The Atomic Bitchwax – Scorpio Review

If there was ever a year that demanded a new The Atomic Bitchwax record, it was 2020. Between the chain of climate-related and man-made disasters, the slow implosion of politics around the world and the pandemic, we can do with a burst of stupid, fun, high octane stoner rock, and if any band can deliver on that, it’s the terrible trio. Tearing up the road for over 20 years with one of the most fun and consistent discographies among their peers, their style is as simple and barebones as it gets, yet instantly recognizable, going right back to the first album. So are the rockers still as rocky as a rock?

They are, though the start is, well, rocky. Not because “Hope You Die” is not a fun rager of a track, but because it’s merely a re-recording from their first album, which is a weird choice to open an album with.1 But it is a good warmup for the rest of the album, which is once again fun, energetic and has more hooks than a velcro factory. The instrumentals are a definite step up from Force Field in this regard, with the bass-heavy “Ninja” and the increasingly intense closer “Instant Death” with its barrage of drum rolls at the forefront. Moreso than before, the band knows how to strike a good balance between speed and swagger, with “Energy,” single “You Got It” and “Easy Action” batting for the swagger team, the latter even bringing to mind a harder hitting version of the Rolling Stones.

Of course, with a 20 year, 8 album discography comes the risk of diminishing returns. It’s difficult for me to estimate how much that would affect any random person listening to Scorpio, seeing as Force Field was my first experience with the band. As far as I can tell, The Atomic Bitchwax have pretty much solidified their sound on album 1 and haven’t gone through much in the way of change or evolution. The re-recording of the opening track, and the fact I did not notice until I stumbled upon the debut’s tracklist, are testament to that. Bands like AC/DC and Amon Amarth are routinely mocked for re-recording the same album, and if you’re a lifelong fan, I don’t think you’ll find much new here.

But whereas the aforementioned bands can rightfully be accused of coasting, no such charges can be levied here. When the Bitchwax put the pedal to the metal, they are every bit as vital as they were last century. The title track is an injection of rollicking fun, galloping with unstoppable momentum and including a particularly inspired wah-wah-bass filled breakdown. But “Super Sonic” is the real pinnacle of the album; adrenaline-stuffed to the gills, with sharp and addictive leads and vocals that must have been sung with a grin. It’s where the band makes their definitive statement: yeah, we’re still doing what we’ve always done, but when we do it with this much exhilarating excellence, would you even want us to change?

Scorpio is The Atomic Bitchwax doing The Atomic Bitchwax, but they’re doing it on all cylinders, with all the verve and energy they seem to be drawing from a well that never stops refilling. Compared to Force Field, Scorpio leans a little bit more on the swagger and a little less on the rollicking speed, but it also feels more unified. The production is lovely, warm and features an excellent, fat bass. If I go a step down on the rating ladder compared to its predecessor, it’s less because it’s not as good and more that I may have been a tad overenthusiastic at the time. If you’re looking for an excuse, the drastic downgrade on the cover art and the recycled opener might suffice. But overall, Scorpio is still the enormously enjoyable burst of stupid, fun, high octane stoner rock that’s so sorely needed this year.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Teepee Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: August 28th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. Devin Townsend’s done this before as well, and the voluntary retread still strikes a false chord with me.
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