Double Play: Atomic Bitchwax & Tombs

Two reviews for the price of none!

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson



Atomic Bitchwax

The Local Fuzz


The Atomic Bitchwax has been a rock n roll rocket ship for nearly two decades. The band’s “play what you want” attitude has given us some of the best that underground droning jam rock has to offer. Their first two albums are classics of modern rock, and the song “Hey Alright” could be one of my favorite rock tunes ever. I haven’t always seen eye to eye with all of Atomic Bitchwaxs’ recordings, but I’ve always respected not just the musicianship but also the badass song writing. With their latest release, The Local Fuzz, Atomic Bitchwax has entered a pantheon alongside Rush, The Melvins, Sleep and a few select others. 


What pantheon is this? The one of the long song, in this case a forty-two minute opus that makes up the entirety of The Local Fuzz. Over the course of these forty-two minutes there are fifty riffs, a dozen time changes and various states of 60s and 70s fuzzed out prog-rock. The interesting thing with The Local Fuzz is how it’s a free and always thing but never sounds overly sloppy. It doesn’t come off as just some long jam. The key to writing an epic is making sure it never gets boring and that each part builds on the last. I’m not sure if Atomic Bitchwax built this monstrosity on sheer instinct or they sat down and wrote it, but it everything on The Local Fuzz meshes perfectly.


The best way to describe this album is to call it a musical maze. The music flows one direction, then shifts suddenly, moves again and, at times, doubles back on itself. Imagine the maze in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining but instead of an axe wielding Jack Torrance you get Bon Scott carrying a bag of weed and a sixer. I also enjoyed the interplay between the musicians. Finn Ryan’s guitar bobs and weaves around the rest of the music, shuffling from clever riffage to power chords and back again. Chris Kosnik’s bass spends time, to quote Mike Watt, between being a ball-hog and a tugboat. When its a ball-hog Kosnik’s bass is upfront, moving the rhythms in interesting ways. As a tugboat nobody anchors the groove of the album better. Bob Pantella powers the entire engine with his drumming. At times tasty and refined, at others just brutal pounding, everything you’d want Pantella to play on The Local Fuzz he does.


Some will no doubt call The Local Fuzz boring. It’s almost a guarantee with a lengthy instrumental album. People love vocals, they love song breaks, they want to be able to stick songs in their Ipod that aren’t the equivalent of six trips to and from work. Those people will miss out on an experience that doesn’t come along that often. Bands rarely show the bravery to step outside the box and do exactly what it is they want to do. The Local Fuzz is forty-two minutes of pure rock bliss and proof that doing what you want to do creates the best artistic statements.







Path Of Totality

Relapse Records


A little more traditional but still pushing boundaries is Brooklyn, NY’s Tombs, one of the most aptly named bands in heavy music. A tomb is dark, scary and usually made of heavy stone and covered in harsh dirt. That pretty much describes Tombs, dark, scary, heavy and harsh. The band’s new album Path Of Totality is brutal and disturbing tour across the barren tundra of heavy music. Tombs take the stunning work they’ve done before and ratchets it all up a notch. Basking in the sun of bands like Eyehategod and Neurosis, Tombs connects to the idea of textures in music. It’s not just dynamics or riffs on Path Of Totality, there are actual textures. You feel what Tombs is doing just as much as you hear it. 


Not wanting to shatter listeners’ expectations right away, Tombs enters the Path Of Totality with “Black Hole Summer”, a song that’s very reminiscent of their older material. Thick, plodding drums wrapped in an airtight death grip by the guitars and beaten savagely by the screaming vocals. Next is “To Cross The Land”, which opens like a western soundtrack for a gunslinger movie starring the undead. Suddenly this mix of grindcore and death metal crushes the soothing guitar tones. The speed of the song is betrayed by how slow the riff bleeds through it. The push and pull creates those textures I was talking about. This is music that can very easily get boring. Tombs avoid that issue by taking the time to craft what they do. This isn’t about playing fast or slow, this about purging the poison in their souls.


“Constellations” sounds like the bastard instrumental child of Eyehategod and Black Flag, while the title track rests a bit of pure hatred into a boat made of discontent and sails it down a bitter, bitter sea. I love that Tombs never gives up the ugliness, they never try to hit you with a cheap or easy song. “Vermillion” has the band volleying between utter chaos and the rhythmic and melancholy. Even the vocals on the song step outside the box of Tombs own creation in order to push Paths Of Totality even further. So much is stacked up on this album, so much is tossed at you, that it takes several listen to digest it all. 


I could compare the work of Tombs to that of filmmaker Alejandro Jordowsky. Like Jordowsky’s films, what Tombs does is incredibly dark and constantly surprising. Jordowsky hits us visually with his whacked out hyperrealism and Tombs does the same thing musically. What starts one-way ends another, what might seem simple and clean will become muddied and dark. You aren’t given easy outs with Tombs; you have to push through all of it in order to reap the benefits of what they do. Easy music may be the release valve of the status quo, but true artistic discovery only comes when you grind the gears together until they snap. This is what Tombs accomplishes with Path Of Totality. If ever evil was delivered a mortal blow, this album might be its dying cry.