Personnel: Chris Kosnik (vocals); Finn Ryan (guitar); Bob Pantella (piano, drums, percussion).
Audio Mixer: Joseph DeMaio.
Recording information: Shorefire Recording Studios, Long Branch, NJ; The Freakshop, Keyport, N.J.; The Panic Room, Neptune, N.J.
New Jersey stoner rock crew the Atomic Bitchwax started out in the early '90s as a low-key jam band made up of members of Monster Magnet and Godspeed, kicking around for years before eventually getting their high-energy riff rock onto record with a 1999 debut. Slow and steady has been the band's m.o. in the years that followed, pushing out records at their own pace that included everything from sincere Deep Purple covers to an album consisting solely of a continuous stream of riffs in a 42-minute-long instrumental track. Sixth album Gravitron comes over 20 years into the band's existence, and takes a more straightforward path of '70s-themed riff metal bred on Black Sabbath and run manically through a litany of wah-wah pedals, full-stack amps, and vintage recording gear. The Monster Magnet connection is hard to miss here (both bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik and drummer Bob Pantella were splitting time as members of the band at the time of this recording), as both bands have all but mastered the sound of blown-out '70s proto-metal guitar tones. Also hard to miss is the band's love of intricate riffs, as almost every tune is based on creative reiterations of heavy blues scale-based guitar mangling. This riffery gets into astronomical territory on instrumental workouts like "Fuckface" or in the last few seconds of "Coming in Hot," when the band kicks into nearly prog rock levels of fast, technical playing. Kosnik's dry, reedy vocals sit in the mix in a somewhat haunted fashion, evoking the same detached presence as Urge Overkill's heaviest moments. The band is strong in its commitment to forceful metallic mayhem, but also delves into the obligatory funk detour with the dubiously titled "Down with the Swirl." ~ Fred Thomas