Review

BUCKETHEAD Octave Of The Holy Innocents (with Jonas Hellborg & Michael Shrieve)

Album · 1993 · Non-Metal
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4.5/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
The album OCTAVE OF THE HOLY INNOCENTS (which is a mixing of two Christian biblical accounts - “Massacre of the Innocents” referring to the infanticide of Herod the Great and the term OCTAVE which refers to the eighth day after a feast) is a crossroads for the three distinct musical careers passing for a brief blip in time. The album was constructed and initiated by the Swedish jazz-fusion bassist JONAS HELLBORG who after working with the likes of Shawn Lane, John McLaughlin and a whole list of others decided to put together an acoustic trio of performers to cross-pollinate his jazz-fusion style with other musical talents.

On drums is the veteran percussive talent of MICHAEL SHRIEVE, the percussionist extraordinaire who helped usher Santana to worldwide fame when he wooed a new generation at Woodstock as the youngest performer in the entire event. Also on board was some new blood in the form of the strange chicken loving guitarist BUCKETHEAD who after only one album under his belt was already making waves in musicians’ circles. This is in fact only the second album he played on in 1993 at the tender age of 24. Instead of releasing the album under a solo billing, HELLBORG democratically gave the album credits to all three participants.

OCTAVE OF THE HOLY INNOCENTS is an all acoustic instrumental affair with five lengthy tracks clocking in over the 42 minute mark. BUCKETHEAD plays exclusively acoustic guitar whereas HELLBORG plays acoustic bass and adds keyboards occasionally. SHRIEVE sticks to a traditional drum set and steers clear of any of the Latin rhythms of his Santana days. The music on this one is primarily set within the context of HELLBORG’s style of jazz-fusion progressive chording and virtuosic bass slapping techniques. The tracks are well constructed jazz-fusion pieces that allow extended jamming sessions to let all three instrumentalists strut their stuff.

The fifteen minute opener “Rana And Fara” swallows up a whole third of the album and runs the gamut of extreme placid tranquil build ups that peak and trough and ultimately cede into more technical and energetic workouts. The true technical prowess is displayed on “Death That Sleeps In Them” where all three performers engage in jazz-fusion workouts that are literally melting strings and skins alike and display the newbie BUCKETHEAD more than able to keep up with the big kids on the block. “The Past Is A Different Country, I Don’t Live There Anymore” is a much more reflective piece that stretches out to over nine minutes and reminds me of some of Mahavishnu Orchestra’s more serene moments which obviously rubbed off on HELLBORG during his days with John McLaughlin.

“Child King” is probably my favorite track on the album as it traverses through flamenco meets jazz type workouts with a touch of Classical Hindustani in the mix. SHRIEVE exercises some of his most adroit drum and cymbal action on this one. “Kidogo” is an energetic closer that shows an exciting tension in the contrast of HELLBORG’s bombastic bass compete with the drums while BUCKETHEAD creates atmospheric slide effects and other mind-bending riffage. OMG! This is truly an album of top notch professionals at the helm and they all perform with each other spectacularly. There is not a shred of ego to be felt and each musician perfectly complements the other for the entirely of the album’s run. A very exciting stripped down piece of musical art here.
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