Review Summary: A must-have for everybody who enjoys fiendishly original music. Let the roaring baritone guitars, demented ballads about taxidermy and an assortment of additional information about the park combined take you on an unforgettable journey...6 of 6 thought this review was well written
To start this review off, let me state that this is probably my favorite Buckethead album ‘till now (early October 2007)... Bucketheadland II is the only ride in the park that seems to live its own independent life, as if disobeying its creator’s orders at times. Often, when listening, I feel as if the album will give Big B the finger any second and start doing its own weird thing, even if I do know that it’s just a record that’s bound to play the same way as ever from start to finish. Whether I’m experiencing some chugging, gritty riffage, Albert’s deranged acoustic songs or the announcements in between, I feel this beast of an album’s raspy breath echoing beneath the sonic output.
The album is simultaneously very varied and rather limited, and surprisingly both extremes shake hands, cancel each others weaknesses out and help build the monster. The narrow-minded part of the deal is the music – this ain’t no Elephant Man’s Alarm Clock. Buckethead’s guitar work isn’t too diverse here, but it’s all for the best. Even if the riffs seem rather similar, they do add a touch of consistency to the album and manage to keep the record from falling apart into a hundred thousand subsections. On the other hand, the rhythm guitar parts here are definitely some of the catchiest and heaviest he’s ever written, outshining the vast majority of Cuckoo Clocks of Hell and the rest of his heavy offerings. Another plus is the guitar tone – these riffs have been treated with some truly great distortion, and this sound is way more guttural and roaring than any other Buckethead’s baritone guitar setting we’ve been privileged to hear recorded. The diversity of the album comes from the way the different pieces interact with each other – nothing compares to the way the announcements/Albert bits/guitar work/everything else blend into each other, creating one huge patchwork of sheer sonic delight...
The solos on this albums are rather shredful, utilizing Buckethead’s trademark too-clean-to-be-human n-tuplet runs as well as his other characteristic traits - the augmented chord robotic tap/sweep mayhem and obscene chromatic multi-finger tapping insanity, as well as scarce (generally in the background) usage of the whammy and killswitch. All of the aforementioned techniques are present in “The Battery Cage Brawls”, just to crack an example off the top of my head... There is exactly one really heartfelt solo on this record – the outro of “Frozen Brains Tell No Tales”, which ranks very high in my all time favorite guitar solos list. This is one of the seldom few leads Big B hasn’t managed to play better live...
The second crucial component of Bucketheadland II is the set of Albert’s demented ballads. Even though they sound lame and gruesome at times, I get the feeling that Buckethead put a lot of thought into them. A good example would be “Rooster Landing/Lime Time” – it manages to really evoke some sadness in the beginning, then effortlessly spin the donkey around by the tail and do its best to invoke vomiting with overly informative descriptions of Albert’s freaky free time antics – a combination not seen too often, probably due to its overall quirkiness. These tidbits are a vital element of the album, they add another dimension to the excess and make this ride way scarier and realistic.
The final piece in this molten jigsaw puzzle are the announcements/vocal bits. Whilst their musical contribution can be rather risk-freely rounded down to a zero, they do a lot to the development of the journey. Listening to the characters talking, one really finds a lot out about the theme park itself, plus they do help create the impression of a true visit to the park – there are people around, chatting about dangerous rides and headcheese, as well as the ‘regular’ park announcements giving out information about the attractions and numerous (rather odd) statistic results. Some claim that this info would be more at home in the liner notes, but in my opinion they fit perfectly.
Summing up, this is one sick wedge, which has definitely been worked on a lot, and the final effect is breathtaking. Buckethead had a vision of what he wanted to put inside the place/record, and he managed to do it superbly. The gloomy, heavy-as-hell music underlines the park and its themes/attractions perfectly, and retains some true catchiness at the same time. The patchwork of music oozes through one’s ears, leaving behind a wacky impression of a true journey across Bucketheadland (doesn’t “Carpal Tunnel Tomb Torker” about a minute in sound like the terror tram? And how about “Machete Mirage”, 1:54? Run, dammit, RUN!!), and threatening to carelessly wander away from what we remember we heard last time around, even though it’s burned on a CD. Without further ado, I’d recommend this album to everybody who’s open-minded and doesn’t mind baritone electric guitars and gruesome bits... A true one-of a kinder.