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Ultimetalhead:
Buckethead in a Year: The Reviews Project
Part 00: Mission Statement
The genre of guitar virtuoso shred music is not a very popular one. However, the genre is rather populated in that there are quite a few musicians who pride themselves in showing that they are the best shredders on the planet, and they don’t need a silly band to back them up. Some of them get the respect they deserve, but never get the mainstream treatment, and some of them just fade off into obscurity because quite frankly nobody cares. Buckethead is probably in the middle ground. Most people I’ve talked to have never heard of him, but anyone who has heard even one of his albums usually agrees that he’s easily one of the most criminally underrated guitarists in history.

One of the big reasons for this is the sheer variety of his playing. A lot of shred guitarists are one trick ponies. Yngwie certainly falls into that category, even if he’ll pop out a ballad or a traditional metal song every now and then (granted, I love what he does but he’s certainly not varied in his ideas). Satch and Vai branch out quite a bit as well, but absolutely nobody does it quite like Buckethead. Do you want an instrumental metal album that will shred your jaws off? Cuckoo Clocks of Hell. Do you want a calm, relaxing experience? Colma. Do you want your eardrums to be completely and totally ravaged by the most insane music anyone has ever created? Inbred Mountain. Do you want to know what a shred guitarist would sound like if you gave him a banjo? Spinal Clock. He does it all, and most importantly, he does it well.

Anyway, the reason I’m talking about Buckethead hasn’t exactly been made clear. Since Buckethead is so underrated and unrecognized, and since everybody I’ve ever recommended him to has thanked me at some point, I intend to review every single album in this man’s impressive solo discography. 30 albums, and one 13 disc monolith box set that very few have survived through (and he‘ll probably release 3 more before I‘m done). I’m out to give this man the justice he deserves, and also to help improve my writing, since this is not going to be a short project. I’m expecting this to take the entire year, because trying to get through 50 discs of material in a short time frame is nothing short of suicide, and I’m not going to settle for stupid reviews that cover no ground and just say “it was cool, 3/5”. Every single album is going to get the same in-depth treatment, even if it kills me. That said, feel free to constructively criticize my writing, because I’m all about improvement.

I’ll be honest here, I’ve heard all of his albums, but I’m definitely not familiar enough with them to just run through them. Another reason I’ve decided to do this is to further explore the man’s discography myself. I’m looking forward to getting started on this project, and I hope at least a few people will follow this massive project.

Here is the list of the albums I'm reviewing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckethead#Discography (Note, KFC Skin Piles is not in my possession, and as such will not be reviewed).

The first review is done and will appear shortly.  :)

Ultimetalhead:
Artist: Buckethead
Album: Bucketheadland
Genre: Avant Garde Metal
Year: 1992

Buckethead in a Year: The Reviews Project
Part 01: Bucketheadland
Wel-come-to-buck-et-head-land

That pretty much sets the tone for the entire album, really. Buckethead slides his hand down the guitar and launches his MIDI band into action. Our hero whips up some of the coolest riffs I’ve ever heard. Several different, but equally amusing vocal samples lie on top of the music, giving some listeners their first dose of Buckethead’s history (Buckethead was raised in a chicken coop by chickens, for those who don’t know). The song continues on in traditional verse-chorus fare until the solo comes out of nowhere and tears your face right off. Personally, the solo on this song has a really interesting effect on me. The first time I heard it (this was one of the first songs I had ever heard from Buckethead) was an amazing experience. The way the opening note grinds in, followed by an absolute flurry of awesomeness absolutely defines Buckethead’s soloing, and it sort of sets the tone for his entire discography. The chord progression used here is used plenty of times in Buckethead’s later material. This song, and a good amount of later tracks absolutely reek of a young guitar player showing the world why they should be paying extra special attention to him. The solos are hell bent on being flashy, but never (okay, maybe sometimes) to the point of being self-indulgent and unnecessary. The riffs are awesome and heavy when they do pop up, but the main focus is obviously on the solos. There are a few tracks where the sole intention was to listen to a little vocal sample and then promptly have your brain melted by a shred festival, which I of course feel there’s nothing wrong with (See “Nosin‘” parts 1 and 2). The actual structured songs are few and far between, but they are easily the highlights of the album for me. Of course, one would be insane not to mention the classic, albeit far too short “I Love My Parents” which is probably one of the most fantastic soft songs Buckethead has ever recorded.

So, now that I’ve covered the guitar work (arguably the most important part), how’s the backing band? Well, the word I’d use is robotic. The drums are programmed, and I believe Buckethead also played the bass. The drums do well to set and maintain the atmosphere of the album. It all sounds wonderfully electronic. A lot of people really hate electronic drums (mostly drummers, go figure), but this is one of those albums where I feel that it really works and adds something to the songs. It’s definitely not for everybody though. The bass does a good job of making itself noticeable without overpowering the guitar. It’s definitely more present than in a ton of other metal albums, but it’s never up front except for one small solo in Computer Master. The other huge component of this album, and a few of his later albums, is the vocal samples. Since Buckethead’s music is largely instrumental, the vocal samples do great to add another dynamic to music which some would find stagnant.

The story of the album is quite simple. Buckethead is building an amusement park, and the album is split into sections representing the sections of the park. I admit, I don’t pay all that much attention to when one section is beginning or ending, since there’s never a real stylistic shift. It all comes back to the shred every time.

And now, the best song on the album: I choose Computer Master. It’s the longest track on the album, and it does an absolutely fantastic job of touching all the ground that the album covers without missing anything. It has the vocal samples, heavy riffs, shred, and even a quiet section to cover “I Love My Parents”.

For starting fans, it’s a really tough call. I started with this album, and I loved it, but I’ve always been kind of OCD about exploring discographies. There are definitely better albums to start with to give you a better picture of what Buckethead is capable of, but at the same time I think this one is as good of a starting point as any. It gives any willing listener a taste of the greatness that was to come, all the while introducing you to the magical world of Bucketheadland.

4.5/5 The album is fantastic, but better things were to come.

jsem:
Bucketheadland is a fantastic album

glaurung:
I only just started listening to him so I might not comment much for now but as the year goes on I'll have more to add.

Ultimetalhead:
Artist: Buckethead
Album: Giant Robot
Genre: Avant Garde Metal
Year: 1994

Buckethead in a Year: The Reviews Project
Part 02: Giant Robot
Giant Robot, Buckethead’s second solo album, is best described as difficult to describe. It’s not entirely clear if this is meant to be a re-imagining of Bucketheadland, or simply a continuation. It could also be perceived as a fresh start after what some might consider a weak first album (as we know, I consider it quite a good debut). Then again, it can also be viewed as a collection of odds and ends that Buckethead wanted to commit to tape before he really started to branch out. The main reason for the confusion is basically that a lot of these songs have been heard before. There’s a new version of “Intro - Park Theme” from the previous album, appropriately named “Welcome to Bucketheadland”. “I Come in Peace” is a direct reworking of a song by Buckethead’s first band, The Deli Creeps. Speaking of The Deli Creeps, there is also an instrumental version of an unreleased song of theirs called “Binge & Grab” (One of the album’s happier cuts). Again, there are some short tracks including a Willy Wonka vocoder song and a Star Wars ditty. To round off the repeats, there is an extended (and much improved) “I Love My Parents”. That said, it’s pretty obvious that this album is going to cover a myriad of different styles. As such, this is one of the perfect albums for a beginning Buckethead fan to check out.

The guitar sound on this album is extremely crunchy, and one of my favorite guitar tones on any of Buckethead’s works. Look no further than the main riff of “I Come in Peace” for the full crunch experience. The blistering solos are still here and as devastating as before. The opener, “Doomride”, treats listeners to a magnificent shred fest that echoes the feeling of “Intro - Park Theme” on Bucketheadland: a young guitarist who was obviously told to pick up a guitar and play something that will make people sit down and listen for the next 70 minutes. Yes, this is an extremely long album, especially by Buckethead standards. As mentioned before, there are tons of different styles at work here. “Post Office Buddy” has some of the most fearsome riffing we’ve heard out of Buckethead up to this point, and “Last Train to Bucketheadland” evokes a feeling of pure relaxation offset by a lunatic screaming his lungs out. There’s always something new happening, never a dull moment.

As far as our backup band, we have a little bit more interaction this time around. The drums are no longer MIDI, leaving them to sound much more authentic. Drums are obviously not the draw of the album, but they hit hard and do their job very well. The bass is handled by the outrageously talented Bootsy Collins on some tracks. He gives some of the best funky bass lines I’ve ever heard on “Buckethead’s Toy Store”. Both the bass and drums do excellently at keeping their place and letting Buckethead stretch out his shred whenever he deems necessary.

Again, this album has vocal bits much like its predecessor. The main difference here is that the album is much more song oriented, so the short songs with a sample and a shred-take are more or less absent. The vocal bits are spliced into the songs, making the songs and samples feel much more cohesive. This combined with the fact that the vocalizations are just plain more entertaining this time around makes for a huge improvement.

And now, the long awaited Song of the Album: I have to go with “Post Office Buddy”, a lyrical riff festival that paints a perfect picture of a madman at home lusting after a girl who supposedly gave him her number. As the man grows more and more frustrated at his being ignored, the song’s intensity picks up. The riffs here are some of Buckethead’s best, without a doubt. I won’t spoil anything about the vocals, but know that this is the absolute pinnacle of old Buckethead insanity.

Unfortunately, even though this album sounds like the perfect blend of Buckethead’s many styles, some sections tend to drag quite a bit. Warweb and Aquabot come to mind. If the album was perhaps missing those songs, it would without a doubt be a perfect score. Sadly, it will just have to settle for being the ultimate introduction to Buckethead’s instrumental madness.

4.5/5

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