Article By: Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway
Long Branch, N.J’s longrunning stalwart stewards of all that is boogie-based Stoner Rock, The Atomic Bitchwax (aka TAB), recently returned with a new studio outing. The band’s seventh official full-length release, ‘Force Field‘, dropped in early December via Tee Pee Records and now its’ aftershocks are destroying speakers everywhere.
As well they should too because let’s be honest, no one does what The Atomic Bitchwax does, nor LIKE they do, and the band seems to be looking to continue doing it on into 2018. ‘Force Field‘ is a more-than-merely phenomenally fantastic way to enter the band’s 25th year of existence too, especially seeing how they rampaged through 2017. They mercilessly assaulted Maryland Doom Fest III onlookers with a stage incinerating set while continuing their sonic campaign on some incredible tour treks as well.
Now, the current incarnation of The Atomic Bitchwax, founding bassist and vocalist Chris Kosnik, drummer Bob Pantella (both also of Monster Magnet), and former Core singer and guitarist Finn Ryan, do not seem ready to rest upon their laurels. No, if anything, TAB always seems to be determined to outdo what they have done before, never settling with rehashing the past. Instead, they have augmented their traditional stoner rock roots with more fuzz, more speed, more intensity, more grooves, and yep, even more punk rock-like spirit and presentation.
If anything, ‘Force Field‘ is exactly that defining, punk-fueled, sound barrier-obliterating statement with its onslaught of amplified, outward bursts. Twelve tracks of blistering ferocity where there are ample flurries of instrumentation domination. Many of them never break the three-minute playing time mark but cuts like “Hippie Speedball“, “Houndstooth“, “Humble Brag“, and “Shocker” are stunted amalgamations of hurricane-like energy and regulated speed.
Just when a number like “Earth Shaker (Which Doobie U Be)” or “Tits And Bones” has dazzled and dizzied you with its precision pummeling, the trio ratchets it all up even more so for a beating like “Alaskan Thunder Fuck” or “Super Highway“. These guys don’t miss a single damn trick either, the profusely profanity-laden lyrics are presented, or patterned perhaps, in such a way that they perfectly ride upon the swift sound blitz beneath them.
Kosnik’s non-stop manipulating of his bass, Pantella’s crushing, crunching kit-work and Ryan’s fiery inferno of riffs collectively come at you, out for blood it would seem. Wave after wave, blow after blow, just the reality-defying speed at which they’re working their instruments makes you anticipate combustion at any moment. Like a lava-lubricated machine these three moves as one, changing gears in each tune ala timing and tempos that seem nearly inhuman, or impossible, but for them, it is not. (I saw TAB live 3 times since June, this shit is for real, trust me).
There are some nice breaks provided by the full-on, fuzzed-out boogie burning instrumental “Fried, Dyed And Layin’ To The Side” and the album closer, “Liv A Little“. The latter’s more T. Rex-ish, groove-oriented, organs-and-synth-borne hand clap accompaniments are quite righteous, even soulful. With the effect-funneled vocals and feel-good finery, the song has an almost church-y, spiritual hymn-like quality to it.
All in all, with its more trimmed down, leaner, no bullshit needed, by the sheer strength of our willpower and talent statement, ‘Force Field‘ delivers. Perhaps a play on the words, i.e. force “feeled”, really does well in summing this record up. The Atomic Bitchwax are indeed a unique entity, one with its own identity and sound that pushes past all perceived limits. They do so in the live setting and they clearly do so in a studio setting and you will indeed feel the force of it all on ‘Force Field‘.