both lost love and alcohol (mind you, Who Keeps Score could also fit the same bill!). The video is the conceptual follow up for the animated feature for previous single Who Keeps Score and, as usual with Ruff Majik, the video is a love letter to B-grade horror and action movies – the vision being captured perfectly by Tiger And Lilly Productions. You can view the (weird) video on their facebook page here:
Next track is Trading Blows, another high-speed chunter, another great fuzzy thrash peppered with tuneful licks and Gaz Coombes-style vocals. Born To Be Bile is a positive epic in Ruff Majik terms, over seven minutes of hocus-pocus zombie-witchcraft-thrash! God Knows is another complete surprise, very different again, the same echoey vibe as Gregory, it’s so tuneful and – dare I say – delicate! It’s not often you can use that description with this lot! Hymn #5 brings us back to ‘normal’ (!), with an absolutely monster riff that could be Sabbath doing ‘War Pigs’ – with what sounds like a Winston Churchill voice-over! Awesome!
There’s no doubt about it – Ruff Majik have a dirty, grimy stoner sound that won’t appeal to everyone, but they are surprisingly hugely catchy and fun. There’s a nice balance of rollicking groove and headbangable riffs and, every now and then, a complete change of pace revealing hidden depths. The vocals are quite highly pitched, often through a fuzzy echobox, but there are now other singers involved, so there’s more vocal variety across the album than before. It has a retro feel to it that takes me back to a mix of Sabbath and early Supergrass. I absolutely love this album – in a weird spooky way, it’s feel-good music!
I’m willing to bet they would be amazing live ‘n’ loud,with some great riffs and atmosphere…..
Talking of which, with The Devil’s Cattle due to be released on 30 October on Mongrel Records, Ruff Majik have now announced that to celebrate the album’s release, they’re going to do a live stream performance of the whole album on 31 October (continuing that whole other-wordly thing, geddit?!) Tickets are now available here