The Devil’s Cattle is the fiery new full-length from South African rock collective RUFF MAJIK. Set for release this Friday, October 30th via their new label home of Mongrel Records, the album is a thirteen-track firecracker filtered through the colorfully twisted lens of lead vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter Johni Holiday and the first to feature producer, multi-instrumentalist, and fellow heavy weight, Evert Snyman.
The Devil’s Cattle is a collection of dystopian hymns and “feel good” apocalyptic jams to shake your hips and bang your head to. Think zombie montages, demonic cabarets, drug fueled car chases, claustrophobic riffs, psychobilly freak-outs, and hypnotic duo-toned sonics tightly packed into a highly fluid slice of high-speed rock and roll.
In advance of the release of The Devil’s Cattle, The Obelisk is hosting an advance stream of the record noting, “… The thirteen-track offering tops fifty-one minutes, which is an uptick from Tårn’s unassuming 36, but RUFF MAJIK legitimately sounds like a band with plenty to say, and as Holiday and Snyman play off each other as creative foils, the dynamic that emerges — as well as some of the tones, rush, arrangements, and Ale and Cake Illustration cover art — recalls Queens Of The Stone Age circa Songs For The Deaf, with The Devil’s Cattle benefiting in a similar fashion from the multiple-personalities behind its songwriting. Who’s Oliveri and who’s Homme and who’s Mark Lanegan in all that mix seems to depend on the track — and when they slam into the scream-topped sludge of the seven-minute ‘Born To Be Bile’ late in the proceedings (a seeming sequel to ‘Seasoning The Witch’ from the last record), nobody’s anybody — but most important of all is that as RUFF MAJIK have entered this next stage of growth, they’ve accorded themselves creative freedom to coincide…”
Stream The Devil’s Cattle, courtesy of The Obelisk, at THIS LOCATION.
The Devil’s Cattle was written and recorded over a couple of months, stretched between September of 2019 and February of 2020. “This was a time filled with excitement, and immense disappointment, all ground up together,” comments Holiday. At the end of 2019, the band had reached a peak, ready to break through to the next big thing in the stoner scene, playing at festivals such as Desertfest and Keep It Low, and meeting heroes such as Corrosion Of Conformity and All Them Witches.
But all was not well in the RUFF MAJIK camp. Founding bassist Jimmy Glass had left the band in September 2019, and the future was becoming increasingly unsure. Then the early months of 2020 hit us with the rise of COVID, and it seemed the writing was on the wall.
“Being the annoying optimist that I am,” Holiday notes, “I decided to at least tie together the loose ends, and hit the world with the breakthrough album I was planning to take on the road in 2020, even if only to be the final word by a band that was never supposed to gain the traction it did anyway. So, I got to work with longtime friend and collaborator Evert Snyman, who worked with me on the recording, production, and mixing of Seasons and Tårn, also lending vocals to some of the songs…”
Working together with a rotating cast of guests all comprised of close friends, the band fleshed out what would become the new album. After coaxing Evert into taking the lead with the vocals on one or two tracks, Johni ended up asking him to join the band full time. “To my excitement, he agreed, and we crafted an album that I’m very proud of.”
When asked about the inspiration for the album title, Holiday explains, “The idea came about after a summer stint in Europe for some festivals, where I met up with some friends at Spreewald in Germany that told me a fantastic old folk tale. Spreewald is a forested area, interconnected with many little winding canals that are fed by the Spree river. The story goes that before time began, the devil and his cattle were ploughing the primordial fields. The cattle became tired, and this angered the devil, causing him to throw down his hat in rage. This in turn spooked the cattle, making them take off in a thousand different directions, and as a result they carved out the sprawling canals that would later be filled by the river Spree – leaving the devil standing there dumbfounded. This story to me meant two things:
One: Even if everything is tearing apart at the seams, and everyone is charging headlong into uncertain territory, something beautiful/astounding could still be created.
Two: The story also felt to me like a description of defiance — to take matters into your own hands, and to put a great big middle finger in the face of your oppressors.
So, I got to work writing The Devil’s Cattle,” he continues, “crafting a narrative of a dystopian world in the near future — though by that time I didn’t know how near that future would be. I also referenced my personal turmoil as well as the stories of my closest friends into what I decided to call ‘A Collection Of Dystopian Hymns’ – which would come to be the album’s sub-heading. The lyrics range from substance abuse and isolation to delusions of grandeur and crushing realizations of defeat. And yeah, it’s personal, but I just don’t care. I decided people will have to deal with it as is, whether they love it or hate it.”
Late 2019 saw the return of Jimmy Glass, as well as some new faces added to the lineup. “Why? Because if I’m gonna have a big sound, then I’m gonna have a big band!” laughs Holiday.
“The South African fuzz merchants return with another amphetamine-fuelled joy-ride through the dive bars and dark alleys of their psychic landscape” – Metal Hammer