Ruff Majik: Seasons premiere and review

Ruff Majik 1 - Christelle Duvenage Photography
Ruff Majik: image by Christelle Duvenage Photography

Pretoria, South Africa: anthropologists may look back on this chapter in history, fingering it as a most interesting juncture. What is going on, really? Not just in music, but in the world? There’s madness all around, and whether consciously or not, aural art is responding. Ruff Majik invites itself to this party with a delectable fuzz fueled twelve-track treat titled Seasons; and which formally releases across all major platforms tomorrow (20 April, 2018); some half a century after what is widely proclaimed as the heyday of rock music.

We are privileged today to be offering you the first public cover-to-cover listen to Seasons.

Seasons: coming full circle

To tell it true, Seasons makes up a tidy receptacle in which to contain four parts of the whole. Ruff Majik embarked on a fresh journey starting immediately after the release of its previous full length album, The Swan. As Johni Holiday, guitarist and vocalist, described in a recent interview with www.metal4africa.com, the band recalls at the release of The Swan an acute awareness of the colder season creeping in; thus triggering the thought of writing an album in increments to span a full cycle of the changing seasons.

This creation was drip-released in the form of three EPs, plus a fourth; the whole of which equates into Seasons. See? A receptacle. The four EPs are:

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  • The Hare and the Hollow, representing the arrival of Winter (keeping in mind that Ruff Majik lives and creates in the Southern Hemisphere);
  • A Finch in a Cherry Tree, announcing Spring with song;
  • A Dragon and His Hoard, welcoming a scorching Summer, and;
  • The Stag in the Leaves, descending into Autumn

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The Stag in the Leaves, as continuity dictates, arrives as the fourth and final increment tomorrow. It comes hand-in-hand with Seasons jointly as well as separately. Holding back at least one surprise for tomorrow, you will have to wait another few hours to see an artwork for The Stag in the Leaves.

For now, you may admire the Seasons artwork, created by Anni Buchner of Ale & Cake Illustration.

Ruff Majik 2018 Seasons album art

What dwells beneath?

Enough with the boring details. What is it that makes Seasons truly special?

I’d say it’s compellingly organic nature makes it so. Everything about this music screams “real”. It’s really refreshing to hear bands – and I say this from the frame of reference as being a metalhead – with a certain measure of restraint in the production suite. We emerge from an era in music production where things are generally so polished that we find ourselves blinking in the light of it, not sure what we’re really facing. The approach from Ruff Majik is much as the name of the band even suggests; it’s a bit rough around the edges, but pure musical magic. There is an honesty being expressed here which we no longer find in modern metal.

Examining this phenomenon more closely, I was not at all surprised to learn that each segment of the album was recorded in a single live take. Three songs recorded back-to-back, with all of it’s truth exposed.

“We have a very specific way of doing things. Perhaps to our detriment, but we’re stubborn too so we won’t be told differently. We don’t do double takes, as we feel you lose the initial emotion meant to be conveyed through the song. Also, that jittery feeling; right as you’re recording something for the first time, knowing this will be the one and only time you’ll get to turn your art into an immortal creation; that’s a cool feeling. We live for that feeling!” ~ Johni Holiday

Ruff Majik 5 - Christelle Duvenage Photography
Ruff Majik: image by Christelle Duvenage Photography

Feeling the Buzz of the Fuzz

And so we have the raw bliss of beautifully recorded “lo-fi”, indulging smoothly raunchy tones and a delightfully simple mix. This stuff is easy to digest. Easy to lose oneself in for hours at a time, not being overly complex or demanding on the ear.

There is a great energy to the riffs. At times they can be erring on the side of bluesy sleepiness, yet always alert enough to quickly snap up on shifts in the grooves laid down by a power rhythm section.

This album rejuvenates my interest in the late-60’s roots of the Heavy Metal genre. None so eloquently voiced as in ‘The Deep Blue’, roughly stamped as the mid-point of the album. There is glorious nostalgia lived out in these listening moments, but to speak of this music as only having past relevance would be to speak a lie.

Lyrically and musically, Ruff Majik paints a picture of mystical timelessness. There is some music which can be enjoyed in the context of any age, and as Johni so accurately points out:

When nuclear bombs are being discussed, doom just kinda makes sense as a genre, you know? You want to escape, and the music provides the chance to do just that.” ~ Johni Holiday

Get it

Seasons will be available for purchase on all major platforms tomorrow onward in both it’s singular album form, as well as in it’s split form. The band members could really use whatever funds can be scraped together in advance of Ruff Majik‘s 2018 European Tour, so if you like what you’re hearing, go on and buy it. Enjoy!

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Ruff Majik 6 - Christelle Duvenage Photography
Ruff Majik: image by Christelle Duvenage Photography