Ruff Majik, The Devil’s Cattle review (Mongrel Records 2020)

The new album from Ruff Majik has the most direct Rock and Roll feel of their work to date.

The musicians credited on The Devil’s Cattle are Evert Snyman (guitar, bass, vocals, percussion, drums, and piano) and Johni Holiday (guitar, bass, and vocals), with Timothy Edwards and Xan Swart adding drums, Christiaan Van Reenen making an appearance on keyboards, and additional vocals by Vincent Houde. On their Bandcamp page, the creation of the new album is explained this way: “The Devils Cattle was written between Johannesburg, Pretoria, Bourlon, Berlin, and Oyster Bay in 2019, whilst Johni Holiday and [company] were hopping between locations during a very busy year.” The press materials state Ruff Majik is from South Africa, Bandcamp has them headquartered in Cottbus, Germany, and clearly they get around a lot during the creative process. Wherever in the world they might be from, at, or going to, it is the music that matters.

My first thought listening to this album was it made me of a heavy metal version of the White Stripes. The vocals and affectation are reminiscent of Jack White, and the music does have hints in that direction but the divergences are far greater than the confluences. The opening song is a ripper with a message that resonates, “All You Need Is Speed.” In the very next song, the talk-in sets the stage for a tale of woe in “Swine Tooth Grin,” and the gravity of the guitar riffs match the sentiment of the lyrics precisely. Each new track is a turn and a twist.

The album is long and expresses a variety of sentiments and stylistic careening during its course. I love the guitars which are both a comfort and a threat, and so are the vocals and, separately, the lyrics. Sometimes it feels like free association but not improvisation. The compositions have an intentionality that confounds the notion of haphazardry. Creativity lives a big life in this album, and it is completely different to anything else I have heard this year. Recommended.

The Devil’s Cattle is out now from Mongrel Records and getable through Bandcamp.


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Ruff Majik, The Devil’s Cattle review (Mongrel Records 2020)

Cortez, Sell The Future review (Ripple Music 2020)

Album number three from Cortez is Sell The Future and it rides a heavy wave of riff-powered demolition.

From the Boston area, Cortez has been releasing music since their 2006 demo. They have had a couple of lineup changes over the years, as most bands do. For Sell the Future, earliest members Jay Furlo (bass) and Scott O’Dowd {Scotty Fuse} (guitar) are joined by long time players Matt Harrington (vocals) and Alasdair Swan (guitar). Alexei Rodriguez (drums) is newest, dating from 2017 (if The Metal Archives has it facts straight).

Harrington’s voice is powerful and fierce when he wants it to be and yet he can attenuate it for different emotions and effects. The compositions rely on solid grooves and big riffs, with well-placed and clever lead breaks adding nuance to the work. The rippling and surprising percussion bursts that you hear from Rodriguez in unexpected places are a fundamental building block to the unique sound of the band.

“No Escape” is a banger, and the perfect choice for an up-tempo lead off song. The title track is next and sets a serious tone with a purposeful riff up front then pushes on with a heavy swagger. The tempo gets a switch in advance of the lead break, which flays the carcass of reason. “Look At You” has a driving rhythm that just won’t let you turn away, and if you are not hooked on this album by the time the third song is over, I don’t know what to say to you. I cannot pick a single favorite, but I will point to the way the songs dissimilarities enhance the set as a whole – listening to the furiously paced “Vanishing Point” right after “Sharpen The Spear,” which has a more plaintive structure, puts you off balance in just the right way for the closer, “Beyond.” This album was worth the wait. Highly recommended.

Sell the Future is out now. Bandcamp is a good place to look for the digital, and there are couple vinyl variants there, too.

Band photo by Bruce Bettis.


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Cortez, Sell The Future review (Ripple Music 2020)

Blue Öyster Cult, The Symbol Remains review (Frontiers Records 2020)

The iconic rock band Blue Öyster Cult releases its first full-length studio album in nineteen years.

Here is where I am coming from as far as Blue Öyster Cult goes. The first three albums are unassailable. As far as I am concerned, nothing serious can be said against them. After that, I have unpopular tastes with regard to the catalogue. Agents of Fortune (1976) is a classic, true, but I never really connected with Spectre (1977) or Mirrors (1979). I absolutely love the sequence of albums from the early 1980s: Cultosaurus Erectus (1980), Fire of Unknown Origin (1981), and The Revolution By Night (1983). Also Imaginos (1988) – an excellent reimagining. The other albums are good, and I listen to them still, but not as much as the ones on my list. Blue Öyster Cult has created a large catalogue of amazing music and some song or another of theirs is always in my rotation. They are one of my all-time favorite bands.

I’ve been waiting for The Symbol Remains anxiously, wanting new music I would really like to listen to. With so much great work that had come before, a reasonable person faces new music from a band that hasn’t put anything out in a long while with some trepidation. Like when Black Sabbath released 13 (2013). They had not released a full-length studio album as Black Sabbath for almost twenty years. I sweated that one, but 13 was excellent, and the band supported the album with a great tour. Fingers crossed, then, for the new Blue Öyster Cult. The band is Eric Bloom (vocals, guitar), Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser (guitar), Richie Castellano (keys, guitar, vocals), Danny Miranda (bass), and Jules Radino (drums). With the two originals Bloom and Roeser, and the longtime bandmates Castellano, Miranda, and Radino, the lineup is rock solid.

The hour-long album starts with a banger, the single “That Was Me.” It has the kind of sound I was hoping for, from the crisp guitar work to the distinctive vocals. This is Blue Öyster Cult. The next two songs (also released as singles) show a tonally lighter side to the band, demonstrating their musicianship and compositional prowess. Throughout the album, their creativity is on display from the amazing guitar work on “Nightmare Epiphany” to the theatrical Danny Elfman-esque “Edge of the World.” “Florida Man” is a quiet song with a lyrical lead break and rich harmonies. “The Alchemist” is dark and heavy, pushing out heavy threatening riffs and a wicked fantasy narrative. “Secret Road” is a desert driving song that will make you see rattlesnakes in your sleep. The variety is intoxicating.

Having listened to The Symbol Remains three times in a row, I know now that I was wrong before – there was never anything to worry about. This is an excellent album. This is Rock and Roll. Highly recommended.

The new BÖC album is out now. You can listen on Spotify and buy on Amazon and other places. The important thing is to here it.

Band photos snagged from the official website.


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Blue Öyster Cult, The Symbol Remains review (Frontiers Records 2020)