The Atomic Bitchwax

support Dead Lord + Noctum
author BV date 21/08/14 venue Loppen, Copenhagen, DEN

It can be argued that any fan of stoner rock, or fuzz-rock of any kind, can’t go through their entire lifespan without stumbling across The Atomic Bitchwax in one form or another. Current members Chris Kosnik, Finn Ryan and Bob Pantella are all renowned musicians and most fans of this particular spectrum of rock music will undoubtedly have heard something on which at least one of these guys appear in one form or another. With that in mind, I figured I’d better haul my body out to Loppen to experience a gig by a band I have a great appreciation for, without ever having really delved into their entire discography.

All photos by Philip B. Hansen @ philipbh.com

Dead Lord

The first support band of the night was Dead Lord. I had actually anticipated their performance quite a bit, having heard that they had sort of a Thin Lizzy vibe going. As they took the stage, the vibe was immediately evident. Dual guitar leads and synchronized movements during particularly heavy moments were the order of business and, might I add, business was good. Whether it was during one of their newer tracks called “Ruins” or during an utterly enticing rendition of Blue Öyster Cult’s “Burnin’ For You” they had a cleverly orchestrated party going on. Musically speaking, the virtuosity of the individual members was quite indisputable – as illustrated through a lengthy section towards the end of their set, where soloing evolved into a guitar battle, a bass and a drum solo – followed by a very brief instrument swapping which left their bass-player room to show off that he too was a virtuoso guitarist. At times it was all a bit overwhelming and the plethora of on-stage antics worked perfectly in terms of distracting the crowd from the fact that the band, at times, bordered on the quite monotonous in terms of songwriting. In spite of a few rows of skeptical crowd members, most people seemed to have a blast during Dead Lord’s performance – boding well for future performances, if their repertoire continues to develop.

Noctum

Following a brief changeover it was time for the next band of the evening, Noctum, and their quite different approach to songwriting than that previously displayed by Dead Lord. Via songs like “Temple of the Living Dead”, Noctum attempted to sway the audience with a fast-paced, yet somehow doom-ish approach that sadly left much of the crowd looking somewhat uninterested. The turnout also went a long way to show this, as many of the people who had just seen Dead Lord had either gone to the bar or gone out to smoke rather than watch the on-stage efforts of Noctum. In a way, it can’t really be held against them as Noctum’s stage presence is relatively limited – occasionally manifesting itself in sporadic headbanging and awkward poses during guitar solos. Add to the equation that their mix left much of their material sounding remarkably monotonous, and you have a pretty good idea of why some portions of the crowd sought out the bar instead. Noctum is not entirely to blame for this, as the clear moments where their mix was not entirely bland stood out as essential highlights of their performance – leaving the sound to take much of the blame for this somewhat mediocre showing.

The Atomic Bitchwax

Following yet another changeover, The Atomic Bitchwax was ready to take the stage. As they opened their set with a Pink Floyd classic in the form of “In the Flesh”, they immediately drew in the crowd-members occupied with smoking and alcohol purchases, resulting in a quite decent amount of people in front of the stage. Kicking off in a severely fast-paced manner following this opening, The Atomic Bitchwax went a long way to prove that this was what it was all about - Pure, unadulterated stoner-rock riffing blasted through the speakers to a hypnotized gathering in front of the stage while the contorted facial expressions of the band members showed how they too were getting into the groove. Via “Stork Theme” The Atomic Bitchwax displayed their instrumental prowess and unnervingly tight group dynamics wherein Chris Kosnik’s bass and Finn Ryan’s fuzz-riffs where the dominant factor. At some point in between their various riff-exploits, Kosnik told the crowd that they haven’t actually played in Denmark in 10 years or so – while at the same time letting the crowd know how grateful they were for even having an audience after such a long time.

With “So Come On”, The Atomic Bitchwax proved utterly enticing in a vocal format as well, as Kosnik and Ryan’s shared vocal duties effortlessly ensnared the crowd in a quite hypnotizing manner. Bob Pantella’s drumming, however, had no small part in the effectivity of a song like “So Come On”, as its infectious groove was constantly driven forward by his tasteful, yet fierce, drumming. On “Giant” The Atomic Bitchwax went fully instrumental once again, dazzling the onlookers with their technical proficiency and their sheer faces of joy as they worked their way through the twisted psychedelia of this fast-paced rocker. With their rendition of the classic Core track “Kiss the Sun”, The Atomic Bitchwax had most of the crowd at Loppen headbanging like crazy whilst Finn Ryan was slinging out fuzzy riffs like a madman. The monolithic bass-lines were sadly a bit too dominant during select passages of this particular track, but on the occasions where the mix was perfectly balanced, this track sounded like a crystal clear peak of the night’s set. Humor played a large role during the performance, as made evident by the remark coming from stage; ”This song is for all of you guys who’ve had your hearts broken by a chick at some point. It’s a real girl-hatin’ song”, leading into the aptly titled “Hope You Die”. The lyrics were strikingly simple, leaving many of the male members of the crowd with smirking grins on their faces when hearing sentences like; “I hope you crash your car / I hope you don't get far / I hope you’re asking why / you gotta die, yeah”.

Following this, Kosnik and Pantella left the stage to let Ryan perform Pink Floyd’s “Pigs on the Wing”, before they eventually joined him for yet another Pink Floyd cover in the form of the aggressive “Pigs (Three Different Ones)”. This series of covers had the crowd going absolutely mental. – In part because of the fact that these were Pink Floyd tracks – but also because of the sheer force with which these tracks were performed. Everything from Pantella’s drumming over Kosnik’s bass-playing was tasteful and Ryan’s subtle but appropriately timed use of his wah-pedal really made this cover stand out as a defining high point of this night. Proceeding into one of their own tracks once more, The Atomic Bitchwax was clearly giving it everything they had left before finally going full circle by closing with a reprise of the opening track “In the Flesh”. I entered Loppen as an intrigued writer but I left as a fan. - All that is left to do now, is to hope that they don’t let another 10 years pass before they pop up in Denmark again.

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