Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I remember a long time ago Buckethead albums used to be very hard to find. I have vivid memories of forking over $50 at Let It Be to acquire the 2 CD "Bucketheadland" record on John Zorn's Avant label and being all pie-eyed about how fucking awesome it was going to be (it was, and i still have it, almost 15 years later.) Now things are different; everyone knows who Buckethead is, most everyone's probably heard something by him and if not they at least know he's some sort of guitar player. His star has risen exponentially thanks to his tenure in Guns n' Roses as well as various projects with Les Claypool and scores of video game soundtracks. Along with this hard-won fame has come a dearth of new albums; at last count Buckethead's just over 50 or so SOLO studio recordings (if you factor in band/guest appearances his discography easily eclipses 100 releases.) This makes it really fucking difficult to be a Buckethead fan, timewise as well as financially. I own about 35 Buckethead albums, probably hovering around 50 if you include the Praxis material and other divers hellos and pop-ups. At this point i'm quite jaded towards and the guy and in some cases have become downright disillsuioned-every record you're going to be guaranteed some epic shredding but not every album guarantees outstanding songs. The worst albums are pointless wanking go-nowhere wah-ed out funk-athons, so insistent on their own validity that they eschew backing tracks and anything resembling a good riff in order to just throw down a few licks and call it a full-length. The best albums are total go-for-blood 80's metal style neoclassical facemelting suites, which while slightly recidivistic are not in the least bit postured or anything less than totally fucking wicked. "Crime Slunk Scene," a recent tour CD, is definitely of the latter school and may very well be my absolute favorite Buckethead album of all time.
It's easy enough to see why-every song on this album completely shreds in some form or another. Even the slightly more boring numbers, of which there are two, have at least ONE super awesome beyond good mindblowing piece of fretboard bitch-making in them that makes them seem 100% cool in retrospect. The best tracks just floor you from the get go and refuse to let you get up throughout their durations. Things start off incredibly strong on this outing, with the 1-2-3 punch of "King James" (fierce ultra-melodic metal riffing), "Gory Head Stump 2006 The Pageant of the Slunks" (equally fierce wah-ed out neofunk workout with some blistering Slayer style soloing) and "The Fairy and The Devil" (a piece reminiscent of the epic masterwork "Colma", just heavier and more rock oriented.) It's hard to even catch your breath as these three spin by but if you can make it through there's better on the way. That "better" happens to be "Soothsayer", one of the penultimate Buckethead tracks, brimming over with fiery, goosebump-inducing guitar work and an emotional weight that is rare to find in these sorts of "shred" albums. "Soothsayer" is a tribute of sorts to Buckethead's aunt and the passion and love are obvious-this track utterly slays. Nine minutes of gorgeous metal guitar fireworks haunted by ethereal slightly time-bending effects and the frantic mind-numbing fretwork that Buckethead is so famous for-it's all here and the result is an amazing song by any measure, containing what is probably my favorite Buckethead solo ever put to tape(the last outro solo-gives me CHILLS every time!) So fucking good, the album is worth it for this track alone.
The latter half of "Crime Slunk Scene" doesn't quite live up to that moutainous high but there lots of good material nonetheless. "We Can Rebuild Him" and "Electronic Sleight of Hand" are both metal heavyweights chock full of lightning guitar work and needlepoint precision riffing, while "Mecha Gigan" flattens you with some ultra-fast double bass and death-metal style riffing, referencing the pomp and splendour of the Japanese robot television shows that Buckethead so fetishizes. The album ends on something of a low note, the monotonous detuned chugfest of "Slunk Parade AKA Freaks in the Back" but listening to some detuned whammy bar dives seems a small price to pay for the crushing slice of majesty that Buckethead has just carved off the rock cake for you to enjoy. How big a piece did you want again?

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