First of all, I know one of the big gripes with tapes is that they look lousy, not enough artwork, and so forth, but Monster Magnet‘s 25 …..Tab looks friggin’ awesome. The half-Planet of the ApesBullgod Statue of Liberty’s extended arm draws the eye vertically in a way it never did on CD or vinyl, and the cardboard stock of the liner is durable enough to stand up to the ages it’s already seen.
I picked up 25 …..Tab recently at Sound Exchange, my local CD joint in Wayne. They have a whole wall of tapes and they’re usually a little on the expensive side for what I’m willing to shell out on a cassette, but I think they’re just as happy to have the room, which if you’ve ever tried to walk down either of the two aisles in the place you’ll know is in short supply. In the end, it cost me circa $5, and has proved worth every penny.
The album is readily available on CD. SPV reissued it and Monster Magnet‘s 1991 landmark Spine of Goddebut in 2006, and it was out before that as well. I have those editions, but this tape is the original US issue on Caroline Records from 1993. That’s still two years after it came out in Europe on Glitterhouse, but it’s the earliest domestic release and it’s 20 years ago either way and I was stoked to find it. With just the four tracks “Tab…,” “25,” “Longhair” and “Lord 13,” it’s as psychedelic as Monster Magnet ever got during this era of the band.
Or, you know, any other, since it was their most psychedelic era.
And their ultra Hawkwindian jamming on “Tab…” comes across excellently on the tape, sounding all the more raw and classically compressed. The song is an EP unto itself at over half an hour long, and it takes up the entirety of side A, which makes “25,” “Longhair” and “Lord 13″ something like an incremental return to earth, the latter being the most straightforward of the bunch, despite all the backing mouth noises and echoes from Dave Wyndorf, whistles and guitar effects and the rest built around a solid guitar strum and percussion line.
By the time they get there, it’s been a long trip. “Tab…” was always considered an EP even though technically speaking it’s has more of a runtime than Spine of God, and its relative obscurity in the Monster Magnet catalog is no less a factor two decades on than it ever was, considering nobody’s sure yet what to call the damn thing, whether it’s Tab, Tab 25, 25 Tab, or 25 …..Tab, which I took right off the cover. Any name you give it, however, it remains unique in the band’s discography and as warped a tape as you could ever hope to find.
Posted in Reviews on September 7th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
I don’t get down that way as often as I used to, but once every year and a half or so, Asbury Park does me just right. Last night was one such occasion. I left the office a bit after 8PM, sloshed my way through the rain Southbound on the world famous Garden State Parkway, down to admirable Asbury mainstay The Saint, where West Virginian instrumental riffers were joined by Jersey‘s own The Atomic Bitchwax and The Ominous Order of Filthy Mongrels, who were about halfway through their set when I forked over my $12 and got in.
Despite having On the Radar-ized them as far back as last April, and despite my fandom of guitarist Mike Schwiegert and vocalist Kevin LeBlanc‘s prior bands (Lord Sterling and A Day of Pigs, respectively), and despite living a mere 90 minutes away, it was my first time catching The Ominous Order of Filthy Mongrels live, and I was glad to have the chance to do so. They’ve got some classic crossover in their sound that they offset with noisy crunch and thick tones, and with their first full-length reportedly in the can, there seems to be much more to look forward to.
The five-piece were something of a standout on the bill for how aggressive they were, but there was no denying the formidable presence they brought to the stage. LeBlanc is a natural frontman who plays to the strength of his screams, and Schwiegert — joined on guitar by Dave Anderson — excellently displays his hardcore roots without giving in to East Coast chest-thumping cliche. The material they played was pummeling, and it looked as though they were having fun finding out just how heavy they can be.
The Atomic Bitchwax, on the other hand, seemed just to be having fun. Not counting the couple minutes I saw at Roadburn, it was the first I’d seen them since the release of their latest album, The Local Fuzz (review here), and while they capped their set with about 20 minutes of that 42-minute instrumental riff-fest, they ran through a handful of other songs first, including “So Come On,” “Shitkicker” and the Core cover, “Kiss the Sun,” which served as a reminder of just how much a part of the Bitchwax guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan has become since coming on board prior to the release of 3 in 2005.
Rightfully so since he used to be in Core, Ryan took lead vocal on that song as per usual, but bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik seems to have stepped back on some of the material from 3 and 2009′s TAB4 as well — “Destroyer” from the former comes to mind — though both had smiles on their faces for “Gettin’ Old” from the band’s classic 1999 self-titled debut. The Atomic Bitchwax being rounded out by “Monster Bob” Pantella on drums, Kosnik is the only remaining founding member, but without hesitation, I’ll say their set at The Saint was among the tightest I’ve ever seen them, and I’ve seen them plenty.
Kosnik and Ryan were completely locked in on bass and guitar, their fingers rapidly making their way through the band’s signature winding riffs with speeds approaching Slayer levels at times during “The Local Fuzz.” That album probably took some flack for moving so far away from 4‘s pop-based songwriting modus — it’s easy to see it as a kind of “diarrhea of the riff” — but live, it made more sense, and it seemed almost as though the band were stripping everything down to the essential parts, and answering those who likewise denigrated 4‘s hyper-accessibility by saying, “Well, you want fuzzy riffs, here they are.” And there they were. For about 20 minutes solid.
And I guess if Karma to Burn is going to get a lead in, there probably isn’t one more appropriate than that. The trio’s anti-bullshit stance is long noted, most recently evinced on their second album for Napalm Records, V, but as they ran through a set of their numerically-titled instrumental pieces, it became increasingly clear that something was amiss, particularly with guitarist Will Mecum.
When drummer Rob Oswald (ex-Nebula) came around his kit early on to fix the foot of his bass drum, Mecum cursed audibly and with frustration. I don’t know what the situation is with the band, if he was pissed at Oswald for something or if he stubbed his toe — I refuse to speculate or spread rumors needlessly — but something had him off his game. He played much of the set like some men operate heavy machinery: with his ballcap pulled down over his eyes and his shoulders slumped in contempt.
And though he spent a significant amount of time facing the wall to the side of the stage, leaving Oswald‘s near-flatly-set toms high cymbals and bassist Rich Mullins with the task of acknowledging the audience in a manner not unlike someone trying to explain away a domestic disturbance to the cops the neighbors called, (prior to their going on, Mullins had told me the tour was, “a lot of work”), they sounded really good. It was almost in spite of themselves.
They’re clearly three very different individuals — Mecum with his grit and seemingly endless supply of riffs, Mullins with his gaunt rocker’s looks and stage presence, and Oswald the beardo wizard in back launching into impossible-looking fills — and again, I don’t know what the situation is in the band, but Karma to Burn has become so influential in heavy rock because there’s a special chemistry among the players, and that came through in the songs. They cut the set short, nixing “41″ from 2009′s Appalachian Incantation among others, and obviously it was a bad night for the band, but I didn’t leave The Saint disappointed.
The music was right on and I got to see a new band for the first time, a local staple who were mind-bogglingly tight, and an act who’ve left an indelible mark on their genre. It was a good night, I got to see some good people. For $12 on a rainy Tuesday, you can’t reasonably ask much more than that. It was a bummer that it was a bummer for Karma to Burn, but hopefully they’ll make it up on the rest of the tour, which hits Boston tonight (Sept. 7, with formidable locals Black Thai and Ichabod) and Brooklyn tomorrow, once again with The Atomic Bitchwax on the latter bill as a replacement for the apparently-defunct Black Pyramid.
More pics after the jump. Thanks to The Saint for being so brightly lit.
Posted in Reviews on February 22nd, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Stalwarts of the New Jersey stoner/heavy rock scene, The Atomic Bitchwax have come a long way since their 1999 self-titled debut on Tee Pee Records, and not just in terms of lineup. The band, once considered by many an offshoot of Monster Magnet for the participation of guitarist Ed Mundell, has endured under the careful eye of bassist, vocalist and founder Chris Kosnik, who found a virtual stylistic rebirth when he teamed up with former Core guitarist Finn Ryan for 2005’s 3. Having also survived the departure of drummer Keith Ackerman (who has since joined and left Solace) and recruited Monster Magnet/Riotgod’s Bob Pantella for the more pop-oriented TAB4 in 2009, which also marked their return to Tee Pee after a stint on MeteorCity, The Atomic Bitchwax are back in 2011 withthe curiously non-numerically titled The Local Fuzz.
Admittedly, neither the Spit Blood nor the Boxriff EPs had numbers in their title, but The Local Fuzz is definitely a full-length album at 42 minutes, so maybe it’s the fact that it’s so different from anything The Atomic Bitchwax has done before that inspired the change in nomenclature. The Local Fuzz is comprised of a single titular track that runs, reportedly (I feel remiss in confessing this, but I didn’t count for myself), through a course of no less than 50 riffs, and is entirely instrumental. Compared to the tightness of songwriting and adherence to structure that showed itself on TAB4 in songs like “Sometimes Wednesday” and “Wreck You,” it’s a definite curveball on the part of Kosnik, Ryan and Pantella, and though there are parts throughout where it sounds like one of The Atomic Bitchwax’s many instrumental introductions and interludes that have been spread over their discography and live shows – rather than a larger work, that is – for lovers of the riff, The Local Fuzz cuts out just about any middleman you can think of. It’s probably the most direct line to the essence of heavy rock you can take.
Posted in Features on October 21st, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
In transcribing the interview you’re (hopefully) about to read, I tried very hard to capture the rhythm and exuberance in Monster Magnet frontman Dave Wyndorf‘s speaking voice. To quote South Park, “It’s a Jersey thing.” Oftentimes, the venerable vocalist would begin a thought, pause, and pursue it from a different direction. I did my best to keep some of that and still make it read naturally. It’s always a balance with these things.
Monster Magnet‘s Mastermind, their first album for Napalm Records and eighth overall, will see release next week in the US and Europe. It’s an album I have mixed feelings about (review here), but there’s absolutely no getting around the fact that heavy rock would not be what it is today without the stalwart New Jersey act, and more specifically, without Wyndorf as its driving force. Over the course of their 20-year career, Monster Magnet has influenced bands who don’t even know they’ve been influenced by them. Their broad reach has taken them around the world, and their workmanlike approach to making albums and touring has secured a lifelong fanbase that’s always eager to see what they’re going to do next.
That, specifically, was something I wanted to ask Wyndorf about, and as you’ll — again, hopefully — see, he was forthcoming with his thoughts. Below, he discusses working with the current incarnation of the band — guitarists Ed Mundell and Phil Caivano, bassist Jim Baglino and drummer Bob Pantella — writing Mastermind and recording it with Matt Hyde, the differences in the American and European rock scenes, the fine line between what Monster Magnet does and heavy metal, and lots, lots more. The interview was over 40 minutes long and the transcription turned out to be well over 5,800 words. The dude’s a talker and there was a lot of ground to cover. If you have to take it in pieces, I understand. It’ll still be here later when you come back.
Please find the complete Q&A after the jump, and enjoy.
Posted in Reviews on August 18th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
Though between them they’ve spent years playing in bands like Human Remains, Cycle of Pain, Lord Sterling, The Atomic Bitchwax and The Ribeye Bros., drummer Bob Pantella and bassist Jim Baglino are probably best known at this point as the rhythm section of New Jersey stalwarts Monster Magnet. Likely that’s a job that comes packaged with a lot of ups and downs. You get to tour the world over and have a built-in high profile because of the band’s past success, but probably you don’t get to write much and there’s a lot of downtime. Hoping perhaps to make the most of that, Baglino and Pantella formed Riotgod a couple years back with guitarist Garrett Sweeny and vocalist Mark Sunshine. Their self-titled debut, in digipak/bonus track form, is out on Germany’s Metalville Records.
If you’ve been privy to Monster Magnet’s latest output, you at least have a basis for understanding where Riotgod’s Riotgod is coming from; they play a relatively straightforward (in terms of structure) brand of rock, not quite stoner, but definitely influenced by the heavy ‘70s and with some element of space to it, as the cover and tracks like “Light of the Sun” and “Collapsing Stars” would indicate. The material gets samey toward the album’s back half, but there is plenty of quality songwriting on display, and the production, while modern, isn’t nearly as flat as, say, the last Monster Magnet CD. Sunshine does a pretty good John Garcia on the Zeppelin-esque “The Time is Now,” and the chorus of “Collapsing Stars” proves to be a Riotgod high point, which is surprising for a semi-ballad amidst so many hard rockers, but led into by the atmospheric interlude “Omega,” it doesn’t feel out of place.