Buckethead’s prolific “Pikes” series has incited a mixed reaction amongst listeners; some of them find it trite and phoned-in, and others are excited to devour this overdose of new material from our eccentric masked friend. Empty Space
is the second album in this massive collection. The Pikes had a very strong start with It’s Alive
, it’s definitely a tough act to follow. Empty Space
is a similar record to the previous one in some aspects, but there is a big increase in dissonance, funk, and guitar wizardry. Fortunately, while not being a very ground-breaking piece of work, the album (for the most part) succeeds at what it’s trying to accomplish.
The weirdness is way more up front this time instead of its subtle presence in It’s Alive
. Title track “Empty Space” is arguably one of the best weirder Buckethead cuts, riddled with strange effects, inhuman killswitch tricks, and some all-around fun guitar wankery. “Portable Pen” is a strange little jam to say the least, filled to the brim with demented guitar playing with funky accompaniment. “Pullets” has a great heavy-soft dynamic, with sections that wouldn't seem out of place on a Death Cube K record.
As previously mentioned, technical guitar playing is much more in the foreground this time around, for better and for worse. Even though parts of tracks like “Wormers” and “Dummy Egg” seem a little bit uninspired, Buckethead’s scattered guitar leads always demand the listener’s attention. The craziest song in this batch is probably “Leghorn”. The leads are mind-boggling to say the least, and it’s hard to even explain what some its content sounds like.
These slight shifts in direction from It’s Alive
are welcome for the most part. Two albums in, it’s nice to see that the Pikes series isn’t a completely static one. Sometimes, however, it seems like Buckethead injected too much weirdness into Empty Space
. All of the shredding, the kill switch playing, and the synthesized percussion spaz outs can make it all blur together sometimes; desensitizing the listener from enjoying many repeated listens. By the time I got to “Perched”, I was incredibly disappointed that it’s beautiful (albeit brief) mid-section was accompanied by a bunch of stuff I already heard before.
It’s good to see that the Pike series has had a good start. The first two entries have both been successes. Empty Space
takes all the fun characteristics Buckethead is known and praised for and amplifies them tenfold compared to the last Pike. The adjustment keeps his music fresh, but can feel like it was overdone and thrown together for the sake of being strange. Still, Buckethead’s second Pike is still an essential addition to any fan’s constantly-growing collection.