When South African stoner/sludge prime-movers Ruff Majik released their Tårn (read our review here) album in 2019, it signalled a new level of quality and excitement in the burgeoning SA doom scene. The music was huge, the recording a joy to the ear, the whole vibe was just right, and it totally hit a sweet spot, not to mention grooved like a son of a bitch. The wait to see what they would do next was an impatient hop from foot to foot and, amazingly, they’ve managed to top it.

The artwork for The Devil’s Cattle is the first impact – potent blood-red and striking with the image of the demonic bull and his serpent pal, the need to hear it becomes that much more. In an era of hundreds of music releases every year, it’s always appreciated when the cover image is immediate and memorable, and this ticks those boxes completely. Also, and this is key, it totally revs the listener up for what’s contained within, which is HUGE.

“All You Need Is Speed” wastes no time by throwing us roughly in the car and speeding down the infernal highway – it’s a fast groove that barely gives you a second to breathe, with a trademark Johni Holiday vocal (which reaches a not-unwelcome King Diamond-esque falsetto in the chorus climax) and total badassery. It’s a perfect set-up for the rest of the album, which ebbs and flows in terms of pacing, mood, attack, and overall vibe. It’s not a doom review without the obligatory Black Sabbath influence mention, but there is a very definite ‘70s Sabbath influence that makes itself known in varying degrees across the 51 minutes of excellent play-time. To their credit, the boys in Ruff Majik never ape the classic sound, but use it as a reference point that they colour with their own palette of dirty riffs and beautiful brimstone.

A personal favourite is the psychedelic riffage of “Heart Like An Alligator,” where Holiday gives one of the most impressive homages to the late Chris Cornell in his vocal performance – whether or not this was intentional is not clear, but goddamn he pulls it off with total aplomb. Elsewhere, the carnival jam of “Jolly Rodger,” the one-two punch of “Trading Blows,” the swamp-drenched gore of “Born To Be Bile,” and the eerie quiet of “God Knows” are big highlights, but the record plays like a dream and works as a collection of well-thought-out musicality and intricate detail (and smoking riffs, natch).

One of the most amazing things about The Devil’s Cattle is that it will attract the stoner doom horde just as much as the indie crowd – even through the distorted density, it has all the clean melodies and lasting impact to totally diversify the fans of the band. This is no small feat and speaks of the genius of Ruff Majik, a group that is as comfortable in the role of purveyors of evil riffs as they are as poster boys of ‘70s bubblegum rock, and it is that melding of influences (and many more) that still make them the South African doom act to watch, as they are leaders, not followers.

The Devil’s Cattle is one of the coolest albums of 2020 without a shadow of a doubt, and its grooves will stick in your head for days at a time. This is timeless music that doesn’t bow to any kind of conformity or colouring inside the lines, just as classic bands like the aforementioned Sabbath made four decades ago. With doom as a foundation, whatever is laid on top is the personality of the group in question. Well, Ruff Majik is all personality and attitude, and The Devil’s Cattle is needed in your ears, like right now. Long live the new kings!

The Devil’s Cattle Track Listing:

1. All You Need Is Speed
2. Swine Tooth Grin
3. Shrug Of The Year
4. Heart Like An Alligator
5. Gregory
6. The Devil’s Cattle
7. Jolly Rodger
8. Who Keeps Score
9. Lead Pills And Thrills
10. Trading Blows
11. Born To Be Bile
12. God Knows
13. Hymn #5

Run Time: 51 minutes
Release Date: October 30, 2020
Record Label: Mongrel Records

Ruff Majik