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Shatters the tiredness - 73%

gasmask_colostomy, June 13th, 2018

Our man Buckethead has been fairly quiet since the end of last summer, releasing just one Pike this year, which is exceptionally little for him. Nevertheless, it's giving me the time to give his more recent work a proper going-over, so tonight Decaying Parchment is up for examination. Not one of Bucky's most flamboyant Pikes, #269 has a lot of followers on the Chinese website from which I stream stuff, the listeners there giving it an almost unprecedented 9.8 average rating. Don't panic that I'm going to do the same though, because those people mostly dig Big B's more chilled material (literally, when I type in 'buc' on the search function, Colma is the first suggestion), while I like at least something a bit out there to make me really feel inspired by the bucketed wonderboy. Oddly, Decaying Parchment is actually not as relaxed as my experience would suggest, packing in some awkward riffing amidst smoother songs in a similar pattern to The Squaring of the Circle (Pike 271) that I greatly enjoyed last night. That Pike puts the two most challenging songs in the third and sixth position on a six-song recording, an arrangement that matches up closely to what happens here.

I'd say that this is one of Bucky's tired Pikes. By that, I'm not implying that the musician sounds jaded or lethargic during the performance of any of these songs, but that the mood of much of the music suits a tired state of mind. For those that have already sampled the Buckster's discography to some extent, you will understand what I mean when I say that he has a particular "sad" guitar tone that feels as if it's slumping down onto the bed because of a lack of energy and will to keep going. It doesn't really sound depressive in the way that other slow and sad music might, but it adds a very delicate feel to several pieces here, especially notable at the outset of 'Is', 'The Maps Inside', and 'Twister', though it doesn't remain throughout the entirety of any of those songs. If you're feeling lonely or overwhelmed by the world, this kind of sound will soothe you and make you feel like things are alright. However, like I mentioned, the "tiredness" isn't a feature that permeates the whole Pike, with all of the songs moving into heavier territory sooner or later and some of them actively assaulting the listener with difficult textures or sounds. As such, I don't feel like this is a listen that allows me to feel comfortable throughout.

The compositions that assault the senses the most are probably the poorest on here, especially the title track, a surprisingly uncontrolled bout of guitar disharmony and random shredding that will make any tired headaches ten times worse by the time six awful but admittedly skilful minutes have passed. The feeling of the whole song is on edge and, as the closer, takes away from a lot of the calmer atmospheric work that was done earlier in the album. 'Wings of a Dead Moth' is also a wilful piece, quickly changing feel between robust and aggressive metal work that includes heavy use of percussion and lighter fare that trips and dances in free play but never elegant design. The most classic Bucky staples are seen on 'Is' and 'Twister', both of which are mid-paced for their duration and make use of limber grooves and relaxed solos that build up moods without bullying the listener into compliance, though neither rise to the majestic heights of the longer 'The Maps Inside', which uses a trusted technique of starting gently and increasing the emotional resonance with the rise into a long lead. The other odd titbit is 'Pillar': it's only worth mentioning due to it being a rare thing - a Big B song that doesn't develop very much.

Coming towards the end of a fantastic run of form in 2017, Decaying Parchment both feels the benefits and the drawbacks of B-Man's constant composing. On one side of the equation, his skill in bringing the tender material carefully to the boil is almost faultless, even if 'The Maps Inside' isn't as good as 'Glacier' and 'Twister' can't beat 'Claymation Courtyard'; on the other side, Bucky must have been getting restless with his playing and eager to change things up as much as possible, resulting in the curdling influence of the title track and the minor perturbation of 'Wings' that shatter the positive mood of the Pike. There's no reason why you should stay away from Decaying Parchment, but I don't recommend it for Buckethead beginners.

-- May Diamhea's feat of 100 reviews in 7 days remain unbeaten --