It may be a shame to quickly file The Atomic Bitchwax’s seventh album under “Stoner Rock”. Force Field certainly hits certain criteria, per se but this LP is executed on hyper-speed, in a barrage of 2-3 min songs. The trio boasts drummer, Bob Pantella, and bassist, Chris Kosnik, both of Monster Magnet. Their formation in 1993 has revealed a grittier, raunchier riff rock than the bigger brother. Add the stellar lead guitar of Finn Ryan Force Field compacts killer riffs, blazing leads, and spaced out 70s jamming.
The public was not blessed with a release until 1999 despite a six year existence. Once that door was open though, albums flooded. This line up has been killing it since 3, the 2005 (Meteor City) CD. Two years ago, Gravitron hit with a bang. Force Field, mastered by Alan Douches, a name I have in many hardcore releases, the album has a sweet balance of smooth and clean delivery of fuzz and punch.
The opener, “Hippie Speedball”, smokes clearly. Sizzling guitars and pounding drums make this and instant mover; inciting head nods and spilled beer. Volume is an important element and Force Field begs to be blared. It ain’t for dinner parties’ backgrounds or philosophizing. Ryan’s searing guitar smokes right after the first verse. The space elements – reflected by Igor Desicdesic’s hot cosmic chick with a ray gun on the cover – are introduced, soaked in panned echo. “Alaskan Thunder Fuck” is a spicy fret burner played in double time. A repeating kaleidoscope of a riff swirls as the stop-go pattern of Pantella’s drums and bass emerges. A filtered vocal chorus gathers energy and incites audience-claps at spacey guitar line as reminiscent of and as declarative as Maiden’ “The Trooper”. A slower last third is cool and swaying. “Fried Dyed and Laying to the Side’ brings back this formula, just rearranged- and staying just as fresh. The two minute, “Shocker” is chaotic and layers different tracks sure to invade many chemical fueled minds and ears.
“Houndstooth” is more focused. But the radiating energy and compressed blues gather TAB’s strength and flourish through the speaker. The driving bass of Kosnik and screaming vocals and taut guitars push on top of each other, perpetuating an exhaustive pace, sweating and pummeling as all factors move towards each other. “Humble Brag” is placed in short bursting riffs with sporadic lead guitar wails, playing with contrast. The closer, “Liv A Little” is gorgeous. The reverb drenched Hammond oversees a catchy, heavy riff as bass meanders through the low end. This is the classic sound of Deep Purple and Sabbath with a current bite. The tempos are fun and the open love feel is undeniable.
The Atomic Bitchwax have produced maybe their best album in their 25 years. Force Field is frenetic and cohesive. Never taking it self to seriously on lyrics, the enjoyment is doubled by impressive musicianship and writhing manic impulses. Stripping any garish indulgence, the band deliver power and balls in short songs. Not a mediocre moment on the album.
RIYL: Zeke, Fu Manchu, Monster Magnet, Truckfighters, Orange Goblin