The Atomic Bitchwax
(Tee Pee Records)
You’ll basically never see me write or say this again, so mark it down. I love prog more than the average guy, but it’s an undeniable fact. New Jersey-based group The Atomic Bitchwax has gotten better on album number six in large partbecause they’ve dropped most of the progressive aspects of their sound. The band, who at this point is basically a Monster Magnet side project, has always written great riff-driven hard rock, but with Gravitron, The Atomic Bitchwax has put together some of the best retro riffs in a long time. Hell, I’ll spoil the conclusion early: Gravitron, thanks to some subtle tweaks in the band’s sound, is one of the best stoner rock releases in recent memory. It’s definitely the most fun.
Calling this a stoner rock album is a bit misleading. The Atomic Bitchwax plays a style of hard rock that feels indebted to 70s rock, ZZ Top, with a pinch of psychedelia added on. There are definitely still prog flourishes and nods, and the mighty Rush is a definitely influence, but the name of the game here is to record the type of record that oozes fun. Most side projects are passion-based, but The Atomic Bitchwax has taken this to another level, with songs that are almost impossible to dislike. Of course, the blunt and forthright crudeness of the lyrics may turn off more conservative fans, but it’s not like a music genre referencing drug use is going to be popular among Focus on the Family.
The Atomic Bitchwax plays the type of hard rock that feels suited for two things: the live setting and relaxing on a Friday with a drink in hand. It’s the sort of easy listen that is a natural relaxant. It’s not quite a perfect album, as the instrumental breaks are not quite up to snuff, and the songs tend to blend together, but these are minor issues. For those looking for top-tier hard rock, I would recommend that you gravitate toward Gravitron when it hits the (internet) shelves. (Nicholas Senior)