Review Summary: 2015's Christmas miracle
Things were looking pretty bleak musically in Bucketheadland prior to the holiday season. The endless stream of output rode off the charts when Buckethead decided to celebrate the lead-up to Halloween by releasing an album a day, with each one of those records featuring solitary, visibly one-take aimless guitar scraping fed through mountains of reverb and delay. It seemed that any shards of credibility Buckethead might have been hanging onto since the start of his musical descent nearly a decade ago dissipated. And then Christmas day hits, and this drops.
I will be honest, I haven’t been keeping tabs on Pikes for a while now as the production rate and musical redundancy spiralled out of control. There’s only so many times I can listen to Bucket do e D C D before it gets old. However, this release is easily the freshest and most enjoyable output I’ve heard from the man since he synchronously unleashed the triple blast of Pikes 8-10 onto the world three years ago. There’s about 40% of a really, really good album in here, as the music is not content to ride on the coattails of Buckethead’s former glories, merely tipping its hat to some inspiration sources throughout.
Why 40% of a really good album? Pikes are innately quite short, clocking in somewhere around the half-hour mark, and only half of this Pike is writing home about. It’s quite sad that the initial jammy song eats up half of the run time. It’s easily the worst track of the lot, with meandering progressions flopping around for 15 minutes as a very restrained, yet simultaneously distinctly unmelodic and directionless lead hovers over the top. This is the album’s autopilot moment, going nowhere for the entirety of its duration and not doing anything remarkable in the square foot of terrain it gets to usurp, but still makes for pleasant “in one ear, out the other” background music.
Fear not, it’s all gravy from here. The second track gets right everything track one got wrong, and serves up a briefer, bittersweet slab of minimal, albeit quite interesting backdrop with a well rounded, poignant melody on top. Bucket’s performance is spot on, and the gut-wrenching phrase that sneaks in just as the fade in comes around might well be the highlight of the whole Pike. The spirited solo in track three does its best to give it a run for its money, though, feeling like a fleshed out spiritual successor to “Frozen Brains Tell No Tales” off Bucketheadland 2. The song is objectively the strongest on the Pike, as the riffage is absolutely spot on as well, with a surprisingly well structured, modulated baritone killswitch workout in place before the lead takes over. The final two tracks bleed into each other, offering ideas similar in spirit but drastically different in angle, with song five being what happens to song four when a full moon graces the sky.
All in all, this is a surprisingly enjoyable record, and one I certainly wasn’t expecting after the recent Halloween fiasco. However, it feels that Buckethead had half of an insanely good Pike in place, and then he chose to buffer it with the opening track jam for volume, giving the filler a heartstring-tugging title to help it go down easier. The remaining tracks are really well thought out, offering a good flow of developed ideas and inspired lead work, coming together to form enjoyable songs that seem to have the fairy dust sprinkle of old. Here’s to hoping this isn’t merely a Christmas miracle, but a sign that Buckethead still has some juice left in him. Maybe drop the hectic release schedule and release the songs of this calibre when they come around, waiting for the remaining 60% of a truly remarkable album to fall into place, eh?
Album Rating: 3.5
Today morning, this link arrived in my inbox:
Feh, free Buckethead, may as well get it. And then this happened. Well, go get it, seeing how it's free and has 15 minutes of sheer awesome.
2 Buckethead reviews on the front page, idk what to think right now
Nice review but I have to disagree on the first song bud, it really is a great one for me. 3rd tune rules as well, as you said.
Album Rating: 3.4
First and 3rd songs are good, but overall it's pretty much standard Buckethead. Good review, pos
Also, some awesome pikes - Monument Valley, Worms For The Garden, Tucked Into Dreams, Claymation Courtyard, Closed Attractions, Old Toys, Project Little Man, Pike #13, Our Selves, Listen For The Whisper, Passageways, The Moltrail, The Left Panel, Rooms of Illusions or Twisterlend.
Also, aside from the Pikes, check out Electric Sea, amazing stuff.
Digging: The Flying Eyes - Burning the Season
Album Rating: 3.5
Maybe it's the fact I got off the ride, and as such am not quite as over-saturated with the man's output as those attempting to follow along, but all of tracks 2-5 really resonated with me. True, it does sound like Buckethead, but it doesn't sound like a perfect carbon copy of the same song yet again, like a lot of the pike stuff I head was.
Thanks for the recs, I know a few of these (mostly dislike them), maybe the others will deliver too. And yeah, Electric Sea is solid.
It's important to remember that this album is a Christmas gift that's free for everyone to download, and it's a decent gift!
Album Rating: 3.5
By now he's charging for it :P
I checked out the pike recommendations, I actually enjoyed Monument Valley and Our Selves. Twisterlend is also good, but I already knew that one.