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Published: 2005/12/12
by Mike Greenhaus

Enter the Chicken – Buckethead and Friends

Serjical Strike

Buckethead: the man, the myth, the mutilated chicken. At some point in the future, Buckethead will no doubt be remembered as one of our generation’s most colorful characters — as well as the exact point where New York’s avant-garde jazz scene intersected with Los Angeles’ glam-metal contingency. But, for now, Buckethead is simply a working guitarist, who happens to sport a KFC-approved bucket for a hat and flaunts a somewhat twisted love of all things Disney.

Between recording sessions with equally weird, but (marginally) less colorfully dressed, downtown music vets like John Zorn and psychedelic/prog-rock legends like Bill Laswell, Buckethead has also built his own little canon over the past decade — as well as patented his own style of guitar. And, while Buckethead has clocked in time in both Laswell's Praxis, and Les Claypool’s Bucket of Bernie Brains, the oddball guitarist’s solo work tends to lean more towards metal — the style he briefly played as Axl Rose's right hand man in Guns 'n' Roses. On his latest solo release, Enter the Chicken, Buckethead virtually ignores his more experimental musings, returning to the razor-sharp metal he initially cut his teeth on.

Produced by System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian, Enter the Chicken is an album filled with experimental metal riffs, which, at its best, recall the earplug-required art of the Mars Volta and, at its worst, is on par with some of generic 1990s death metal. Given his three-dimensional personality, it’s no surprise that Enter the Chicken is pieced together through a series of short, artsy breaks, ranging from the ethereal “Intro” to the low-fi “Interlude.” Short and seemingly innocent thoughts, these tracks are basically used to create a sonic contrast with the metallic, guitar-driven numbers which form this album’s meat: “We are One,” “Funbus” and “Nottingham Lace.” While each track proves Buckethead’s guitar prowess, all too often his technical abilities are overshadowed by the screaming vocals and amped-up feedback characteristic of the metal genre. When Buckethead does venture into spacy territories, such as on the sparingly lush “Coma,” he still does so with consciously Satanic force.

Given his web of connections, it’s no surprise that Buckethead opted to go with the “friends” concept on his latest disc. Like his own style, Buckethead’s friends span the gamut from metal to socially charged hip hop. Tankian’s thumbprint is evident throughout, especially when Death by Stereo vocalist Elfrem Shulz lends his squalling voice to “Botnus” and “Funbus.” Noted world-music singer Azam Ali helps Buckethead reach for the cosmos on “Coma,” a number which comes across like a polluted track from space-pop icons Air. Perhaps the album’s most intriguing guest is the spoken-word poetry of Saul Williams, who adds a soulful beat to “Three Wishes,” Enter the Chicken’s most lyrically striking track. But, even though he doesn’t sing, Buckethead remains Enter the Chicken’s most distinct voice, with his progressive guitar tracks guiding this disc through a spectrum of metal-edged sound.

Since the jamband scene began to expand its border to include more alt-rock friendly musicians like Bucket, it’s helped broaden the scene’s universal palette. But, Saul Williams aside, Enter the Chicken is a full-on, prog-metal album — one which will likely resonate better in the ears of the Velvet Revolver faithful than fans of Zorn and Laswell. Until next time, one can only guess what Buckethead has on the menu.

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