The departure of guitarist Ed Mundell from New Jersey-based power trio Atomic Bitchwax back in 2003 could easily have been the death knell for the band, what with its riff-centric sound and the marquee factor of Mundell's connection to Satanic drug-rock maestro Dave Wyndorf and his Monster Magnet (the guitarist replaced original MM axman John McBain in 1993). But drummer Keith Ackerman and bassist/singer Chris Kosnik soldiered on, recruiting fellow Jersey product and onetime Core guitarist Finn Ryan, and taking a more melodic approach for 3. "The Destroyer" and "Dark Chi" balance Kosnik and Ryan's solid vocal harmonies on the hook-heavy choruses with Ackerman's propulsive skin-bashing and some crushing power-trio interplay. Longtime fans worried about not getting their prescriptions for wah-wah guitar and cowbell filled needn't worry; a faithful cover of the swaggering Deep Purple chestnut "Maybe I'm a Leo" and the blazing instrumental "Force Field" will mollify those wary of Ryan's jamming, jazz-psych tendencies with Core. Local acts Drunk Horse and Dirty Power may pull off more memorable takes on '70s retro riffology, but Atomic Bitchwax still stands out from the legions of stoner rockers pillaging Black Sabbath's back catalogue for song ideas.
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