The Atomic Bitchwax

Atomic Bitchwax II

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With record companies so preoccupied with making a quick buck, artist development has flown right out the window, replaced by pressure to deliver instant results. Under these circumstances, side projects have become an increasingly relevant channel for unencumbered artistic expression. And New Jersey-based trio the Atomic Bitchwax (featuring Monster Magnet lead guitarist Ed Mundell and ex-Godspeed bassist Chris Kosnick) is a great example, turning a simple desire to jam into one of the more impressive stoner rock debuts of 1999. The group's second effort (cleverly titled -- you guessed it -- II) starts off in much the same manner, bursting out of the gate with the manic instrumental "Ice Pick Freak" before seguing into a monster-groover called "Forty-Five." But despite the presence of a few more appealing nuggets like "Cast Aside Your Masks" and "Marching on the Skulls of the Dead," II falls somewhat short in the long run. "Smokescreen" may slack many a jaw with its awesome laid-back guitar duel between Mundell and a guesting Warren Haynes, but the overabundance of intrumental jams that follows seems to suggest a hurried follow-up filled with first album leftovers, rather than a fully focused second effort. So what's the final verdict? Well, side project or not, the Atomic Bitchwax can definitely do better. But all things considered, in a sea of retro-rocking stoner bands, the Bitchwax still stands out as one of the most promising new entries.

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