Screw the five cups of coffee. Just play The Atomic Bitchwax’s latest album, Scorpio, from front to back, and you’ll be set for the day. From the first drum roll to the final three-note crunch, the band is a powerhouse of intensity, running on an endless supply of venom. This revolving New Jersey circle of Monster Magnet, Godspeed, and Raging Slab alumni will furiously burn a hole through your fragile, unsuspecting sound system before you can dial in your precious EQ settings. Thankfully, that level of tinkering is unnecessary due to the crisp, robust engineering of Stephen DeAcutis.
Longtime fans of the Bitchwax will relish the familiar bulldozing sounds of the opening track, “Hope You Die,” a rework of the tune from their 1999 self-titled debut. Though not entirely new, it still delivers a much-appreciated kick in the nads to anyone bored with current rock music. It overflows with more boiling attitude than Kyuss’ “Thumb,” and that’s saying something. Chris Kosnik’s defiant vocal delivery portrays him as a guy you want on your side in a back-alley bar fight. At the same time, his bass assault has clearly been shaped to a lethal precision by the always infectious Geezer Butler. In a more direct nod to the mighty Black Sabbath, the band ends Scorpio’s title track with a quick throwback to a sweet, leafy substance. Straight people won’t know what that’s about.
As exciting as Kosnik’s in-your-face statements are, some of the most enthralling moments occur when he steps away from the mic. The instrumental “Ninja” doesn’t sneak up on you, but it will encourage you to karate-kick a tree out of the ground or carve up a couple of park benches with a katana. “Crash,” another wordless jam that is manhandled by drummer Bob Pantella, will leave you feeling like you fell victim to Sting’s Scorpion Deathlock. At times, it’s surprising that three dudes from the stoner rock institution, Monster Magnet, are ripping it up this vigorously, but I’m not complaining. This is what happens when you take excellent skills, undying love for all things rock n’ roll, and (I assume) semi-illegal pharmaceuticals, and toss them all into a high-speed mixer for almost 40 minutes.
They relax slightly with the accessible, and rightly titled, “Easy Action.” This neck swaying tune would work well at a child’s birthday party with clowns and a bouncy castle, or an adult gathering featuring scantily clad women living their best lives on trampolines. I can almost imagine it playing on rock radio, but they won’t do it, and let’s face it – most of them aren’t even worthy of the wax that drips from these atomic bitches. They are undoubtedly a band for music lovers, by music lovers.
“You Got It” is a congested highway buzzing with excessive testosterone. The destination may see your vehicle splattered against a billboard if you’re not paying attention to society’s constraints, but hey, that’s why insurance exists. Speaking of cars, if you enjoy playing air guitar on your Chevy Nova’s roof at 3 a.m. after chugging a bottle of Jim Beam, buy this disc, crank up Garrett Sweeny’s sick ass leads on “Super Sonic,” and do just that. You’ll thank me later (remember to take your boots off first). It might also be a good idea to stretch before submitting to The Atomic Bitchwax’s third instrumental, and final song of the album, “Instant Death.” Letting this one loose at maximum volume is akin to receiving five Stinger Splashes in a row. Once that happens, it’s lights out. Ring the bell. Stoner metal has a new heavyweight champion, and its name is Scorpio.