Buckethead – Shadows Between The Sky

Shadows Between the Sky

Throughout the last couple of decades you’d be hard pressed to find a more outwardly creative, unique and awe-inspiring individual than Buckethead. While many received a grand introduction to the man’s axe-slinging mastery through the video game franchise Guitar Hero, few actually know of his deep and outlandish discography, one which ranges from total fretboard worship to more subdued, quiet and transcendental soundscapes and everything in between. And I mean EVERYTHING. The fact that the super shredder behind the Jason Voorhees-esque mask has been able to retain total anonymity throughout the duration of his successful career (which ranges from performing as well as recording with Guns n’ Roses to side projects with Primus’s Les Claypool) is almost as impressive as his jaw dropping playing. While many may fail to look past initial impressions and pass him off as “just another guitar wanker,” those who dig deeper are sure to find a treasure trove of recordings of the utmost quality with Shadows Between The Sky remaining at the forefront of a discography spanning upwards of seventy albums.

Released in 2010, Shadows Between The Sky features many aspects that his more crowned and revered albums such as Electric Tears and Colma executed so well. From the classically influenced acoustic fingerpicking on “Greens Keeper” to the glassy, clean-toned arpeggios and enthralling chord progressions on “Sled Ride,” everything is executed with such focus and precision that makes one thing blatantly clear; Big B means business. While a slight majority of Buckethead’s albums rely on profound, intense and unsettling guitar virtuosity, Shadows Between The Sky favors a much more calmed and serene set of soundscapes which are akin to laying in a lush garden as opposed to head banging in a mosh pit. Beauty is a central theme here as each one of the album’s fifteen tracks venture through intense but comfortable apexes and satisfying resolutions with no distortion or fancy pedalboard-fused effects throughout. The production is spot on as well. Everything from the sparse laid-back drum rhythms and dreamy bass to the aforementioned guitars are layered and delivered with utmost precision. Indeed, Buckethead has arguably never sounded better.

While Shadows Between The Sky is best embraced as a congruent whole, there are moments that stand out upon individual listens. One of the slower paced tracks, “Sea Wall,” features decelerated clean picked arpeggiated chords only to leave the listener swept away in one of the record’s more memorable and ensnaring musical model progressions. The title track is also of deserving of accolade, especially for the agile, nylon tranced guitar solo that finishes the track and starts the album off on an unbelievably high note. While a majority of Shadows Between The Sky’s tracks are devoid of percussion there are still moments where the grooves really shine. “Sled Ride” is one of the more up-tempo and technically captivating “wedges” throughout the man’s entire discography, displaying a crisp backing drum track and all the finger-licking licks any guitar enthusiasts could ask for.

Shadows Between The Sky is a work of majestic beauty, deserving of every piece of admiration and accolade it stumbles upon, a gem of a recording that is as fitting to snuggle up with a good book to as it is to fall asleep to. Those new to the man’s work need not be thrown off by his unorthodox approach to the electric guitar as Buckethead has so much more to offer than a simple Youtube search of his name might suggest. Shadows Between The Sky remains accessible while offering many underlying elements that retain intrigue and mystique upon repeated listens. There’s simply no sour track to be found amongst the bunch, a rarity in guitar-focused instrumental music made all the more impressive due to the fact that he released five albums in the same year. Music in general rarely reaches the level of diversity and tranquility that Buckethead has achieved with Shadows Between The Sky, an album that is as genuine as it enjoyable and by all means essential.

4.8/5

Tracklist for Shadows Between The Sky:
1. “Shadows Between the Sky”
2. “Inward Journey”
3. “Chaos of the Unconscious”
4. “Rim of the World”
5. “City of Woe”
6. “Sea Wall”
7. “Sled Ride”
8. “Sunken Statue”
9. “Cookies for Santa”
10. “Andrew Henry’s Meadow”
11. “Centrum”
12. “The Cliffs Stare”
13. “Greenskeeper”
14. “Wax Paper”
15. “Walk on the Moon”

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