The Atomic Bitchwax


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The Atomic Bitchwax of the past usually unspooled in a thick and hoary stoner rock/jam band format, and occasionally featured vocals. That was fine. It was great actually, since the trio was so adept at constructing bottom-feeding grooves. But three years after Spit Blood, the band has returned with shifts in both lineup and focus. III is still stoner rock, and it doesn't experiment very much with that formula. But the replacement of the departed Ed Mundell with ex-Core guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan (Chris Kosnik (bassist/vocalist), and Keith Ackerman (drums) remain) brings a different feel to the guitar work, and the reconfigured Bitchwax trio also includes vocals on almost every track. The lyrics aren't anything special -- life's too short, one night stands, the boiling California sun, getting older, that sort of thing -- but Kosnik and Ryan are quite capable, and their vocals give the songs needed structure. "Maybe I'm a Leo" and "You Can't Win" lock into an economic but very powerful strut, while "You Oughta Know" uses its lyrical parts to set up some terrifically nimble tempo changes. Ryan lets loose some great lead guitar peals on "Dark Chi," and a cowbell soon joins the fray; "If I Had a Gun" is one of the album's most complete songs, driven forward by a breezy lead section and making use of dynamic vocal harmonies. Atomic Bitchwax might have gone a little more raw at points on III; while the playing is spectacular throughout, it has a tendency to sound a little sterile. In other words, it can be difficult to keep stoner rock interesting without the songwriting depth of someone like Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme. But fans of Core will be happy with the outlet for Ryan, and veteran Bitchwax listeners will love the marriage of psych and swagger guitar with a more melodic ear.

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