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metal music reviews (new releases)

SABATON The Last Stand

Album · 2016 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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DippoMagoo
With some bands, writing a review can be challenging, as you never know what to expect from them, except that they will never repeat themselves or do anything predictable. On the exact opposite end of the spectrum you have Swedish power metal band Sabaton, a band who nailed their sound down wonderfully on their full length debut Primo Victoria, and while they’ve made minor tweaks to their sound over the years, they’ve proven to be as reliable and consistent as a band could possibly be when it comes to sticking to their established sound and delivering a great album every time. Basically, every time Sabaton releases an albums their fans can expect epic heroic war anthems based on historical events, filled with epic vocal lines and ridiculously catchy choruses. This has been equally true on more straight-forward albums like the quick, to the point and absolutely addicting Heroes and more experimental works like the epic concept album The Art of War. Their previous album Heroes in particular has the special distinction of being my most played album of the last decade, if not longer, so I was excited as I could possibly be to hear what the band had in store with their seventh full length release The Last Stand. In short, the band didn’t quite match their best efforts this time, but they still delivered yet another excellent release,and one that I’d gladly take over the vast majority of melodic metal out there.

For the uninitiated, Sabaton is known for writing songs about historic battles, and while all their albums deal with similar themes, they tend to focus on different events or on different aspects of war each time. On the Last Stand, perhaps unsurprisingly, the songs all deal with countries fighting against insurmountable odds and struggling to hold out to the very end, some succeeding and some failing. As such, the lyrics are very epic even by this band’s standards. Musically, the band has changed very little over the years. This is still the same kind of ultra melodic power metal they’ve played since the beginning, with the occasional use of symphonic elements and occasional heavy sections, but it’s the hooks and huge vocal melodies that dominate the tracks. Recent albums Carolus Rex and Heroes saw the band dropping the tempo down a little bit in comparison to their earlier albums and this is true of The Last Stand as well. In fact, perhaps my only disappointment with the album is a lack of those blazing fast scorchers, like “Night Witches” from Heroes or “Ghost Division” from The Art of War There’s still some speed here, of course, but on most of the tracks the tempo feels a bit more restrained.

One element of the band that has never been restrained in the least is the voice of Joakim Brodén. He has a rather unique voice for the genre, as most power metal vocalists tend to have much higher main registers than him, and yet he also doesn’t fit in with the more raw, all out aggressive singers of the genre like Chris Boltendahl or Andy B. Franck. Instead, he has a very deep voice that instantly stands out, be he uses in it a very nice way, singing in a way that enhances the melodies greatly, and his style really lends itself well to the huge sing along choruses the band is known for. In short, he’s the perfect fit for the band, and one of my absolute favorite singers.

I already somewhat hinted at it earlier, but the first couple times I heard the opening track “Sparta”, I was a bit disappointed. Just looking at that name and knowing how the band usually opens their albums I had been expecting one of their fast paced, immediately gripping openers, and instead I got something that felt a bit toned down and lacking the energy I was expecting. Don’t get me wrong: It’s an excellent track, and after several listens it’s grown on me a lot, but it certainly isn’t the kind of song the band has opened all their other albums with. It’s a mid tempo track, driven by keyboards and it uses the synths in a pretty cool way, giving the track a symphonic feel, and this combined with the epic “oohh” “aahh” chants throughout certainly make for a great track. Likewise, on first listen “Last Dying Breath” didn’t do much for me, but over time it has become a favorite. It’s another mostly mid paced track, though it has more of a focus on guitar riffs, and it’s chorus is quite epic. It speeds up towards the end, and that section is fantastic.

Obviously, many fans have heard “Blood of Bannockburn” by now, and for me this is the track where the album officially kicks into high gear. It’s the first up tempo track of the album, though it still feels a little restrained, but what makes it work is the awesome marching drums at the beginning that keep building and building until the song takes off, plus the use of bagpipes throughout and the choir vocals all help give it a bit of a Scottish folk music vibe, which fits perfectly with the lyrics. The track had been an instant favorite since the first time I heard it, and it still is, though for some reason I keep thinking I’ll hear “In the name of God” at the end of it. For those who don’t get that comment, I’ll explain it in a bit.

Following a brief interlude track where a solider talks about his experiences, we get another early release track “The Lost Battalion”. This one is much slower paced and is very much dominated by the synths, which give it a bit of a retro feel. It’s a very laid back track, but man is that chorus ever something special! The chorus is repeated several times throughout the song, but it only gets better and more epic as it goes on, easily one of their catchiest and best choruses to date, which is saying a lot. Speaking of great choruses, I can’t possibly leave out the title track. It’s another mid paced track, but it feels special from the very beginning, as the verses do a great job of building up momentum, and then the chorus is just insanely good, and is in fact the best on the album. Later in the track, an amazing, breathless vocal section gives way to the highlight of the album, and something fans viewing the early release videos on Youtube would be familiar with: The absolutely glorious last 30 seconds of the track, where Joakim delivers some of the best vocals I’ve ever heard from him. And yes, this is what I was referring to earlier when I talked about “Blood of Bannockburn”.

Fans looking for pure speed can look forward to “Rorke’s Drift” and “Hill 3234”. Both of these are very fast paced tracks that are a bit heavier compared to the rest of the album, and they certainly would have fit in great on earlier Sabaton albums. Likewise, “Shiroyama” is an up tempo track that feels very similar to some of their past songs, but it’s the kind of song they do so well, I can’t possibly complain about it feeling too familiar. On a similar note, I was initially surprised by how similar “Winged Hussars” sounds to the title track of The Art of War, with its main synth line sounding very similar and its chorus also reminding me greatly of that track, but repeated listens have shown it to the kind of mid paced track the band has always been great at, so again, it’s familiarity doesn’t bother me in the least just because it’s so damn catchy and addictive. Lastly, we have the closing track “The Last Battle”. This track threw me at first, as that name and the fact that it’s the final track on the album had me thinking it would be blazing fast and full of killer riffs. Well, that isn’t the case. Instead, it’s another mid paced track, heavily dominated by synths which give it a bit of a pop feeling at points, but while I was initially unimpressed, once again it turned out to one of those super catchy tracks where the melodies won me over in the end.

At just under 37 minutes, The Last Stand is one of those albums that’s extremely easy to put on repeat and get lost in for a while, and it’s certainly a very addictive album full of catchy and heroic war anthems just like its immediate predecessor. It may not live up to that album or other Sabaton classics like The Art of War and Primo Victoria, but it’s still another fantastic album full of memorable choruses and huge vocal melodies that won’t be easy to forget. Obviously, it’s a must hear for longtime fans of the band, and it’s also highly recommended for all fans of melodic metal, especially those looking for some catchy choruses to go along with epic lyrics about historic battles. Sabaton is just one of those bands that never disappoints, and The Last Stand is no exception.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: http://myglobalmind.com/2016/08/20/sabaton-last-stand-review/

VALE OF PNATH II

Album · 2016 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"II" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US, Denver, Colorado based death metal act Vale of Pnath. The album was released through Willowtip Records in June 2016. Vale of Pnath was formed in 2005 and released a self-titled EP in 2008 and their debut full-length studio album "The Prodigal Empire" in 2011. There have been quite a few lineup changes since the release of "The Prodigal Empire (2011)" as bassist David York has been replaced by Alan Parades, guitarist Mikey Reeves has been replaced by Eloy Montes, and lead vocalist Ken Sarafin has been replaced by Reece Deeter. The only remaining members from the lineup who recorded the predecessor are guitarist Vance Valezuela and drummer Eric W. Brown.

Stylistically the music on "II" is a continution of the technical/progressive death metal style of "The Prodigal Empire (2011)", which means lightning fast riffing/leads featuring neo-classical leanings, insanely technical drumming, and some relatively convincing growling/occasionally higher pitched snarling vocals. References to artists like Obscura, Beyond Creation, and Augury are valid. Quality wise we´re also in that league, and "II" features more than one jaw-dropping moment of technical wizardry and powerful playing.

The album features a clear, powerful, and detailed sound production too, and paired with some relatively memorable songwriting, and high level musicianship on all posts, "II" is another great technical/progressive death metal release by Vale of Pnath. "The Prodigal Empire (2011)" didn´t stand out as one of the most unique sounding releases in the genre, and while "II" isn´t the most original sounding release either, I think Vale of Pnath have taken small steps in developing a more personal sound on this one. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

THE SPACELORDS Liquid Sun

Album · 2016 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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adg211288
As much as a good instrumental section can really get me going on an album, I rarely find myself too interested by fully instrumental releases. That's why, for me at least, an artist such as Germany's The Spacelords are a rare find; an instrumental artist who not only enthral with their music, but do it in such a way that adding any sort of vocals to it would most likely ruin the entire experience. Liquid Sun (2016) is their fourth album.

While The Spacelords primarily play space rock, they can actually be pretty heavy and hard rocking while doing so. This is more evident in the second and third of the album's three tracks than in the opening title track, which features a gradually building atmosphere that initially gives no clue about the band's hard rock influences but steadily increases in heaviness until it fully emerges in its latter stages and from there until the album's conclusion The Spacelords find a perfect balance between spacey atmosphere and delivering some great riffs as well. With just three songs their writing tends towards a longer mark on Liquid Sun, but even with some aspects of the music repeating many times over as they move their compositions forward I don't feel as if any ideas outstay their welcome.

Liquid Sun will no doubt continue to stand out as one of 2016's biggest surprises for me; the kind of album that comes out of nowhere and ends up ranking among the year's best releases. The Spacelords are clearly well versed in their cosmic craft and have created something really captivating here; it's a very easy album to sit back and just allow it to carry you off into the cosmos, while also being something for fans of hard rock to appreciate. Vocals very much not required.

RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS The Getaway

Album · 2016 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.70 | 6 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
After a five year hiatus from their most loathed album of their latter career in the form of “I’m With You,” we at long last are graced with a new RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS album after having a healthy chunk of time to sort out their career after the loss of their mentor, guitarist and main songwriter John Frusciante. Finally in 2016 with much trepidation i picked up their 11th studio album THE GETAWAY only to be pleasantly surprised that the pop funk rock sensibilities of “Californication,” “By The Way” and “Stadium Arcadium” are back in full regalia offering not only the expected half rapped / half sung vocal talents of Anthony Kiedis and Flea’s bass slapping bad boy funk with Chad Smith delivering his expected percussive duties but to find that Josh Klinghoffer has at long last fully embraced his carrying of the torch of Frusciante’s larger than life presence with the band that began with 1989’s funky hard rocker “Mother’s Milk.” While i pretty much wrote the band off as a thing of the past with “I’m With You,” i was most pleasantly surprised at how well this new release comes together. However! despite some incredible good things about this one, i have to admit there are some things that bug me a bit as well.

THE GOOD: while the compositions retain a retro CHILI PEPPERS feel in the songwriting department there are more diverse elements sewn into every segment of every track. The production is off the wall spectacular and there are several guest musicians on board including Elton John on piano and Danger Mouse who not only produced the album (a first after Rick Rubin’s long time standing) but also helped out on mellotron, organ and synthesizers. There are also beautiful string arrangements on several tracks which include violin, cello and viola. Every track has unexpected twists and utmost surprises of some sort. Some being subtle such in instrumentation as in the more single oriented tracks like “Dark Necessities” but some like “Dreams Of A Samurai” actually bringing Pink Floyd greatness to mind from “The Dark Side Of The Moon” with their chord flirtations of the real thing along with the female background singers.

THE BAD: while this is a brilliant album to listen to, there is a lot of, well, sampling going on. I hate to drop the plagiarism bomb but it’s quite obvious that several famous pop and rock tracks from the past have had certain riffs, licks and melodic developments blatantly ripped off or perhaps shared with blessings. Who knows which. And while these borrowings usually serve as an underpinning for the overall feel of the tracks, it keeps me wondering if these were totally ripped off, a subliminal tribute or an unconscious channeling without actually realizing it. As a major fan of not only prog, metal and jazz but also of pop music of the ages, i recognize a, uh huh, sampling, when i hear it. True that many of the tracks on THE GETAWAY are self-plagiarism as well with the bass lines, guitar licks and vocal stylings as with the “Hey Oh’s” by Kiedis and Frusciante inspired guitar licks. Understandable.

There are lots of references to their 2000s output and that’s totally OK, however there are lots of other things going on here that totally rub me the wrong way: — Firstly: “We Turn Red” starts out with the same guitar lick and vocal melody of “Rock On” originally by David Essex but covered a million times. It’s only the intro guitar that recurs but nevertheless is obvious. — Secondly: on “Sick Love” the beginning vocals and melody are lifted from “Bennie And The Jets” by Elton John. True that Sir Elton (contributes piano) and Bernie Taupin were co-writers of this track but it still is too obvious for my tastes, however it’s a great track nonetheless as i can let it go. Not the band’s fault i know but every time i hear the first line i cringe! — Thirdly: “Go Robot” has the same bass line as “Feel Good Inc” by Gorillaz. The rest of the song is sufficiently different but the bass line is unmistakable! — Fourthly: the most horrible rip off is “Feasting On The Flowers” that “borrows” the Jethro Tull guitar riff from the first part of “To Cry You A Song” from their 1970 album “Benefit.” Aaaargh! — Those are the main gripes but there are subtler ones, however somehow despite it all they seem to take these past glories and remold them into present pop splendor. Not bad

When all is said and done i find the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS not a guilty pleasure, because there is no reason to feel remorse for enjoying any sort of music. I think of their albums more like comfort food. As the decades pass by, the entire rock genre continues to evolve and splinter into more and more bizarre territories often cutting their ties to any traditional means of the past. With RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS i feel a connection to the past glories i wasn’t a part of. They are the thread of continuity that binds the present to previous decades when funk, rock, rap and R&B ruled the music world. Just like other keepers of the old guard such as The Rolling Stones who continue on despite new musical trends, RHCP continue to churn out deliciously addictive feel good tunes that are simply fun to listen to despite a feeling of recycled past glories.

As they have shown, when they try new things such as on 1995’s “One Hot Minute” that things don’t always turn out so well. With their tried and true formula on full display once again, THE GETAWAY proves to be perhaps not a brilliant magnum opus but rather a catchy well crafted slice of pop funk rock at its finest. I’m finding myself listening to this one quite a bit. Great comeback and finally proof that their IS indeed life after Frusciante. Despite samplings in music, i still love hip hop and other derivative types of music for listening pleasure but i simply wanted to point these things out for the record. So why not enjoy it here. Hmmm. I wonder what the legalities are about royalties. That is another matter altogether.

ABNORMALITY Mechanisms of Omniscience

Album · 2016 · Brutal Death Metal
Cover art 4.25 | 4 ratings
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adg211288
Having brought in new guitarist Sam Kirsch to replace the departed Ben Durgin, the US technical brutal death metal act Abnormality is back on the metal scene with their second full-length album Mechanisms of Omniscience (2016), following on from Contaminating the Hive Mind (2012). And with it they seem ready to kick some arses into next week.

The album features mostly short and to the point kind of tracks with a couple of instrumental pieces to break it up a bit. The noted exceptions on length are Vigilant Ignorance and Consuming Infinity at just past the six minute mark and a little shy of it respectively - in themselves not long by metal standards but most of the tracks Abnormality have written here get their job done and are over before the four minute mark, which is generally what you want to hear with this sort of style as nothing has a chance to outstay its welcome. The musicians are a tight unit and their technically well-played brutal death metal hits the spot for me a bit better than some other similar bands I've reviewed, but does also stumble upon the usual issues that I have with this kind of album (or even death metal albums in general). Even after several listens I don't find the individual songs to be all that memorable and while the vocals of Mallika Sundaramurthy serve the music well I find her growls pretty unintelligible, which doesn't help with the former point about memorability.

I'm sure that fans of brutal death metal will find something to enjoy on Mechanisms of Omniscience. The band have a decent sound, but for me everything ultimately falls a bit flat due to the fact that there isn't really anything about the album that stays with me for long upon its conclusion, though in its defence it does keep my attention on it throughout.

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THORN Bitter Potion

Album · 1995 · Industrial Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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aglasshouse
Thorn's debut Bitter Potion is somewhat of a hidden gem of the metal pool. Formed by Soulfly drummer Roy Mayorga, Winter guitarist Stephen Flam, and bassist John Jesse, Thorn released their first album in 1995 to nothing short of terrible sales. Mostly due to this the band split for a time only to reform and release two more albums. Business aspect aside, how does this fare musically?

Bitter Potion isn't exactly as technical as most industrial metal, nor is it as sulking. It's actually quite a unique release from the scene, with abnormal time signatures and odd elements thrown in throughout. It has an overall organic style, almost stripped down. It is just three sole musicians after all, but each of them delivers a powerful performance. Roy Mayorga's thunderous slams are of course amazing as any Soulfly fan would know, and Flam is great on the strings. Jesse's vocals sound uncannily like Denis Bélanger circa 1990s, with his almost monotonous growl that I've come to enjoy very much. There are some middle-eastern influences thrown in here and there, though they are downplayed greatly so don't go in

The best music in my opinion comes from the second half of the album ('Legions of Lace' and onward is fantastic), where it's a bit more cohesive stylistically, and less bouncing all over the place. The heavy stuff is all throughout so don't worry about not having that as a main aspect.

Although rather minimalist Thorn's debut is nothing to scoff at. I recommend this to anyone who is a fan of 90's metal and searching for the odd stuff. This is perfect for you.

BUCKETHEAD Pike 51 - Claymation Courtyard

Album · 2014 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 2.57 | 2 ratings
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BUCKETHEAD - PIKE 51 - CLAYMATION COURTYARD

10th album out of 60 in 2014 and 81st overall

All sounds brought to you by Buckethead and all instrumental

This one has 4 tracks that clock in at 30:15

“Claymation Courtyard” (5:02) begins with a heavy alternative metal guitar riff with bass and drums. It begins to alternate with slower arpeggios but wait! This sounds like one of those recycled tracks that’s been done a million times. It may be heavy and distorted and all but oh so familiar. It continues the same groove and has a little slow down with a lead guitar solo ripping around it but still sounds like the same old grunge track that has been done. It alternates again with a quiet passage. Meh

“Disintigration Mirrors” (14:01) the longest track that takes up almost half the album starts out as another alternative metal rocker with a quickly plucked riff, bass and drums with some arpeggiated sections coming into play. A solo erupts. And then the melody repeats on and on and the lead guitar dances around it and it goes on for almost half the album. This is another totally recycled idea done to death. There is absolutely nothing going on in the songwriting department. It’s merely a jam session with nothing new to offer. Meh

“Chainsaw Slide” (2:25) slows things down with a clean guitar arpeggio intro but quickly jumps into heavy crunchy metal territory. This one has a more interesting melodic development and riff tradeoff than the other two but it’s nothing special either. Tones and timbres are pretty much the same as well is the style. Mercifully it’s quick and to the point

“Eerie Canal” (8:47) begins with heavy metal chords sustaining with a guitar lick rambling over them and then bursts into a chugga guitar riff and then turns into anthemic type of melody and then turns into a lightning fast guitar riff and then thrashy metal riffage. This is already more interesting than the rest of the album combined. It stays thrash riffage for a while and then adds a solo and then jumps into the hyperdrive riffage again. As it continues it trades off heavy passages with mellow ones and the riffs recur but are different enough to make it feel like a real song instead of some canned jam session. I like this one!

Thank bleep for the last two tracks. I was getting pissed after the first two overlong filler tracks. Overall this one is average. Two weak tracks, two much better ones. Average is average and half of 5 is 2.5

BUCKETHEAD Pike 50 - Pitch Dark

Album · 2014 · Non-Metal
Cover art 0.50 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD - PIKE 50 - PITCH DARK

9th album out of 60 in 2014 and 80th overall

All sounds brought to you by Buckethead and all instrumental

This one has 3 tracks that clock in at 29:58

“Pitch Dark” (12:42) begins slow and mellow with a clean somewhat echoey guitar riff, bass and drums. As it continues i’m realizing this is yet another one of those overlong mellow tracks that repeats the same riff promoting the kind of apeirophobia (fear of infinity) that only BUCKETHEAD can dish out with these boring and rather pointless types of tracks. How many of these sorts of albums need to be made? While a few like “Electric Tears” were actually brilliant in how they were constructed, this just loops like a record that skips. Yeah, there’s subtle variations and it does pick up a bit at the end with bluesy solos and all but there’s just not enough to ever want to hear this again :(

“Drifting Ice” (8:03) begins with clean guitar parts, bass and drums on slow speed. This one is more echoey and the guitar lick part is semi-distorted. This one is a little more melancholy in its sound. Well, as feared this is as exciting as “Drifting Ice.” It glaciates its meandering melodic recurrences with frosty guitar licks superimposed upon them. This is another one we’ve all heard a million times before as just like a piece of ice floating randomly on a mountain lake takes its sweet time to go nowhere. Yawn

“Water Drops” (9:13) is yet another placid, inoffensive piece of easy listening with clean guitar riff, bass and drums. Slightly different melodic development than the rest but same overall song structure. It has the same echoey guitar which is nice and the tones are quite pleasing but once again we’re given a recycled pile of goods. There have been so many tracks like this on previous PIKEs i’ve lost track. BH has proven he can create beautiful mellow tracks just as awesomely as his heavy metal rockers but when he’s on automatic pilot he just pumps out one recycled piece of filler after another.

Another complete of a dud for an album. Nothing on here is remotely original, interesting or worth the time of day unless you simply can’t get enough of this formula and long for another release of it. Not me

BUCKETHEAD Pike 49 - Monument Valley

Album · 2014 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD - PIKE 49 - MONUMENT VALLEY

8th album out of 60 in 2014 and 79th overall

All sounds brought to you by Buckethead and all instrumental

This one has 4 tracks that clock in at 29:32

“Monument Valley” (7:17) starts things off on mellow mode with clean guitars, a nice bass and minimal percussion. While i usually dislike these mellow albums by BUCKETHEAD because they all tend to sound the same, this one is sounding a bit nicer than many of these by-the-numbers releases. This one has a nice sort of military march percussive drive at times but why this one works better than others is because it doesn’t drown out the mellow vibe with too harsh of percussion. The string section is also more intricate and the melody is actually pleasant to listen to. There are more variations than the average mellow track and this one is actually of the quality found on albums such as “Electric Tears.” No mellow is not a bad thing, but boring is and this one is not that

“Fembot” (11:47) begins a little more upbeat but not much with echoey clean guitars, a very electronic drum beat and a bass. This is a bit different as the guitar is slow and mellow and the drum is a bit more hyperactive. There is also some ambient background swirling of sounds to offer some atmosphere as well. Nope. These elements don’t work together well for me. I just find the whole thing unsatisfying. First of all, the riff is the same recycled mellow progression that a million of these mellower tracks on PIKEs offer and the electronic drums are woefully not suited. Give this one a miss because it more than outstays its welcome. Hell it’s not even welcome

“Attic Floor” (1:19) is another clean guitar mellow track that begins unaccompanied and stays that way. It’s basically an intro to the next track

“Lirtson Nostril” (9:09) picks up the mellow guitar sequence and expands it. It becomes two guitar parts working together to create a richer tapestry of sound with the bass and cymbal action underneath it all. This one is cool in that i has different segments. It doesn’t just repeat the mellow parts to infinity. It picks up steam in the middle with a heavier plucked bass and bluesy guitar licks around it. It reverts back to the mellow parts but has some variety which keeps me interested. It is a nice lush mellow dreamy soundscape that really does feel like a fluffy cloud gently rolling over the great desert landscapes of the American Southwest as depicted on the album cover

This album is half good, half not. The title track and “Lirtson Nostril” are actually quite good for BH’s mellow album material but the other two tracks sandwiched in the middle are pretty much business as usual with nothing exciting to add but still about 2/3 of the album i like

BUCKETHEAD Pike 48 - Hide in the Pickling Jar

Album · 2014 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD - PIKE 48 - HIDE IN THE PICKLING JAR

7th album out of 60 in 2014 and 78th overall

All sounds brought to you by Buckethead and all instrumental

This one has 4 tracks that clock in at 30:52

“Hiding In The Pickling Jar” (9:21) begins with a heavy bluesy rock guitar line before breaking into funk rock and then becomes haunted house guitar lick and then just a funky bass line and then a keyboard spooky riff and then wah-wah infused funky bass. Well, you get the picture. This changes things up every few measures with funk, blues and avant-garde strangeness. The steady drum beat keeps it all churning along fairly steadily but there are some strange time sig changes that serve as transitions to other segments but basically this marches on in 4/4 timing while changing the whole atmospheric mood setting often. Around the four minute mark it becomes heavy distorted metal and then it starts changing things up in a metal context. As the track progresses it gets loud, it gets mellow, it changes up the timing a little and ventures all over the place. This one is pretty cool and probably the only song title ever to reference a “Pickling Jar!”

“Countersunk” (7:41) begins less frenetic with a slow, clean and mellow guitar and then breaks into a higher distorted guitar riff and then reverts back to the clean guitar and then back to the grungy guitar riff and it pretty much follows this pattern. The melody is pretty much the same and nothing exciting actually. This is very much like a million other PIKE tracks only the different styles have been mixed up which makes it more interesting. It does add more bluesy elements and production effects as it proceeds with a heavy echoey almost foghorn type sounding type of distortion. This one turns out to be varied enough to be pretty cool itself but not as good as track one

“Squirrel On A Perch” (3:45) is a funky rocker that reminds me of the best of the 70s with a heavy funky bass line and lots of guitar licks dancing around. While not bursting with originality, it is a pretty cool slice of funk rock that immediately brings Hendrix to mind

“Sabertooth Saw” (10:05) starts out as another funky rocker. This one is trades off heaviness with cleaner funkiness. It has a basic melodic development and doesn’t deviate too much from it throughout its run. It has some moments of staccato chord heaviness and other heavy production induced fuzziness freak outs but really just sticks to the melody underneath it all. This one is ok but not terribly exciting either. Certainly not worthy of its time length.

This PIKE starts out fairly good with the first two tracks being of interest but the last two while not bad aren’t super exciting either. There’s enough on this one to call it good but not essential. Especially after a super exciting album like PIKE 47

BUCKETHEAD Pike 47 - Roller Coaster Track Repair

Album · 2014 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD - PIKE 47 - ROLLER COASTER TRACK REPAIR

6th album out of 60 in 2014 and 77th overall

All sounds brought to you by Buckethead and all instrumental

This one has only 2 tracks that clock in at 30:06

“Room 7” (15:21) begins fast and furious with heavy thrash metal riffs and scorching guitar solos right from the beginning. What a contrast to the previous PIKE :P This one is as energetic as it gets. The solos are the loose electrical wires on the gonad type of wankery just whizzing up and down the scales at a million miles per second. The guitar antics continue with strange guitar licks as well. This one basically continues an extreme parade of variations for the ultimate guitar abuse workout. This is probably the most extreme, lengthy and energetic guitar tracks i’ve ever heard not only from BUCKETHEAD but from any given shredder out there. This is one is spectacular not only because of the skill sets needed to pull off this guitar playing Olympic marathon run but because the bass has interesting counterpoint melodies at times and it all feels like a metal band swirling around in a vortex at times. Pretty cool! Despite the lengthy time span, this one keeps things changing up and therefore quite interesting!

“Room 12” (14:45) starts off with a weird staccato guitar chord and then without mercy is accompanied by a rip roaring guitar solo at a million miles per second. This track is less thrashy although it’s equally as intense. This one incorporate more alternative metal chord backings with lots of dissonance and time sig freak outs occurring and then being accompanied by more face melting (beneath the mask of course) freak outs and making it clear why BH’s hands are surrounded by yellow energy fields on the album cover. This one has melodies that come and go and kind of morphed into one another with some being very circus like. As it continues it really is like riding a roller coaster where the speed and twists and turns are just like everyone’s favorite amusement park ride. And then it dawns on me that this album is supposed to be the entertainment while the ride is under repair and it’s supposed to simulate the riding experience. Bravo!

This is one of BH’s most progressive and hard hitting albums and instantly jumps to the top of my PIKE list as it contains all the ingredients that i love most by the chicken lover. It is over-the-top aggressive, highly experimental and progressive and unpredictable in that it changes things up often in bizarre and unforeseen manners. It is relentless and not for the faint of heart. It is a rare glimpse into the fully unleashed nature of BUCKETHEAD who is capable of some of the most advanced pyrotechnic guitar workouts in the musical world and also sews them all together with pseudo-jazzy meets extreme metal valor. If you loved the extreme metal prowess of “Twisted Branches” or “You Can’t Triple Stamp A Double Stamp” then this one was made for you!

BUCKETHEAD Pike 46 - Rainy Days

Album · 2014 · Non-Metal
Cover art 0.50 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD - PIKE 46 - RAINY DAYS

5th album out of 60 in 2014 and 76th overall

All sounds brought to you by Buckethead and all instrumental

This one has 4 tracks that clock in at 31:07

“See-Through Cloud” (9:03) begins slow and mellow lazily with clean guitar, sleepy bass and subdued percussion. Oh no. This is going to one of those endless recurring looped tracks that never goes anywhere. I predict i’m about to waste a half hour of my life reviewing this one! Yep, it goes on too long as suspected with NOTHING interesting

“Underwater Rain Drops” (9:41) see description for previous track. It describes this one perfectly

“Light Through The Fog” (9:30) while it does have a little bit more energetic drive with a slight chugga chug into its mellow melodic development and has a slightly more rockin’ feel, it still hovers just below the above simmering stage and is still easy listening. This is the best track on the album but for an album that totally bites the big one, that ain’t saying much. Like the other tracks, it’s too repetitive, too uninspiring and waaaaaaaaay too long

“Rainbow” (2:53) finally a short track! Guess what! It’s slow and mellow! Surprise! It has a nice clean guitar riff and all is pretty much in sync with the other tracks. Another canned and recycled track

This is one of those excruciatingly dull PIKEs designed to punish us between the few and far between exciting ones. I know some have a taste for bland and repetitive music that has been done to death at this point but not i. If you have no musical standards and find this crap entertaining more power to ya but for me, there is really nothing redeeming about this one

BUCKETHEAD Pike 45 - The Coats of Claude

Album · 2014 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 2.00 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD - PIKE 45 - THE COATS OF CLAUDE

4th album out of 60 in 2014 and 75th overall

All sounds brought to you by Buckethead and all instrumental

This one has 7 tracks that clock in at 29:59

"The Coats of Claude" (13:26) is by far the longest track at nearly half the album’s length and begins with a distorted alternative metal type of guitar sound that is somewhere between mid and fast tempo. It has a recurring melodic chord progression but does change it up a bit by guitar licks, chord phasings and sizzling solos over those very progressions. It is a bit repetitive as it’s only a few chords passing the ball but the icings on the cake are decent and energetic. To be honest i’m totally done with this at 3:26 and it goes on 10 minutes longer. Yawn

"Ghost in the Rocking Chair" (2:59) continues the thrashfest and starts out super heavy and aggressive with some proggy touches and stays that way

"Animatronic Party Goers" (2:31) sounds a lot like the last track. Thrashy and heavy as hell with oddly timed time sigs and guitar riffage at a break neck speed. Sounds too much like the previous track actually.

"Dancing Backwards" (2:25) continues the previous track only faster and more furious. Stays so for the entire run

"Forked Beak" (1:48) continues with hard and heavy thrashy riffing metal madness with off kilter time sigs but is still as relentless

"Dimly Backlit Eyeballs" (2:29) is yet another hard and heavy thrashy metal track that offers strange time sig workouts and energetic outbursts of heavy metal delight but nothing not heard before on this album

"Headless Reflection" (4:21) is finally something slightly different with a weird guitar lick intro and then jumps into the expected thrash metal mode. It’s ok but nothing extremely inventive or exciting

This one is ok but it really is just one track after another that is too similar to get my attention. All of these highly headbangin’ thrashy metal tracks are good on their own but they sound too much alike for the most part with only little snippets standing out. Pretty meh actually

This one is just too samey and uninspired. Lots of furious hardcore thrash metal action but no substance. I really want to like this more but in the end there’s just too little variation and originality to even care when these PIKEs are a dime a dozen

BUCKETHEAD Pike 44 - You Can't Triple Stamp a Double Stamp

Album · 2014 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD - PIKE 44

3rd album out of 60 in 2014 and 74th overall

All sounds brought to you by Buckethead and all instrumental

This one has 13 tracks that clock in at 29:44

"You Can't Triple Stamp a Double Stamp" (2:27) begins with a church organ and then breaks into extreme heavy metal with frantic distorted guitar and bass and pummeling drum action. Caustic and unhinged to the max. As the metal drops out it has a strange hyperly plucked guitar with less energetic drums. Wow. This is excellent!

"Avalanche" (2:03) is another brilliantly super friggin’ fast metal behemoth with guitar strings being plucked at a million meters per second and the chord and melodic progression being slightly alternative in a progressive sludge metal type of way. Another cool track

"Cripes" (1:46) begins with heavy guitars fading in and out quickly and then jumps into heavy spastic metal. It has a progressive time sig approach with a thrash metal delivery system on speed. It also has the cool dynamic range that ups and downs the volume of the distortion at various moments. Quick and to the point. Excellent

"Silent City" (2:30) alternates weird jangly clean dissonant chords with super heavy dissonant sludgy adrenaline fueled guitar riffing. The drums are just as energetic as the bass and guitar. Lovein’ this one as whell. Nice weird progressive ending. It’s all proggy and headbangin!

"Treedotted Hillside" (1:44) starts out as a volume control exercise of taking a chord and playing with its ups and downs and then erupts into a extremely heavy riff based metal behemoth

"Wormfarm" (1:50) i love worms and have always wanted to start a worm farm. What am i waiting for? Worms rule! This is a very strange piece that has an angular rhythmic approach with lead guitar and after establishing itself bursts out into frenetic heavy metal

"Prominent Ghosts" (3:18) is yet another super fast and heavy metal rocker. Nice thrash riffage, nice stop and go staccato features which incorporate all the drums, bass and guitar. When it mellows for a moment it is very dissonant in a hyper type of progressive atmospheric sludge post metal way. It picks up again in full fury. I love it!!!! Ghosts are as cool as worms

"Flickering Lights" (2:03) has a very strange time sig presentation. This displays BH’s full-on regalia in the progressive realm as well as the heaviest headbangin’ metal he has to offer. There is also a nice atmospheric keyboard part at times to smooth out the madness. Another winner

"Extra Gloves" (2:18) slows things down but still offers a strange somewhat dissonant jazzy semi-distorted groove while a heavy metal riff joins and then overtakes. The metal riff becomes a jangle chord and then jumps into extreme heaviness again. Possibly the most extreme and fast track on the album. Merciless and brutal and heavy as a lead-lined brick collection on the Titanic

"Portrait Gallery" (2:31) pretty much follows suit with jangly arpeggios and an extremely brutal metal guitar delivery with time sigs bursting out of their holding cells just bouncing back and forth like insane asylum escapees. Freaking cool outro

"Tea and Strumpets" (2:10) slows things down a bit with a more expected alternative metal type of riff but doesn’t stay that way too long and jumps into a thrash metal extravaganza that reminds me of the later heavier parts of “One” by Metallica. It then jumps into strange guitar jangly licks that are dissonant and jazzy. It then goes back to extreme thrashy mode

"By The Moon" (1:58) is the mellowest track at least in intro when BH combines echoey effects with extreme thrashy aggression and then slows things down to simply an echo guitar part and then back to thrashy however this isn’t breakneck speed thrash. This is more like the standard alternative metal affair on many releases. The slow parts display full dissonant chord structures in action

"Snow Owl" (3:06) continues on the slower side. It does pick up but would be more suited on the alternative metal albums, well, until it starts picking up steam and turns into a thrash metal number that wouldn’t sound out of place on an early Megadeth album. OK, not bad but not terribly original either

This is a really good BUCKETHEAD PIKE if you like both hardcore intensity and experimental features. This is satisfying on an intensity level as well as a creative one. This album is a prime example of why i sift through this PIKE series despite countless duds. I have to work for the cream of the crop but when i get there i am so very happy to have finally found a treasure in the slunk stack. If you like avant-garde extreme metal that isn’t too far removed from reality then you will love this PIKE. Not perfect but very close

BUCKETHEAD Pike 43

Album · 2014 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD - PIKE 43

2nd album out of 60 in 2014 and 73rd overall

All sounds brought to you by Buckethead and all instrumental

This one has 6 tracks that clock in at 33:07

All tracks are untitled just like the album

This is one of those hand made albums that never got repackaged and retitled

First track (4:16) begins mellow with clean guitar and extra soft percussion. It remains that way. Yawn

Second track (7:33) also begins mellow with clean guitar and soft percussion. It is a bit more interesting in the melody department but sounds pretty much the same. The drums do pick up a bit more than the first track but only slightly. It turns into an echoey guitar run which and the drum and bass project it into mid-tempo range. Much better. This one is OK for the mellow side of BUCKETHEAD. All the echoes and clean mellow elements seem to work out on this one. It does rock out at the end with a guitar solo and distorted rhythmic guitar

Third track (8:14) starts out with clean guitar but is more of an acoustic classical guitar intro and then reverts back into a recognizable BH pattern of a recurring riff although the percussive drive on this one is fairly interesting as it has a certain flare to it unlike others of its ilk. Unfortunately it goes on too long and loses its luster but i do like the sleigh bells chiming along :P

Fourth track (1:13) is, surprise!, another mellow clean guitar track although the drums are a bit more energetic than they should be for this mellowness. This is a throwaway track as it adds absolutely nothing to the album experience

Fifth track (10:31) and this longest on the album behemoth begins even slower and even mellower with the usual clean guitar, bass and snail’s paced percussion. This could definitely qualify as slowcore. It’s not as bad as most of these types on his other albums. It has a nice melancholy and the slowness is observed by all individual aspects. It has a soft wah-wah guitar effect and evokes a sadness that just aches to infinity. I usually hate these soft and tender BH ballady types of tracks but this one actually balances out all of the proper ingredients to create a haunting and chilling effect. It does extend a bit too long but it has a staticky kind of background while the slowcore presentation unfurls into infinity

Sixth track (1:20) ends the PIKE with an echoey clean guitar run, bass and drums in mid-tempo. It’s a nice little number that is neither OMG brilliant nor offensive. It slightly picks up steam and subtly grows and grows faster.

While i usually hate these totally mellow PIKES, this one is not bad. It captures me in the melody department which is the key for these unenergetic releases that don’t have much else to offer. All of the elements are balanced for the most part making this a decent but not outstanding listen. I was quite surprised that i found this interesting to be honest :P

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