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Rite of passage - 95%

gasmask_colostomy, September 7th, 2017

So it seems as if a review for ol' Pike 51 is somewhat a rite of passage for Bucketbots on The Metal Archives, since the torch has been passed on by stainedclass2112's enthusiasm in the Virgin Reviews challenge a year or so ago, then CHAIRTHROWER, a new Bucket disciple (and seemingly also a fan of caps lock) who recently gave Claymation Courtyard the highest honours, supplying another 95% score. Far be it from me to piss on anyone's parade, but my review is going to contain a short grumble, a quick passage about video games, and then definitely some musical comments too. So if you want to get straight to it, I suggest you skip a paragraph or two.

The grumble is this: who really has the patience to listen to anyone, however skilled they are, play guitar solos for half an hour? This isn't a motherfucking Eric Clapton benefit show and I can't frankly be bothered to listen carefully for the whole of a Pike to see what Bucky is doing with his left hand. That 'Disintegration Mirrors' is full 14 minutes of shredding and noodling and wailing didn't sit well with me at first and I got hold of this album more because of its reputation and the instinctive brilliance of the title track than actual appreciation of the style. What I would have much preferred (and would still much prefer if Brian ever happens to venture to this part of the internet) is a more even mix of solos, riffs, melodies, and dynamics, which don't tend to happen when King B gets excited, leading to sometimes interminable experiences where the solo fades into pointlessness by virtue of its length.

However, I shouldn't really complain that much because 'Claymation Courtyard' is five minutes of demonstrable proof that Bucky can do exactly what I've just asked for and with outstanding ingenuity not only in the playing techniques (I'm not really a sucker for those) but also in the effect of those notes. That first song is one of the very first I ever heard from Buckethead and convinced me beyond a doubt that what he does with his guitar is not merely for show or as mere music, but because he has a vision and carries it out with each note and phase of his playing. Why else would he so deliberately reject to include lyrics and vocals on almost every one of 300 releases? The music simply sounds like what it's meant to be and B doesn't need to tell anyone what they should be feeling or hearing. In the case of 'Claymation Courtyard' that feeling is relaxed and nostalgic like an internal walk back to the street you lived as a child, where each few steps sparks off associations and you think, 'That's where I was born', 'That's where I learned to ride a bike', and 'That was my grandmother's house'. The shading of the riffs and especially the soft melodies are exquisite, but it's the dreamy drift of the whole thing that makes this one essential Bucky song.

The "dreamy drift" pervades most other areas of the Pike too, though 'Disintegration Mirrors' is, as I've mentioned, the big centrepiece and a problematically long solo. During some listens I do get tired of this, though that's disregarding the fact that Bucketboy doesn't just noodle aimlessly, in fact stringing mini-movements together into a long solo that continually refreshes itself and reaches for higher and higher resonance by repeating (or mirroring, as the title wants us to note) the same few notes at the beginning of a new section, increasing the emotional effect around the 7-8 minute mark. As I've come to realize over repeated listens, the rest of the song is more a trope of absolute freedom and release than aimless wanking. I always get the feeling with Bucky's best pieces, particularly the longer ones (the recent 'Glacier' from Pike 263 comes to mind) that his playing is like a bird swooping and soaring without restriction, manifesting a total release of stress and restraint that is wonderful to behold. The reason I mentioned video games earlier is because that's how I used to feel as a kid playing Pokémon (occasionally still do), where the normal restrictions and pressures of the world melted away and I was free. Because Claymation Courtyard is such a great representation of that freedom (and is consistently so, unlike some other Pikes), it gives the same sort of spacious quality as playing Pokémon had for me and can really chill me out without sacrificing excitement.

In that regard, 'Chainsaw Slide', the shortest piece here, is a mild let-down owing to its more melancholic nature, though it effectively bridges the gap between the more upbeat and slightly wearing lead guitar freakouts on either side. The chuggy riffing is not too bad, though it would be doing discredit to 'Disintegration Mirrors' if I didn't say that the hands down best riff of the album comes at its opening. 'Eerie Canal' is a rather less emotional closer, accelerating both the pace of soloing and percussion at points to produce a blunter, heavier affair, though this is interspersed with reflective, almost sombre moments that remind me of Katatonia at their late '90s peak, even if they would never have considered (or been capable of executing) the exuberant guitar in other places. As an aside, 'Eerie Canal' is not a fitting title for the piece, which is disappointing knowing Big B's skill in this area.

Therefore, it must be said that - despite my reservations about the style - Claymation Courtyard is one of the finest Pikes Buckethead has ever produced and, more than that, probably one of the finest albums of guitar music ever released. The emotional potency of 'Disintegration Mirrors' and the title track is the biggest factor in this statement, though that's not to discount the enjoyment of the other pieces and the excellent skill shown in playing and composing them. Claymation Courtyard is proof that if you don't call yourself a Bucketbot you're kind of silly.

High Voltage Van Halen Wanderlust Without The Pomp - 95%

CHAIRTHROWER, July 8th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2014, Digital, Bucketheadland

The title of this review is the first impression I had of Buckethead's Pike 51_Claymation Courtyard, also my very first glimpse of what the highly eclectic/electric guitar virtuoso is capable of. That said, the quality of his numerous overtures surpasses by far my expectations. Never in my wildest dreams could I've imagined such incredible mind-blowing talent. Indeed, a heartfelt thanks is extended to stainedclass2112 for turning me on to the Bucketed One's unparalleled skills and soul-lifting drive.

Without missing a beat, a suave sliding riff kicks off this radical jam, accompanied by a super uplifting and tactful arrangement before slowing down to a sweet revolving lick almost half a minute in. Following a dramatic build-up, Buckethead applies the breaks shortly before the two minute mark somehow - it's really incredible to hear - with a restrained yet soaring solo before reverting back to form. (Wow! How can one not be so descriptive - at this rate, this review will never end!) At 2:45, we go back to the beginning riff and thus, for the most part until this title track gives way to "Disintegration Mirrors", another doozy which provides much needed, renewed hope in a deranged World (fight fire with fire? Absolutely!). Mind you, this is just the start. Rarely have I had such a blast simultaneously writing a review and listening to the subject matter at hand. Way to go!

Expect more slick pentatonic soloing to the backdrop of laid back uplifting riffing and simple yet tight drumming on behalf of his truly. While it sounds like this track's undercurrent of nose-leading wild lead guitar is omnipresent for its duration, it's really at the three minute mark things truly take off, so grab that stapler and attach your hat to your head lest it flies off! Ethereal finger-tapping aside in the second half, "Disintegration Mirrors" is quite similar to the first track; in fact, this pike particularly sounds like one long half-hour orgiastic guitar fest sure to turn most doubting frowns upside down, freezing said grins in place long after it winds down. In fact, I'm presently trying to figure out how long the epic soloing lasts on this second offering and I'll be gosh-darned if it doesn't sound like it goes on forever!

That said, this nearly quarter-hour burst of electric axe excitement eventually gives way to the delicately smooth and well-poised 2.5 minute "Chainsaw Slide" and Pike closer "Eerie Canal", which clocks in at just under nine minutes, both further paroxysms of unfettered guitar maestro madness. The solo making up the former is next to Godliness it's so beautiful, ethereal even, while the latter sounds like the antithesis to it all, once Buckethead's furious shredding reaches its flash point before reverting back to some stratospheric soloing and shredding, which practically brought tears to my eyes. It's that freaking good!

The first time I heard this pike (and, like I said, any Buckethead), I was literally blown away. You'd think he's some kind of musically inclined alien with ten fingers on each hand. I've only heard a few other pikes; they've all been great so far as I've been following the recommendations of stainedclass2112 as well as the recently initiated (and esteemed) gasmask_colostomy. Now I know Buckethead's got a couple of stinkers out there, but hey, that's the price to pay for experimentation... On the whole, this guy's amazing! I definitely consider myself a converted Bucket Bot now, and suggest you give this a try too. If you don't like it (this Pike anyhow), I'll frigging eat my hat (if I can find it first; I didn't heed my earlier warning). That's a promise.

A Fantastic Ride Full of Riffs and Amazing Soloing - 95%

stainedclass2112, February 18th, 2016

So Pike 51 - Claymation Courtyard is a bit varied from the other pikes in that it has a couple short songs, a longer one, and a huge shred fest track. A lot of the Buckethead pikes subscribe to a one of these song types, not all in one pike. You've got some, such as the first few pikes that have 7 or 8 shorter tracks, then you've got Pike 71 which is just one 29 minute song. This one gives you "Claymation Courtyard", which is one of the very best Big B songs, "Disintegration Mirrors", which is a big shred fest. Then you have the short and sweet "Chainsaw Slide" followed by the 8 minute "Eerie Canal". Pike 51 is one of the very best pikes as well, some of these licks and solos are just spectacular.

The album follows a pretty basic structuring, as most of the pikes do, but this one stands out among most of the others with it's amazing licks and riffs. This is some of Big B's most well done stuff, the title track is seriously one of the very best Buckethead songs. A lot of the pikes are coated in atmosphere or effects, but Claymation Courtyard has almost a retro Buckethead vibe in that it is straightforward guitar wizardry, the only effects that are really used here are delay and wah. The title track could fit right in with the stuff from Albino Slug or Crime Slunk Scene, and "Disintegration Mirrors" actually reminds me of "Siege Engine". Also on this album you get to hear those amazing rapid picked riffs that he is famous for (see 2:44 of the title track to hear what I mean). It is always great to hear Big B pull out all of his tricks, and this pike is full of his unique, quick, jumping riffs and his out-of-this-world soloing. He doesn't abuse the killswitch as much on this album, however, he resorts to more of a straightforward playing approach, which still emanates mastery. On Pike 51 we hear Big B taking a classic Buckethead (not experimental) approach to a Pike; it comes across brilliantly here. The only thing that I deduct a few points for, is that I think that "Disintegration Mirrors" is just a tiny bit too long, but this is really no big deal; all of this is fantastic.

It's really hard to find a bad Buckethead pike, and the awesomeness about these is finding your favorites. Pike 51 is way up in my favorites, it is a really enjoyable Buckethead album., this is definitely top ten for me. A couple other Pikes match this, and a select few masterpieces surpass it. I recommend this to the Bucketbots out there who love Bucketheads more heavier, solo oriented sound. Also, for those who have yet to become Big B fans (all who hear him do, he is that good), I highly recommend this one to try out, this will really hit home with those who love masterful guitar playing and neoclassical stuff. While this is of course one of Big B's 200+ albums, and the Pikes aren't even his best material, Claymation Courtyard is spectacular and it's definitely worth a listen.

What more can we expect? - 96%

ultra plinian, August 13th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, Digital, Bucketheadland

This review is my first submission to the archives. I struggled a bit on the rating. I wanted to stamp a 100% on this Pike. However, after some consideration I decided to leave a little breathing room. This is mainly due to Brian Carroll (aka Buckethead) evolving and producing at such an insane pace right now, it may only be a matter of weeks or months before he further tops even this marvelous recording. Also, too many historically great metal albums to imagine; I can't possibly rate a purely instrumental album at 100% can I? Oh, this is tough. Perhaps one weak track exists here. But any person with their hearing faculties intact and a taste for atom-splitting solos will surely rate this Pike very high.

Pike 51 - Claymation Courtyard is the best shredder I have heard. Sure, I will keep open ears, but I'm not necessarily expecting to find a better mastery of the electric guitar than what is found here. Buckethead is not just noodling about on this record. Let me be clear: Buckethead is channeling unexplained supernatural forces to radiate the emotional energy required for these solos. So many moments throughout this album where I cannot keep my jaw from dropping and breaking. As the experience progresses, I just lose myself, impossibly resisting the urge to jump up and down, pump my fists, cursing, exclaiming, "How in bloody seven hells is he doing this?!" I have to joke that he fries minds, not chickens. Though he probably fried a few amps on this recording too.

As a quick background, Claymation Courtyard is album number 51 in a conceptual series called Buckethead Pikes -- released under the idea of a kiosk located within Buckethead's fictional "abusement" theme park, Bucketheadland. Each album is stylized in comic book form and often much of the music contained throughout is more akin to the strange oddities and noises one might expect to hear if visiting such a place. Buckethead has recorded and released these at an incredibly fast pace since 2011 (71 in total at the time of my writing this review). Granted, not all of the Pikes are what I would consider quality albums, even if much of their intent is to represent the soundscapes within his fantasy world. The strange experiments and augmentations in sound, created mostly via his favorite instrument, are sometimes too eclectic and weird for my own tastes. Quite a number of these Pikes do contain amazing songs, however. But far fewer are entirely of the caliber of #51. Three of the tracks contained therein are genuine masterpieces and represent historically brilliant examples of riffs and solos.

The title and first track, "Claymation Courtyard" blasts up out of the silo and straight into space with a rampaging riff fest, quickly setting the tone for this record. The song itself is not necessarily the most complex in structure. But the grooves and the jives just explode in a fury. Tap your feet or bang your head, there is fun to be had here. The riffs are on fire and force you move. Buckethead comes up with some of best guitar hooks and this track is no exception. Did I say hook? This is a meat cleaver! A fantastic and satisfying opener, the song is even one of Brian's best. Yet, not to be overshadowed, you simply cannot be prepared for what is coming next.

Time to be destroyed. That's right. "Disintegration Mirrors" is going to kill you. So keep the defibrillator and a deaf friend close. I've heard thousands of guitar solos in my life. So many great guitar talents have raised the quality of the styles of music I enjoy. Though my opinions have evolved over time, I've never been able to specifically pinpoint any one guitar solo and proclaim it the best with certainty. But this solo is so expansive and overwhelming; okay, I'll just stop ejaculating all over the place here and try to pull myself together to review this damned track. But just listen to the insanity that is this solo! I consider this not only Brian's greatest achievement in shredding, but the greatest solo I have heard, period. Granted, the overall rhythm, chord progression, and repeated key changes of the song structure is not necessarily going to blow you away, especially if your a prog fanatic. The energy is immense, however, and the percussion is a straight head-on driving behemoth of force, even if still simple by most modern metal standards. This is clearly intended for the space Buckethead needs to pull off what is hands down the greatest solo he has managed to put to record. Perhaps this will remain the pinnacle solo of his career? I say that and he will yet surprise us again. The solo covers every aspect of shredding possible. The entire eleven or so minutes of soloing contained within the fourteen-minute track is some of the fastest playing you will find. Sure, Buckethead is a speed demon. We all know that. But the arrangements are just incredible here. And the slow licks and wails are so lush, so emotional and thick; the swagger of it all is so right up in your face one moment and taking your breath away the next. Again, powerful emotion is being emitted on every note he licks. He builds you up and crashes you down over and over for so long. Yet, his most impressive feat is how he manages to go on and on sustaining the highest of levels musicianship, all the while bending your mind around this incredible experience. He takes all of that elation, lifts you up higher and higher; then, suddenly, out of nowhere, electrocutes you until your eyeballs explode out of your skull and your brains boil out onto your face.

The follow-up track, "Chainsaw Slide" is a short, chilled-out and perfectly placed little ditty. You probably need it now to just to allow time for your corpse to be resuscitated. This is the weakest track on the album, if only compared to the other three. I am by no means saying it is bad. The slow heavy hook is quite good and the solo is peaceful and relaxing, but overall it feels short and sandwiched between the more masterful pieces of work. Perhaps if it had been a little more developed, I could have justified a 100% for the album. But on the other hand, the real track's purpose is probably to serve as a brief respite before your mangled body is rolled right into the furnace.

Riff gods be blessed, Bucket is hell-bent on killing you again. The chugs here on "Eerie Canal" are just as epic as the previous tunes. But that's not enough. He's got to pummel you with a crescendoing meteor shower of blistering picks. The shreds are every bit as masterful as the eternal "Disintegration Mirrors"; however, this time Bucket decides to reincarnate Jimmy Hendrix's spirit, sucking hard on your tear ducts with some of the most amazing wailing and wah wah soloing yet again. He then apparently convinces himself to take pity, finally, for the sake of the listeners, and ride an incredibly uplifting solo off into a beam of light. The picking here leaves you full of elation and energy again just before Bucket finally puts this Pike to rest.

I want to say Pike 51 - Claymation Courtyard upon first listen hearkens back to some serious 1980s-style shredding metal insanity. But as you dig further, you quickly realize it is far beyond anything from that era, including the work of all the greats. Insert Malmsteen, Rhoads, Lynch, Halen, Vai and Gilbert here. All of those amazing and powerful shredders made some incredible music for certain, but the emotion that pours from Bucket on this particular Pike is just legendary. Not to mention the journey on which the album takes you after you lose yourself in it. All of which has me convinced this is the album I will reach for when someone wants to hear the very best shredding guitar solos our planet has to offer. I am confident this particular Pike, given time, will rank among the greatest guitar achievements in history. After you have paid several listens, if the mind-blowing guitar work has left your brain matter splattered all over the floor, lest you hope the remains will not be vaporized when you discover that this man, extraterrestrial or cyborg, is also responsible for every instrument contained on it. I mean, sure, there are plenty of multi-instrumentalists out there. But to be pulling off such work at such a high level leaves me aghast and awestruck. So I say a resounding "HELL YES!" to Pike 51! It is pure brilliance! A historical achievement in music. What more can we expect? I say nothing. We can only listen, enjoy, and be fortunate if this savant manages to top it. A mighty "all hail Buckethead!" for this one.