Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Buckethead- The Elephant Mans Alarm Clock (2006)

What we have from Buckethead in this release is a heavy melodic album that focuses heavily on his riff writing and soloing. For the uninitiated, this sounds like every guitar virtuoso wankery album ever released. Coming from Bucket though, the listener is in for a real treat. I would highly recommend skipping the first track “Thai Fighter Swarm” on the first listen, because it’s a bit of an awkward piece, cramming together some hectic, oddly timed riffs together without much regard for the flow or melody. Sure, he’s earned the right to do that every once in awhile, but the album is much better enjoyed if you start at “Final Wars”.

Final Wars is what sets that tone, starting with a grooving distorted riff, then doubling up with two countermelodies, and then an excellent, melodic and thoughtful solo with lots of entertaining flair. That’s just the first 55 seconds of the song. Baseball Furies is built around a very heavy riff and features some  finger flashing shredding to make even the most technical players feel unworthy. Elephant Man’s Alarm Clock is more of the same, heavy riffs, fast soloing, and flashes of the twisted avant-garde mind of Buckethead. What defines the album is the centerpiece, inexplicably 4 part “Lurker at the Threshhold”. Altogether it clocks in at a bit under 10 minutes, with individual lengths of 4 minutes, 2 minutes, 2 minutes, and one and a half minutes.

Lurker at the Threshold opens with a minute and a half of quiet, subtle guitar aerobics, before jumping into a twisted riff and some excellent drum contributions. After two minutes, the tension begins to crescendo, and its released. Words as a means to describe music is always a tricky task, and this is especially true with Buckethead, which is I think part of why a lot of reviewers would shy away, but Lurker at the Threshold is a musical journey touching on all the best aspects of Buckethead’s playing. The riffs are tight and imposing and the solos are beautiful and striking. I don’t have the slightest clue what the inspiration behind the music was (The title is a Lovecraft reference), but it must have been something very complete. The song takes many unexpected twists and turns and is an overall exciting listen, a very rare feat for instrumental music.

Oakridge Cake (Tribute to Cool Keith) is a slower, more groove oriented song, with a down tuned, almost bass sounding syncopated riff and some occasional soloing here and there. Gigan is more upbeat, but with a similar structure of riffs and solos. It sounds boring, but its not. Both Droid Assembly is a mechanical sounding shred track with some really great drumming, has some of that awkwardness of “Thai Fighter Swarm” but mixes in with some really great grooves. Bird With A Hole In The Stomach has a composition resembling that of Final Wars, solid riffs, and better solos.

That leaves us with the last track of the album, the seemingly 11 minute Fizzy Lipton Drinks, it seems longer that Lurker at the Threshold by a good amount. It’s not. The first part is in line with the album’s heavier, more twisted, more avant-garde content. There’s a few minutes of silence, until Bucket strikes back at around 7 minutes with some furious funk breakdown, there’s about 5 minutes of this, and it’s absolutely pure. For the album’s better/more melodic content, this is an excellent starting point into the world of Buckethead, and one of his better works in recent years.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed reading your reviews of Buckethead's albums. Listening to "Happy Holidays" as I type this.