Ruff Majik – “The Swan”
I have come to learn over many years of obsessive music consumption, that the initial “Listen” of any album, as sacred of a moment it might be, is not always when we actually “Hear” that album. Case in point, South African trio Ruff Majik’s most recent six song EP, “The Swan”. While I have grown to enjoy this album immensely, I must admit that the very garage-style production and overall ferocity of their sound, actually rubbed me the wrong way. At least initially. Imagine this scenario: Say you have a 12″ LP of some 70’s era Pentagram, which you place lovingly upon your turntable for your listening enjoyment. Not realizing that the playing speed is set for 45 rpm instead of the correct 33 rpm. Now imagine that sound. That, I must regrettably admit, was my initial impression of what I was hearing, unfair and unjust as it may seem to me now. However upon repeated listens, I have come to the conclusion that this album rocks like a fucking orgy in an RV.
Firstly, for a three piece, this band has an absolutely massive sound, and will very much appeal to fans of both Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats, as well as Electric Wizard. The guitar tone of vocalist / guitarist Johni Holiday, is a fuzz lover’s wet dream. His vocals, at times, nearly approach a Geddy Lee level of pitch. With the thundering rhythm section of Jimi Glass – bass, and Benni Manchino – drums, Ruff Majik rock this monstrosity of an album to truly disorienting heights.
Both the album’s artwork (which is fucking beautiful), as well as the song titles appealed to me immediately. From the onset, your instinct is to crank that shit will kick right in. Opening track “Horse Drawn Wrath Spawn (Godspeed)” sonically grabs you by the throat, while initiating recurring head bobbing or foot stomping on the part of the listener. “Cloak Full of Serpents” will most definitely gain a nod of approval from any fan of Electric Wizard. This track stomps like a fucking beast in heat. The next track “Canabasis” follows with more ripping, in-your-face rock. It’s truly refreshing, at least to me, that there are still bands out there that just plain fucking rock, this track being a prime example. “Honey in a Lion Corpse”, my personal favorite, starts off with a groove very reminiscent of Iron Claw. This song simple slithers and sways in all the right ways. “Monarch of the Hills” prolongs the groove laden magic even further, speeding things up a bit with some incendiary riffing, very similar to early Pentagram. The end of this track contains a bit of a spoken sermon, which serves to clear the fog for a bit, and to answer any lingering questions regarding the aim and focus of this powerful monument to fuzz. “Dance to the riffs and the spells of the swan song”, indeed. The final track, “Scalp Chiseler” lives up to its name from the very start, musically speaking, before lapsing into a bluesy, smokey atmosphere, which permeates throughout.
All in all, a damn fine and fitting swan song from the Pretorian powerhouse. It rocks from start to finish with never a dull moment to be found. Each track, without fail, is bulging at the seams with so many smooth grooves and break downs that one would sincerely have to be dead inside to not find yourself moving to this music. The overall production of this album is very lo-fi/garage style, which may not appeal to all listeners. While I think that this production style works well for them on this release, I don’t feel that it does the band justice. I feel it only hints at the power that Ruff Majik’s sound would convey in a live situation. The bottom line: This is very good stuff. If this album truly is their “Swan Song”, so to speak, then I regret only having discovered them with their final offering.
Hailing from Franklin, Ohio, Grim has been writing reviews for Fuzz FM since April 12, 2016