Ruff Majik, from Pretoria, South Africa, are, to give them a blanket pigeonhole, a psychedelic blues-sludge stoner rock/metal band. A bit of a mouthful, sure, but Seasons is an hour and change of relentless vibe and swirly atmosphere that shows every dark corner of their sound. Whilst the guitar is low-tuned and fuzzy as a just-bathed grizzly and the songs as a whole are teetering on Kyuss, the feel and vibe of the record is very much blues-based.
The blues injection is most prominently brought by Johni Holiday on vocals and guitar. His voice is mostly high-register and has more than a passing resemblance to Mr. Jack White (in fact, there is quite a White Stripes streak throughout) and a dash of prime-era Wolfmother - when it comes to stoner rock, I do like a whack of blues swagger as it gives the brown, weed-stained veneer of the ‘70s that makes the genre so damn tasty. That said, the high register can get a bit much if overused, but luckily the ‘Majik spend a great deal of the time here focused on the instrumental interaction of the trio.
The bass is right up there in the mix, thick and heavy with a dominant spine, and the drums clearly follow the Bonham-inspired “tight but loose” Zeppelin ethos. Isolating songs, however, isn’t terribly easy on Seasons as the album moves as one solid land mass from beginning to end. The cool thing about this kind of pace is that it feels like you are in the practice room with the band as they pound away at an extended jam. The drawback is that a jam without boundaries for an hour tends to lose focus and the ear of the audience, which is the only real negative of the album.
If you need to get to know this group a little better, check out their song “Wax Wizard”.
That said, the dynamics are definitely in play, as the music hits peaks and valleys and every bog and one-horse town in between. One minute we’re swinging with Black Sabbath circa 1974, the next we’re being smacked from six different sides by a Baroness/Mastodon style chorus that blows the mind, and the tunes melt like thick butter from vibe to sticky-bud vibe. There’s very little traditional song structure, in fact the whole thing feels like it could fall apart at any minute, and then just like that, they pick up a different exit and start heading down a completely different highway.
Another plus is that the band aren’t afraid to allow themselves the freedom of not being tied down by any fan, critic or industry idea of what they are supposed to be. If they want to move from a minor blues dirge to a major key summer day sing-a-long, they just kick out the jams and see where the ride takes them. It’s a bravery that we rarely get to see these days, and I applaud them for their sheer not-give-a-fuckery attitude.
As a stoner fanboy, Seasons ticks a lot of bell-bottom boxes, but the delicate chaos makes for an uneven listen. Whilst the band have certainly clicked as musicians and put in some serious work here, it’s still early days for a group searching for their true direction. For me, Ruff Majik are easily one of the top bands in the country that are worth watching as they grow into what I can only imagine to be a monster. They are that damn good.
If you want to hear the new record Seasons in its entirety, check out this full stream!
Seasons Track Listing:
02. Gone Down In The Woods Today
03. Breathing Ghosts
04. Last Of The Witches
05. It Flies At Night
06. Hanami Sakura (And The Ritual Suicide)
07. The Deep Blue
08. Hammered Are The Gods
09. Birds Stole My Eyes
10. Tar Black Blood
11. Come All Ye Druids
12. Asleep In The Leaves
Run Time: 1 hour, 6 minutes Release Date: April 20, 2018 Record Label: Self-Released