The Atomic Bitchwax Premiere “It’s Alright” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 13th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

the atomic bitchwax

It’s been a busy year for New Jersey’s primo twisters of riff The Atomic Bitchwax. In addition to releasing their sixth full-length, Gravitron (review here), on Tee Pee Records, the Garden State trio toured Europe this spring and in the US in the early fall, and in less than two weeks’ time, they’ll head abroad once more to round out 2015 on the road with dates in Germany, the Netherlands, France, Sweden, Denmark and the UK. They’ve got one day off on an 18-show run, and it seems as though they’re trying to match the intensity of Gravitron‘s high-speed churn with a touring ethic that sees them hand-delivering the riffage one town at a time.

Today, the velocity-prone three-piece of bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik (also now of Monster Magnet), guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and drummer Bob Pantella (also also of Monster Magnet) premiere a new video for the track “It’s Alright,” and like much of their work, it balances a laid back sensibility on top of a rhythmic mania in a manner that, in less capable hands, would completely fall flat. Like other album highlights “No Way Man” (video here) and “Coming in Hot,” it’s got blinding riffs and a hook that, though moving quick, implants itself on your brain in that signature Bitchwax style. The band’s energy throughout Gravitron is unmatched in their back catalog, and they seem comfortable working at a jog that for many heavy acts would be a sprint beyond their pace.

As to the video itself? Dancing girls, copious sunglasses, the band jamming out and Pantella mysteriously in and out of a pig mask (note that the pig still wears sunglasses) — it’s hard to argue it doesn’t have something for everybody. The European tour starts Nov. 25, which is just a couple days before the US celebrates Thanksgiving, but they’ll be back in time for Xmas, so, you know, it’s alright.


The Atomic Bitchwax, “It’s Alright” official video

In April 2015, TAB released their 6th album “Gravitron” on Tee Pee Records, and toured in Europe during the spring! Fuzz on Bitchwax!

26.11.15 UTRECHT – DB’s – HOLLAND
12.12.15 AALBORG – 1000 FRYD – DENMARK

The Atomic Bitchwax website

The Atomic Bitchwax on Thee Facebooks

Tee Pee Records

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The Atomic Bitchwax Winter European Tour Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 5th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

the atomic bitchwax

New Jersey’s finest riffspinners The Atomic Bitchwax will head north for the coming winter. Northern Europe, anyway. Later this month, the perennial kickers of ass will fly over for a round of shows in Germany, the Netherlands, France, the UK, Denmark and Sweden, playing famed venues like The Black Heart in Camden, London, and Truckstop Alaska in Gothenburg in support of earlier-2015’s Gravitron (review here), a record of which I recently haphazardly ordered a second copy, thought about doing a giveaway for it, and then decided, nah, better to have two anyway for when I wear the first one out. Sorry.

Not that sorry.

The tour kicks off in Hannover, Germany, on the day before the US celebrates Thanksgiving. For those who’d like to be informed:


THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX is an American rock band from Long Branch NJ formed in 1993 by bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik, guitarist Ed Mundell and drummer Keith Ackerman. Their music is a combination of 60s psychedelic rock, and 70s riff rock filtered though the progressive rock influences of today. This lineup released two full length records together “The Atomic Bitchwax S/T” in 1999, “TAB 2″ in 2000, and the odds and ends EP “Spit Blood” in 2002.

In 2005, entered guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan. With him on board, TAB focused on writing and touring for about a year before entering studios to record their follow up, the aptly titled “TAB 3”. The 2005 release was followed by two European and North American tours with a stop in Seattle Washington’s “Sound House” to record the 2006 EP “Boxriff”.

Two years later, in 2007, Monster Magnet’s drummer Bob Pantella joined TAB and more touring follows throughout the year ending with the recording and release of the 2008 “TAB 4”. This current lineup’s latest work includes the 2011 release of “The Local Fuzz” boasting one 42 minute track of over 50 riffs back to back. 2012 and 2013 brings the bands road show to Australia, New Zealand, England, Germany, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, Austria and North America.

In April 2015, TAB released their 6th album “Gravitron” on Tee Pee Records, and toured in Europe during the spring! Fuzz on Bitchwax!

26.11.15 UTRECHT – DB’s – HOLLAND
12.12.15 AALBORG – 1000 FRYD – DENMARK

The Atomic Bitchwax, “No Way Man” official video

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Monster Magnet, Cobras and Fire: The Best Hallucinations

Posted in Reviews on October 15th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster


Cobras and Fire is the second Monster Magnet release of its kind. In 2014, the stalwart New Jersey outfit, very much led by frontman Dave Wyndorf, issued Milking the Stars (review here), a collection of tracks reworked from their original incarnations on 2013’s Last Patrol (review here). “Reimagined” was how the extended title put it, and rightly enough. Subtitled The Mastermind Redux, Cobras and Fire fulfills a similar function in relation to 2010’s Mastermind (review here), taking some of its tracks and reinterpreting them into something new. The difference? The tracks from Mastermind had much further to go to get this weird. I’ll make no bones about not being much of a fan of Monster Magnet‘s original 2010 offering.

While what was their debut on Napalm Records was unarguably their biggest-sounding album, it was overpopulated with filler and played more to what had become the expectation for the band’s material — grandiose lyrical proclamations of cosmic supremacy met with driving hard rock riffing and just a nudge of classic rock influence. It grossly under-served a vision of Monster Magnet that was rooted not in commercial enterprise, but in being so much its own thing that one couldn’t help but buy in. Last Patrol marked a turn toward more psychedelic fare, not trying to recapture what made the band’s earliest work — Spine of God (1991), Superjudge (1993) and Dopes to Infinity (1995) — so pivotal as much as bringing that side of their approach forward for a modern update, and so Milking the Stars was more of an expansion along the same lines. In revisiting cuts from Mastermind and bringing them into the fold of where Monster Magnet are today stylistically as opposed to where they were five years ago, Wyndorf and his studio co-conspirator Phil Caivano (guitar, bass, etc.) basically had to work from the ground up.

Thus, a song like the sleaze-laden opener “She Digs that Hole” bares little resemblance to “Dig that Hole” from Mastermind, on which it’s based. The level of what’s-there-now to what-was-already-there varies throughout, and in the case of instrumentals “The Titan” and “Time Machine,” an essential function came in pulling vocals out entirely from the original tracks, the effect of the songs completely different in expanding a cinematic and atmospheric, emotional breadth, respectively, enriching the listening experience as a whole and deepening the cuts surrounding. But even that isn’t the entire story. Last Patrol was a humbler affair than Mastermind, and that worked much to the record’s benefit, so to find “Hallucination Bomb,” which was all bluster and crash, a nine-minute psychedelic exploration is duly refreshing.

On Cobras and Fire, it follows the organ-laced Baby Woodrose-style garage-rock bouncer “Watch Me Fade” (originally a bonus cut, if you want to talk about reshuffled priorities), which picks up the tempo from the attitude-laden “She Digs that Hole” and the revamped title-track, which is spacious without bring overbearing, and aside from being the point of delivery for the title line, it is a signature moment for the album and a marked triumph in its approach, drummer Bob Pantella (also of The Atomic Bitchwax) holding the rhythm steady as Wyndorf and Caivano space out on guitar and keys and other conjurations-of-swirl. It’s not the most space-rock inclusion — that’s still to come — but as a work of heavy psych it shows that not only can Monster Magnet tap into the lysergic intent that helped establish them as such an influential act worldwide, but that they can do so in a manner that sounds utterly current in its classicism. Calling up from the churn, Wyndorf gives a last-minute touch of humanity to a jam that sounds like it could shoot well over the 10-minute mark, though here it leads into a blissfully quiet rendering of “Gods and Punks,” stripped of its pseudo-anthemic trappings and resting only on the already-there strength of its songwriting.

monster magnet

A subtle build is enacted across “Gods and Punks,” and Wyndorf still takes what he takes because he wants what he wants in the chorus, rest assured, but there’s so much less performance of swagger that, in comparison, the original song seems forced. Here, “Gods and Punks” plays out spaciously over a quiet central guitar figure, casting echoes outward less not in chest-beating dudery but in cleverer turns and more intricate delivery. A fade brings about “The Titan,” the keys and strings of which are, perhaps, Cobras and Fire‘s most blustery moment, and with the thudding kick-drum that begins “When the Planes Fall from the Sky,” Monster Magnet signal a shift into more straightforward fare that does indeed play out, but even that plays out in an engagingly trippy fashion, reverb-soaked and added backing swirl resulting in an affect more nod and less headbang. While there’s no interruption to the overarching flow, “Ball of Confusion” presents another stylistic transition.

Playing off the original by The Temptations, it’s a moment of pure Hawkwindian space rock, the thrust full-on in the drums and bass as Wyndorf rides the forward wave and backs himself in the chorus en route to a freaked-out midsection that leads to an especially victorious final return, a long fade and stretch of sampled wind noise leading to a six-minute take on “Time Machine,” fleshed into piano and guitar interplay and, without vocals, given an introspective feel no less trance-inducing than was the expanse of “Hallucination Bomb.” That makes its quiet finish a perfect lead-in for the Joe Barresi-constructed “I Live Behind the Paradise Machine: Evil Joe Barresi’s Magnet Mash Vol. 1,” the cumbersomely-named mashup closer that takes parts of “I Live Behind the Clouds” and “Paradise” from Last Patrol and puts them together in a track that, even though it doesn’t necessarily draw from Mastermind — that said, there could very well be part of “Time Machine” in there — serves as a completely necessary final statement of just how far out Monster Magnet have gone from the comfortable space in which they resided half a decade ago.

The almost wistful feel of “I Live Behind the Clouds” in lines like “Nothing’s important yet everything is/There ain’t no picture, I just don’t exist” is turned into even more of a cultural critique with the complementary chorus, “Nobody saved no paradise for me,” handed-on gruffer and accompanied by a scathing wash of lead guitar. At nearly nine minutes, it’s second in length only to “Hallucination Bomb,” but no less essential, as noted above, both in the actual listening of Cobras and Fire front to back and in what it means in terms of how wide-open the answer to “What does Monster Magnet sound like?” has become.

One might criticize Cobras and Fire and/or Milking the Stars as revisionist history — and it’s worth noting that I have no idea if anything guitarist Ed Mundell played on the original version of Mastermind is still present in these tracks — but that seems to me to be missing the point. It’s not about rewriting what Monster Magnet has done before. Those records are out, period. It’s about taking something thought of as established and poking it, pushing it, reshaping it into something different. Fucking with it, in other words. It’s about fucking with it, and for an idea as sacrosanct as a finished full-length album, it suits Monster Magnet particularly well to go back and turn expectation on its head. That seems to be something of a specialty these days, and while it makes whatever might come next less predictable, it also makes it more anticipated.

Monster Magnet, “Watch Me Fade”

Monster Magnet on Thee Facebooks

Monster Magnet’s website

Monster Magnet at Napalm Records

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Monster Magnet Interview with Dave Wyndorf: “An Interesting World”

Posted in Features on August 31st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

monster magnet 1

I had been looking forward all week to talking to Monster Magnet‘s Dave Wyndorf for the simple reason that, of anyone you might talk to on any given day, chances are he’s the guy who’s going to have the most interesting story to tell and chances are he’s going to get to telling it with the least amount of bullshit possible. We last spoke in 2013 when Monster Magnet released Last Patrol (review here), what was at the time their strongest outing in more than a decade by my estimation, marked by a return to prominence of the band’s psychedelic and space rock influences. In short, they got weird again. And not a moment too soon.

Their prior outing, 2010’s Napalm Records debut, Mastermind (review here), certainly had its moments but ultimately came across as playing to formula both in songwriting and aesthetic. For a band who’d been so brazen earlier in their career on records like their classic 1991 debut, Spine of God, or even 1998’s fourth outing, Powertrip, which set the tone in one way or another for nearly everything Monster Magnet would do until Last Patrol arrived. Prior to that album, it seemed like a changing heavy rock climate had left them behind, and so it was even more encouraging when, instead of pressing ahead after Last Patrol and essentially working under a new formula, Wyndorf and his studio partner, guitarist Phil Caivano, got even weirder, reworking material from Last Patrol, tripping it further out and pushing even deeper into space on last year’s unexpected release, Milking the Stars (review here).

If Milking the Stars proved anything at all, it was that anyone who thought they knew what Monster Magnet were going to do next — fans, critics, whoever — were dead wrong, and the upcoming Cobras and Fire (out Oct. 9 on Napalm; review pending) follows that impulse even deeper. In concept, it does to Mastermind essentially what Milking the Stars did to Last Patrol; it reimagines the songs and gives them a new context. The difference is the songs from Mastermind had a much longer way to go to get to where they are on Cobras and Fire, which between the brand new sleazed-out opener “She Digs that Hole” and the Temptations-gone-Hawkwind cover “Ball of Confusion” makes even the most whacked-out jams on the last album seem tame.

Reworking cuts like “Time Machine” and “The Titan Who Cried Like a Baby” — now just “The Titan” — as instrumentals broadens the context further, but the strength of Cobras and Fire is as much about the quality of what’s there as what’s done with it. “When the Planes Fall from the Sky,” “Gods and Punks,” and “Hallucination Bomb” were strong tracks to start with — had good bones, you might say if they were a house you were interested in buying — but their stretched, twisted, morphed into new identities for themselves and the album as a whole, the headphone-worthiness of which bleeds from every minute of its hour run, right down to the Joe Barresi-assembled mashup, “I Live behind the Paradise Machine,” which rounds out on a boldly atmospheric note, sending Cobras and Fire out not with a bang, or with a whimper, but with the realization that there’s a whole world out there and as much as ever, something about it just doesn’t fit.

Wyndorf has a keen talent for phrasing, as anyone who’s ever read his lyrics can attest. In the interview that follows, he talks as much if not more about the conditions in which artists create today as about these songs or bringing Chris Kosnik in on bass for the live incarnation of the band with lead guitarist Garrett Sweeny, WyndorfCaivano, and drummer Bob Pantella, but I consider it all relevant to not just this record, but to where Monster Magnet are headed from here as they continue to move forward to their inevitable next full-length, next tour, etc. Basically, each ramble is a fucking treasure, and as much as you want to dig in, you can. In the end, if you can’t get down, it’s your loss.

Complete Q&A is 9,200-plus words. It follows after the jump. Enjoy.

Read more »

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The Atomic Bitchwax Post New Video for “No Way Man”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 10th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

the atomic bitchwax no way man

Having a rough afternoon? Perhaps you’re dug deep into the usual post-weekend every-decision-I’ve-ever-made-is-wrong blues? Well, The Atomic Bitchwax are here for you. The winding NJ heavy rock power trio have a brand new video out for the track “No Way Man” from their 2015 album, Gravitron (review here), and if anything’s going to lift your spirits at all, it’s the Bitchwax. And by you, I mean me. And by “blues” I mean “it’s complicated.”

Nonetheless, what isn’t complicated is the kicking of ass that The Atomic Bitchwax deliver with from-the-word-go intensity on Gravitron, which is available now via Tee Pee Records. Inarguably their heaviest-sounding album, it shows off the chemistry that the lineup of bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik, guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and drummer Bob Pantella have built up over the better part of the last decade both in the studio and on stages across — well, mostly across Europe, but a bit in the States as well.

To that end, the Bitchwax kick off a North American run this week — emphasis on North American; dates in Canada and all; no Mexico this time out — in support of Gravitron. I’m not sure if they ever went cross-country for 2011’s The Local Fuzz (review here), but they’ll be out on the West Coast and in-between this time, and I can speak even beyond my Garden State bias to say it’s well worth the effort to catch them if you can.

And while we’re talking about “catching them if you can,” the track “No Way Man” is a suitable challenge to anyone who’d try to keep up with The Atomic Bitchwax‘s frenetic pacing and blink-and-miss-it rhythmic turns. Tour dates follow the clip below, filmed edited by Shotwell Productions with further editing by The War Machine. Have fun:

The Atomic Bitchwax, “No Way Man” official video

THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX recently announced their upcoming U.S. headline tour, which kicks off Thursday, August 13th in Brooklyn, NY at The Shop. The tour will feature support from Mos Generator and Against The Grain. See below for a full listing of all currently confirmed tour dates.

8/13 – Brooklyn, NY @ The Shop
8/14 – Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie
8/15 – Cambridge, MA @ Middle East
8/16 – Montreal, QC @ Foufounes Electriques
8/17 – Ottawa, ON @ Mavericks
8/18 – Sudbury, ON @ Townehouse
8/19 – Toronto, ON @ Bovine Sex Club
8/20 – Rochester, NY @ Montage Music Hall
8/21 – Pittsburgh, PA @ 31st Street Pub
8/22 – Dayton, OH @ RockStar Pro Arena
8/23 – Hamtramck, MI @ Smalls
8/24 – Chicago, IL @ Double Door
8/25 – Milwaukee, WI @ Cactus Club
8/26 – Kansas City, MO @ Riot Room
8/27 – Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
8/29 – Boise, ID @ Neurolux
9/1 – Seattle, WA @ Studio Seven
9/2 – Vancouver, BC @ Rickshaw
9/3 – Portland, OR @ Panic Room
9/4 – Oakland, CA @ Leos
9/5 – Los Angeles, CA @ Loaded
9/6 – Mesa, AZ @ Club Red
9/8 – Albuquerque, NM @ Sister Bar
9/9 – Dallas, TX @ Three Links Deep Ellum
9/10 – Austin, TX @ Red 7
9/11 – Houston, TX @ Rudyards
9/12 – New Orleans, LA @ Siberia
9/13 – Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade
9/15 – Raleigh, NC @ Pour House
9/16 – Richmond, VA @ Strange Matter
9/17 – Baltimore, MD @ Metro Gallery
9/18 – New York, NY @ Bowery Electric
9/19 – Providence, RI @ Firehouse 13

The Atomic Bitchwax on Thee Facebooks

The Atomic Bitchwax at Tee Pee Records

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Monster Magnet to Release Cobras and Fire (The Mastermind Redux) Oct. 9

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 21st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

When the planes fall from the sky, we’ll understand. Or probably not. Either way, as they approach a quarter-century from the release of their first album, New Jersey’s Monster Magnet continue to astound and confound. The latest project? A welcome revisioning of 2010’s Mastermind (review here) that follows suit behind what last year’s Milking the Stars (review here) did for 2013’s Last Patrol (review here) — except that the difference is Last Patrol was already freaked out to start with and Mastermind was about as straightforward hard rock as the band ever got before an also-welcome shift into weirdness. Cobras and Fire gives the majority of the tracks on Mastermind the lysergic kick they deserve, highlighting the universal quality of frontman/founder Dave Wyndorf‘s songwriting while reaffirming the righteousness of their current direction. I’m not going on record saying I’ve heard it or anything, but unofficially, it’s fucking awesome.

Fresh off the PR wire:

monster magnet cobras and fire

MONSTER MAGNET To Release Cobras and Fire (The Mastermind Redux) October 9th on Napalm Records

Dave Wyndorf and his henchmen seemingly had the time of their lives when they completely rearranged and boosted Last Patrol 2014 and christened it Milking the Stars: A Re-imagining of Last Patrol!

Now MONSTER MAGNET go back even further to 2010 and their Mastermind album. Even if you know the album inside and out you won`t be prepared in the slightest for the trip that is Cobras and Fire (The Mastermind Redux): just think of the beast Apocalypse Now turned into in its Redux form. Familiar elements drift by and are swallowed whole by thundering psych orgies – Wyndorf often focuses on a singular song fragment and turns it into his ride to total Nirvana. Go look for your daily dose of average rock elsewhere: this is the mindfuck of the year!

Frontman Dave Wyndorf on the new album:

“Hey, hey!

I’m pleased to announce the release of Cobras And Fire: The Mastermind Redux. It’s a re-imagining of material from 2010’s Mastermind album as an alternative listening experience that I think stands on it’s own.

With Cobras And Fire I wanted to present these songs in a much stranger and dirtier atmosphere. Less “classic rock” and more…well, I’d guess I’d call it a deranged fusion of Garage-Psych, Fuzz Punk and Movie Soundtrack music. It’s almost completely re-recorded (with the bulk of the guitar and bass playing by co-producer Phil Caivano) and as in Milking The Stars I’ve added organ, piano, sitars and more to flesh out a completely new sound for these tunes. There’s also a Hawkwind/Pink Fairies inspired cover version of The Temptations 1969 classic “Ball Of Confusion” with background vocals by MONSTER MAGNET co-founder and Rib Eye Bros. frontman Tim Cronin. Plus an 8 minute, tripped out sonic adventure entitled “I Live Behind The Paradise Machine” specially created by mixer extraordinaire Evil Joe Barresi. Joe is at his best here, seamlessly integrating elements from several MAGNET songs into a new, stand alone composition.

All in all I call this the weirdest MONSTER MAGNET yet, and that’s a good thing! I hope you like it!

Rock on!”

Cobras and Fire (The Mastermind Redux) will be released on Napalm Records October 9th. The album is available for pre-order via the Napalm Records Webstore HERE.

Cobras and Fire (The Mastermind Redux) Track Listing:
1. She Digs That Hole
2. Watch Me Fade
3. Mastermind ’69
4. Hallucination Bomb
5. Gods and Punks
6. The Titan
7. When The Planes Fall From the Sky
8. Ball of Confusion
9. Time Machine
10. I Live Behind the Paradise Machine Evil Joe Barresi’s Magnet Mash Vol.1

For More Info Visit:

Monster Magnet, “Milking the Stars”

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 15 of 2015 So Far

Posted in Features on July 6th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

top 15 of 2015 so far the-rhinoceros-albrecht-durer

If 2015 ended tomorrow, I think you’d still have to say it was a pretty good year for heavy rock. Doom veered into a swath extremes — its own subgenres emerging almost one by one in a growing splinter that nonetheless continues to draw water from its roots — while the neo-stoner ignition of the West Coast continued its boom of new acts proffering classic groove. The East reveled in a progressive vision just waiting to be picked up by others, and in Europe, the ’70s traditionalist movement spread ever wider, essentially defining a modern sound in organic sounding, sometimes-vintage elements. Whether you’re going for crushing, oppressive barbarism or cosmos-bound blissouts, it is, in short, a good time to be alive.

Of course, 2015 doesn’t end tomorrow, and there’s still a whole lot of year to come. About half, as it happens. So, as has been the tradition around here for the last half-decade — and seems to be the tradition in a growing number of outlets; not taking credit or claiming to have invented anything, just noting a proliferation — it’s time to count down the best records of the year so far. There have been more than a handful of gems, and since in December I’m planning on doing a top 30, we’ll mark half the year with a top 15. Seems only fair.

Please note that this isn’t purely a critical evaluation, but a personal list, and that what I’ve put on most is as crucial a factor in my ranking as how important I think a given record is. You know the drill by now. Let’s go:

15. Stoned Jesus, The Harvest

stoned jesus the harvest

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 20.

Kiev three-piece Stoned Jesus have a varied stylistic history, and their third outing, The Harvest was ultimately a success in large part because of its complete refusal to be defined. Atop a foundation of quality songcraft, the trio proffered a sound that was not necessarily experimental in terms of anti-structure noise or effects onslaughts, but bold in each of its forays outward from its heavy rock underpinnings.


14. Freedom Hawk, Into Your Mind

freedom hawk into your mind

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed June 26.

It has consistently taken me a while to get a hold on what Freedom Hawk are up to. The steady elements in their sound are held to so firmly that on the first couple listens, it seems to just be more of the same. But the more one digs in, the more there is to be found, and with Into Your Mind, the Virginia Beach trio overcome losing a member to create their most progressive outing to date, flourishes of psychedelia melding easily with their signature style of sunshiny riffing.


13. My Sleeping Karma, Moksha

my sleeping karma moksha

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed May 12.

Five albums deep, Germany’s My Sleeping Karma are an act unto themselves. Their progress has been natural, fueled by a clear, varied sense of exploratory will, and the results on this year’s Moksha were nothing short of stunning. Branching out their arrangements might not be new to them, but the inclusion of horns, drones, percussion, etc., amid the central guitar, bass, keys and drums lent an almost orchestral feel to the flow between the tracks, and one can only hope they continue on their current path, because it is unquestionably the right one.


12. Death Alley, Black Magick Boogieland

death alley black magick boogieland

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed June 8.

So much potential, so much vitality at the heart of this debut from Death Alley. The Amsterdam-based four-piece (interview here) stormed out of the gate with a ripper of a debut, and just when you seemed to have it all figured out, they hit the ignition on a 12-minute full-impulse space rock thrust, a guest vocal appearance from Farida Lemouchi (a former bandmate of Death Alley guitarist Oeds Beydals in The Devil’s Blood) adding both mystique and emotional resonance to what was already a stunning track. With all the riotousness preceding, Black Magick Boogieland readily lived up to its righteous title.


11. Mondo Drag, Mondo Drag

mondo drag self titled

Released on RidingEasy Records and Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed Jan. 8.

Midwestern-turned-West-Coast heavy psych rockers Mondo Drag may have taken their time in releasing their self-titled sophomore outing, which followed their 2010 debut, New Rituals (review here), and was recorded in 2012, but it’s easy to imagine that’s because they wanted the circumstances to be as special as the album itself, recorded with a fleeting five-piece lineup that included the one-time rhythm section of Radio Moscow who wound up leaving to further their then-nascent project, Blues Pills. Even without that lineup shift as a factor, the late ’60s vibe Mondo Drag brought out across the release proved eminently listenable and has held up on repeat visits.


10. Cigale, Cigale

cigale self-titled

Self-released. Reviewed May 4.

A gorgeous, shimmering and melodically resonant debut from the Dutch four-piece Cigale, their self-titled gracefully maintained tonal presence and warmth while also enacting a psychedelic sprawl and grooving serenity that acted like the landscape in which the songs took place. It was a rich, bright vibe, and an utter joy to behold, tracks like “Harvest Begun,” “Feel the Heat” and “Eyes Wide Shut” proving as memorable as they were inviting. Having two former members of the much-missed fuzz rock outfit Sungrazer may have initially turned some heads in their direction, but Cigale‘s first album proved they’re an outfit with their own personality, their own development to undertake, and already much to offer.


9. The Machine, Offblast!

the machine offblast

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed May 28.

The awaited return of The Machine brought the band’s fifth album and a further-refined sense of maturity in their processes, as well as intrigue as to where they might be headed, two dual modes of open-ended jamming and more structured songwriting playing off each other in the extended “Chrysalis (J.A.M.)” and “Come to Light” and the more verse/chorus stylizations of “Dry End” and “Off Course.” To be perfectly honest, I doubt The Machine will ultimately pick one side over another, since if Offblast! proved anything it’s that they can easily handle either or both, but as they continue to grow, it’s encouraging to have their style establish itself as so multi-faceted.


8. The Atomic Bitchwax, Gravitron

the atomic bitchwax gravitron

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed April 20.

First time I pressed play on Gravitron was a real “oh shit!” moment. The last release from NJ stalwarts The Atomic Bitchwax was 2011’s The Local Fuzz (review here), a single-song full-length instrumental riff onslaught that had its charm but was inherently divorced from the appeal of the band’s songwriting. Not only does Gravitron re-factor that in with songs like “Roseland,” “It’s Alright,” “Coming in Hot” and “Ice Age Hey Baby,” among others, but it hits with kick-in-the-ass production force and an all-out heaviness that 2008’s TAB4 showed the three-piece steering directly away from. Just a killer record. Utterly void of pretense. No bullshit. No need to rely on anything more than chemistry, and with the Bitchwax, that’s plenty.


7. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth

brothers of the sonic cloth self titled

Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed March 3.

Right now, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth are my band to beat for Debut of the Year, and I’m quite frankly not sure how anyone is going to be able to do it, so if list time comes in Dec. and you see Tad Doyle‘s trio marked out as such, know that it’s been that way in my head for some time. The three-piece of Doyle, bassist Peggy “Pegadeth” Tully and drummer Dave French arrived with a roar, and even when their self-titled let up sonically, the atmosphere remained viscerally heavy. Six years having passed since the release of their first demo (review here), I wasn’t sure there was ever going to be an album, but then to have Brothers of the Sonic Cloth show up and enact such thorough demolition only made it more impressive.


6. High on Fire, Luminiferous

high on fire luminiferous

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed June 15.

It can’t possibly be a surprise to have Luminiferous show up somewhere on this list. The seventh long-player by High on Fire had all the rage and bombast in “Slave the Hive” and “The Black Plot” that have become the band’s hallmarks over their 17 years together, but branched out progressively as well in songs like “The Cave” and “The Falconist,” the latter of which was brazenly catchy and about as emotionally direct as the band has ever gotten, their general modus being — and in that song too, just to a lesser extent — a metaphor-laced lyrical approach. That song was a triumph and so was the album as a whole; the second collaboration with producer Kurt Ballou building on the rampaging victories of 2012’s De Vermis Mysteriis (review here) while also showing growth on the part of one of modern metal’s most pivotal bands.


5. Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy

kings destroy self titled

Released by War Crime Recordings. Reviewed April 15.

Hitting more or less concurrent with a vinyl release of their prior album, 2013’s A Time of Hunting (review here), Kings Destroy‘s Kings Destroy is not at all coincidentally titled. Over the course of now three full-lengths, the New York five-piece — about whom I feign no impartiality, let it be noted — have distinguished themselves with a sound neither noise, nor doom, nor heavy rock, but drawing on elements of all three when it suits their purposes with chemistry built from years of being in bands together of various stripes and in various genres. What stands the self-titled out from their past work, in part, is that it is the closest they’ve yet come to capturing their live sound in the studio, and accordingly, it’s a volatile kind of heavy that bends aesthetic to its will rather than capitulating to expectations of any sort. I don’t think they’re done growing by any stretch, but Kings Destroy feels like an arrival front-to-back.


4. Colour Haze, To the Highest Gods We Know

colour haze to the highest gods we know

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed Jan. 6.

This one was almost a sneak-attack. German heavy psych forerunners Colour Haze released To the Highest Gods We Know, their 11th full-length, in Dec. 2014 on CD (the vinyl was in 2015, which is what we’re counting in this instance), with very, very little fanfare of any sort. There was a track premiere here that came shortly after the album was announced, but I think it was officially out less than a month after its existence was made public, which for a band of Colour Haze‘s stature and influence was surprising. Less devoted to grandeur than 2012’s 2CD She Said (review here), it nonetheless pushed the band’s sound forward and found them experimenting in their studio, particularly on the string-quartet-inclusive finale title-track, which offset jams like “Überall” and the laid back highlight “Call” with a rhythmic oddness that was somehow still Colour Haze‘s own. I couldn’t help but wonder where it was leading, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t masterful in its own right.


3. Goatsnake, Black Age Blues

goatsnake black age blues

Released by Southern Lord Recordings. Reviewed May 19.

Goatsnake didn’t have it easy going into their third album. It had been 15 years since their sophomore outing, Flower of Disease, 11 since their last EP, and five since they first started playing shows again. Expectations? Through the roof. Among heavy rock heads, a new Goatsnake was like seeing the mountaintop. I mean, a big fucking deal and then some. Then the record hits, and there’s just about no way it can live up to the anticipation, but god damn if Goatsnake not only finally put out a third album, but one that was better than I think anyone could’ve hoped for. Hearing Pete Stahl with however many backup singers he had on “Another River to Cross” et. al. was like finding an animal in its native habitat, and between his soul, Greg Anderson‘s riffs, bassist Scott Renner‘s low end rumble and drummer Greg Rogers‘ roll, Black Age Blues won almost immediately and then spent the rest of its 47 minutes throwing itself a victory party. “Elevated Man,” “House of the Moon,” “Jimi’s Gone,” “Grandpa Jones,” almost on a per-track basis, Goatsnake added to the reasons they’ve been so heralded despite a decade-plus’ absence from the studio.


2. Elder, Lore

elder lore

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed Feb. 19.

On the level of achievement alone, Elder‘s Lore will be the album of the year for many, and there are times (such as right now) when I listen to it and question whether or not it isn’t also my pick for that honor, but wherever it falls on whatever list, far more important is what the Massachusetts/Rhode Island/New York trio manage to accomplish across their third LP’s formidable five-track/59-minute span, songs like “Compendium” and “Deadweight” bridging a rarely approached gap between heavy and progressive rocks while maintaining a flow consistent with the psychedelic vibing of 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here) but grown outward in another aesthetic direction and no sooner setting foot on the ground than seeming to master it in a flurry of blinding turns, sprawling soundscapes and clarity of mind that found perhaps its greatest expression in the centerpiece title-track, the 15-minute “Lore” itself, which I’ve no doubt will stand among if not atop the best songs of 2015 when the year is over and encapsulates the ambition and the corresponding breadth of Elder‘s songwriting, the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan, and drummer Matt Couto rising as one of the East Coast’s most pivotal acts, with a sound completely their own.


1. Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere

acid king middle of nowhere center of everywhere

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 19.

I use the word “molten” pretty regularly to describe an album or song that seems to just ooze its way out of the speakers or shift seamlessly between its songs, but Acid King set an entirely new standard for the term with Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere. Their first outing for Svart and their first release in a decade, its 55 minutes were a riff-rolling nirvana of lurching fuzz and tonal excellence, the guitar of Lori S. at the fore accompanied by Mark Lamb‘s bass and Joey Osbourne‘s drums, the swing of which propelled a highlight track like “Coming down from Outer Space” right back into it, while elsewhere on the record, “Silent Pictures,” “Red River” and “Infinite Skies” torched stoner conventions into a new space-biker rock, culminating in the heavy psych of “Center of Everywhere,” which seemed to emanate from the place it was describing, at once empty and full. More than just a welcome return after a long dearth of releases, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere found Acid King progressed even beyond where they were with 2005’s III, though more than anything else, what makes it my top pick for the year so far is the fact that I can’t seem to walk away from it for too long before going back, and ultimately, that’s what it all comes down to with his kind of thing. I’ve yet to find a standard to which these songs don’t live up.

Honorable Mention:

A few others worth noting. The Sun Blood Stories album (streamed here) continues to resonate. Also MonolordValkyrie, Lamp of the UniverseGarden of WormWo Fat‘s live record, The Midnight Ghost Train‘s Cold was the Ground and Ufomammut‘s Ecate. The Black Rainbows was a joy, as was Spidergawd‘s second LP, and while I still feel like I haven’t given it its due, the Sumac won many over and should get a mention. Steve Von Till‘s solo outing and the latest from Enslaved are worth seeking out as well for anyone who hasn’t heard them yet.

More to Come:

The year’s only half over, which is kind of a scary thought but true nonetheless. Watch out in the coming months for new stuff from BloodcowAll Them WitchesClutchGraveyardZunSacri Monti (if that one’s not already out), SnailUncle Acid, and Kind. The new Kadavar is a sure-fire top tenner, and between that, the potential for a new Neurosis album and stuff like Magnetic Eye Records‘ Electric Ladyland [Redux], there’s no way the book is written on the best of 2015.

So stay tuned.

And if I’ve still got your attention, thanks for reading.

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Friday Full-Length: The Atomic Bitchwax, 3

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 3rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

The Atomic Bitchwax, 3 (2005)

I guess after closing out last week with Truckfighters, my head got to thinking about heavy rock from that same year and that same era in general. A decade isn’t an inconsiderable amount of time, but to look at it in terms of records come and gone, it’s been a quick jump from 2005 to 2015, though one could easily argue that the entire shape of the heavy underground in the US and Europe, has changed. This shift has been generational, no doubt about it — Gen X moving out, the Millennials coming up — but when I think of a band like The Atomic Bitchwax, who formed in 1999 and are still going strong, the fact that they’ve managed to cross that divide where so many didn’t make it to the other side only increases their appeal in my mind. They have, at least to this point, stood the test of time.

No need to lie, The Atomic Bitchwax weren’t hurting for “appeal in my mind” anyway. As I was discovering heavy rock and roll, finding new bands and checking out all these incredible sounds from all around the world, the Long Branch, New Jersey, trio very quickly became hometown heroes. Their roots trace back to the more metallic Godspeed, in which bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik played, and Monster Magnet, in which founding lead guitarist Ed Mundell cut his teeth. Alongside Kosnik and then-drummer Keith Ackerman, 3 was a pivotal, turning-point moment for the band in that it was their first to bring aboard guitarist Finn Ryan, formerly of NJ rockers Core — whose two outings, Revival (1996) and The Hustle is On (1999), remain gems well worth searching out — who would not only bring a different style of play to the band’s winding riffs, but would add his vocals to Kosnik‘s changing the dynamic of the band both on stage and on record.

The songs on 3, up to and including the Deep Purple cover “Maybe I’m a Leo,” were the band’s first to capitalize on that new dynamic, but they’d continue to progress from there on 2008’s TAB4, 2011’s riff-fest instrumental The Local Fuzz (review here) and this year’s excellent Gravitron (review here), drummer Bob Pantella (also Monster Magnet) coming aboard in replacement of Ackerman in time for TAB4 and continuing in that position through to the current day, his fluid grooves and crisp style adding both swing and a grounding effect on the head-turning riffs of Kosnik and Ryan, who have long since mastered the kind of turns that “Going Guido” here presents while keeping the memorable songwriting at their core that one finds on 3‘s “The Destroyer,” “You Oughta Know,” “You Can’t Win,” “If I Had a Gun” and “The Passenger,” the latter of which seems to directly address Mundell‘s departure from the band in the line from the chorus, “I fill the space with fuzz.”

3 for sure offers plenty of that. As much as The Atomic Bitchwax are an underrated band now — though they’ve started to get their due with increased touring in Europe after re-signing to Tee Pee — this record remains something of a hidden treasure of their songwriting, and as it’s 10 years old this year, it seemed all the more worth a revisit. I hope you enjoy.

Gonna make this very quick because I’m already missing hangout time with my niece and nephew to put this together, and that’s a limited resource. This weekend in the US is the 4th of July holiday. Today was a much-appreciated day off work. I felt like sleeping in alone was well worth all the troublesome colonialism in my country’s history. Or at least that whole Tea Party thing. The actual one with tea, not the one with the shitheads upset about having a black dude for president. Nothing justifies that.

Anyway. Thanks to all who checked in this week and caught any part of the Quarterly Review. I hope you found something in there you dug. I did. 50 reviews and I got one comment off it on here. I had to laugh.

Next week, reviews of Kadavar, Anathema‘s three vinyl reissues and whatever else I can come up with. I wish I could say the Quarterly Review completely caught me up on reviews, but yeah. Also a Fuzz Evil premiere in the works and more to come. It will be busy. It will not be as busy as this week. I will like that about it. Ha.

Alright. I hope you have a great and safe weekend, whether you’re someplace celebrating or not. See you back here Monday for more good times, and please check out the forum and the radio stream.

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