Well, at this point I think the number of albums he's released since I've gone through his discography alone exceeds the number of Pikes that were available at the time. I'm sure there's some good stuff there but I do not have the time or energy to sort through it right now. I revisit Buckethead fairly frequently but it's almost exclusively his pre Pike work.
Pike #22: Sphere Facade
I’m just jumping straight back in where I left off three(?) years ago, which is a blessing and a curse - a blessing in that I can devote time to just listening to new Bucket albums without slogging back through all the ones I already heard once; and a curse because not only does that mean that I will not get a chance right now to listen to some of his proper albums which I may have a completely different experience with nowadays, but also because I might start with a bad string of albums. Listening to Buckethead is like playing Russian roulette in a lot of ways.

And yeah, this album is not a great reintroduction to his material. There’s a mix of electronic music and heavy riffing, which is all right in its own way but just doesn’t interest me. It feels like he’s experimenting with styles instead of honing it in and just nailing down some great music. A taster if you will. I’m reading through the old comments from this thread and it’s funny that @Mosh actually likes this sort of stuff more than those first three electronica albums from the early 2000s. (Bermuda Triangle, of course, being the record I latched onto immediately when I first heard it. Gotta spin that one again!)

To me, it’s just nothing special. Bucket never lets a song build up and then take it soaring to the stratosphere. It’s a one-concept record, with only the final, simple little distortionless “Game Grid” offering something different as a final note for the Pike. Even then it doesn’t grab me. I did notice a riff in here somewhere that felt like a re-creation of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal”, which, I dunno if that was intentional or not, but cool if it was, I know Bucket is an MJ fan (multiple ways to interpret that lol).

Nothing bad, but nothing interesting. I got lost in it, and not in a good way. D

Pike #23: Telescape

A better album than #22, but not without its share of flaws. When it kicked in with that spacey vibe and then jumped right into an ass-kicking riff, I was ready for a good time. The problem is that this album, while featuring a lot of heavy riffs… just features a lot of heavy riffs (with a couple exceptions). That’s fine in a way, and I think that “Land Drawings” is the best of the first four because the riffs are super interesting and it takes that concept to good places, but songs like “Pyramids Rising” or “Between Sea and Sky” feel like they’re waiting to be taken to that next level, crying out for a killer guitar solo to just let loose, but they never do. And “Launch Pad” doesn’t fully launch.

Things change with the final two companion title tracks. “Telescape 1” is the bigger sibling, longer and letting itself build more, but knowing exactly when to rock. “Launch Pad” introduced some weird spacey sound effects to the record, and this song builds upon that in a good way. Some sections in this song really mellow out, as though it’s supposed to reflect the loneliness of space. But I’m still looking for that explosion to come.

Which it finally does on “Telescape 2”. Slimmer and more fit than its sibling, the first half of this song is solid riffings as is the album’s standard, and it gets repetitive quick. But man, the second half is that guitar solo I’ve been waiting for all this time. Fucking sick! Instantly bumps up my experience, I just wish it hadn’t come so late in the runtime.

It’s a mixed bag for sure. More thought-out than Sphere Facade but doesn’t quite hit the stratosphere until “Telescape 2”, and even then that’s a song of halves. There’s good stuff in this one that’s well worth revisiting, but it also gets bogged down by its concept - sometimes there’s too much of a good thing, and this album just has too much riff. C

Pike #24: Slug Cartilage

Okay, so we’re in a Pike period where the riff is the all-important component of Buckethead’s output. Noted. So on that note, this is the best one yet. Lot of great grooves and movements throughout and the way each track is pieced together is less janky than on Sphere Facade. I love how the heavy, distorted guitar interacts with what I think is bass? but could just be distortionless electric guitar being plucked? Feeling like a novice here.

But yeah, the way those two aspects interact is super cool. It’s worth noting that all these riffs on these albums have mostly been chugging. Groovier chugging. Maybe like a mountain railway kind of chug. Bucket’s production isn’t bad, but it obviously won’t hit you in the face like a Pantera does. This is chicken chugging, folks.

The first two tracks set the standard for the full album, and it’s not till “Previous Plate” that the good stuff really comes to the table. Here the bass king of thing sets up a riff kind of thing and then the heavy guitar comes in and copies that, sometimes jumping in early to surprise you, which is dope as fuck. It’s probably the stand-out of the album; the rest of the songs blend together and just do what they wanna do, no more, no less. “I. Wasnail” finishes the Pike out with some slow riffing and fade, bringing things to a close as though the chickens of Hiroshima have finally gone to rest.

It’s good background music, for sure. I can get lost in this in a positive way, and there’s more on this record for me to sink my teeth in. I like it, and the lack of solos actually works here. I dunno if it’s gonna be a keeper though. Definitely another step up. B

Pike #25: Pancake Heater

A bit of a continuation of Slug Cartilage with a few more dynamics added in. The spotlight isn’t shared as much with the (again, I think it’s the bass?), here the heavy guitar is the star of the show. Not every moment rips you off your seat, but I really like the grooves this album brings and its highlights top most of what we’ve heard on the last three albums.

Two songs in particular really shine here. The first is “Trough Feeder”, which has some groovy fucking shit going on. The second, and the highlight of the whole album, is “Beak to Scoop”, which is pure classic Buckethead in riff form. Still no solos to be seen, but here you have something that could have easily been part of one of his classic pre-Pike albums with a few alterations. I think that my favorite Bucket songs are the ones that feel like typical songs with a verse and chorus, but the guitar is doubling as the vocals. This is one of those songs for sure, with some smooth riffing really flowing over you in sweet Buckethead style.

Like I said, not every moment here is fantastic, and I think the previous album was a little more consistent in quality, but the peaks here are truly great and I think it’s another solid album on the same level as Slug Cartilage. B

Pike #26: Worms for the Garden

And we’re ending the day on a high note! In a lot of ways, Worms for the Garden is both a continuation of the past two albums, and a culmination of the past three. Finally, after a stretch where the solo gets pushed off to the side or just isn’t present at all, it’s back with a vengeance here.

The album opens with the 18-minute title track, which, after a few short introductions, just kicks into an extended guitar solo which never ceases to stop and always finds something new to wip out as it stands at the forefront of an army of annelids. It’s nice to hear Bucket go for broke again; he’s playing to his strengths and the song is definitely not boring. It does overstay its welcome a bit, though. 18 minutes are a bit too much, but such is the nature of the beast, I guess. The fact that it fades out at the end makes me suspect that this was the radio edit, and there’s a longer, more intricate, more segmented “Worm for the Garden” out there somewhere, buried under leaves and topsoil.

But yeah, it’s still good. My biggest issue with shred guitarists is that a lot of them forsake soul for noodles. Bucket has noodles, sure, but there’s still a lot of soul in there. And the noodles play to a certain sound that he’s going for, so that works out in the end too.

The title track alone is good, but the (much shorter) remaining four songs really seal the deal here. Instead of solos we go back to the riffs, and they fucking rock. Heavy as hell, groovy as fuck, knock you out of the park - this whole Pike is just so fun and so much more interesting and investing than the previous ones.

The four songs at the end really illustrate that Bucket can do the heavy riff-centric tracks with ease when he’s completely focused; and the monstrous title track reminds you that a Bucket of fried chicken is only intensified when served with pasta. Or something. This album strikes a great balance in the vein of Crime Slunk Scene. It’s not perfect, but it’s Buckethead playing to his strengths. A
Pike #27: Halls of Dimension
Now we’re really getting somewhere. Halls of Dimension is a lot more of the Buckethead that I really like. It also has a lot of surprises up its sleeve. With opening track “McDougal Street”, you get seven minutes of really fun bluesy playing that sets you up for an expectation of a laid back album. This is Buckethead laying back and just letting the music flow, and there are nice build-ups and mellow moments to balance out when he goes ham. It’s all very tasteful and there are several moments that have me playing air guitar.

But the rest of the album is nothing like that. The majority of the remaining runtime is dedicated to the several-track title song “Halls of Dimension”, which feels like a side-long prog affair in the vein of Yes, only with all the Buckethead stylings turned up to the max. The relaxed feel of “McDougal Street” is gone, replaced with a much heavier and more chaotic sound. Not every moment here is spectacular, but as one piece it’s really good.

“Hall 1” is one of the highlights for sure. Killer riff opens up, and it’s so fucking groovy. It’s balanced out with some good soloing and takes a few different detours as we walk along. The other tracks follow the same sort of routine; you never really know when you’ve left one hall and when you’ve entered another, as a lot of these halls have different angels and bends that you don’t expect until you’ve stumbled upon them.

“Hall 5” is another great one, here Bucket starts toying around with some stringed instrument that sounds absolutely beautiful. Not 100% sure what it is but I love it. Then a tinge of darkness and he basically outdoes in on the electric guitar. This piece flows into the second part of the song (much shorter than the first), which is just five minutes of Buckethead noodles. On its own it wouldn’t be one of his best solos, but as a finale to the piece? It’s a really good touch.

Finally we have “Suns Set”, which takes us back to the heavy Bucket riffing and closes us out in style. Great Pike all around, love how it showcases different aspects of his playing throughout, and feels very balanced as an album despite basically consisting of just three songs. You’ve got the bluesy, the experimental, and the heavy, and they all work nicely together and they’re all a lot of fun. Awesome. A

Pike #28: Feathers

After the very strong Halls of Dimension, Buckethead returns to business as usual with seven tracks that feel very well balanced. The first two songs are short and heavy; then with the third we start to get more expanded affairs. There’s some really groovy shit going on in “Mill”, while “Faded” has some great leadwork. There’s a bit too much waffling going on in these songs, though.

The highlight here is definitely “Cactus Spines”, a very sparse piece that has a great atmosphere. Lovely break from the rest of the album and perfectly sequenced to give yourself a little break. This is one to listen to in the rain.

“Lake Whisperer” is an all-bass Bucket buster, solid enough, and the closing “Rooster Row” is all noodles, no chicken, with a decent amount of lazer blasting too. It’s a bit much to be honest. This isn’t a bad Pike by any means, and there’s some good stuff here (not to mention the tracklist is extremely well-balanced), but it also just doesn’t do all that much for me. C

Pike #29: Splatters

I went in expecting this Pike to basically be a single song split into four tracks, but actually each of these tracks have pretty clear start and stop points, although they all basically have the same approach, which is noodling. Listening to this album it suddenly struck me that in a lot of ways Buckethead is a bit like the Jackson Pollock of music. As the title implies, there’s a lot of splatters here, some of them a little more aimless than others, but they give a pretty good impression nonetheless.

The first “Splatter” is probably the best, mostly because in ten minutes it basically nails down the noodling he’s trying to do in a solid track. Tracks 2 and 3 play around with the bass a bit more, and track 4 basically finishes off with extra noodling. Some of the ideas are interesting, some of the bits are good, and I wasn’t bored throughout the runtime. It’s solid Bucket noodles, nothing crazy special, but it’s a solidly enjoyable Pike overall. B

Throwback #1
Crime Slunk Scene

Every ten albums or so I’d like to go back over some of the albums I already heard, especially since a lot of them I only heard once over three years ago. I figured I’d start with Crime Slunk Scene since that one always stuck out to me as basically the most classic, standard Buckethead album, and I still agree with that now.

I love “King James”, it’s a contender for my favorite Buckethead song overall. The way it kicks off with that killswitch lead and moves through several different pieces that all build on each other always gets me. It’s tight, it’s focused, it uses the guitar in wonderful fashion and I never really get tired of it. I like it even more today than I did a few years ago.

Of course the other big highlight here is “Soothsayer”, probably the most beloved song in Bucket’s catalogue. It’s nine minutes long and starts out calmly before building up into a lengthy solo section. It’s a wonderful tribute to his aunt and was also my introduction to the musician and it’s still awesome. I will say that over time my appreciation of the solo has diminished a bit; it feels like he could’ve tightened some sections up a bit, and it gets a little too noodly in places. But damn, when it’s on, it’s really fucking on. Definitely well worth the praise it’s received and a classic for a reason.

“Soothsayer” basically divides the album in half, with five shorter songs on each side of it. Now while I always liked the whole album, “King James” and “Soothsayer” always overshadowed the other nine songs, and I think that’s the way it is for a lot of people too. But don’t sleep on those tracks; they deepen the greatness of the record and why it is such a classic Bucket record. Each of them highlight bits and pieces of why he’s such a great musician, while also having their own life and not feeling like tossed out scribbles like some of his work admittedly does. They all clearly had time and effort put into them.

“Gory Head Stump 2006: The Pageant of the Slunks” is groovy as hell and has a lengthy build as Bucket solos in a lovely, bluesy fashion. “The Fairy and the Devil” is dark and moody but boy does it really hit some high peaks by the end. “Buddy Berkman’s Ballad”, meanwhile, switches between heavy and quiet pieces, while “Mad Monster Party” is exactly what the title suggests - a stomping, angry, mad monster party.

The five songs after “Soothsayer” all feel like they expand on Bucket’s mechanic, robotic styles, with the one exception being “Col. Austin vs Col. Sanders aka Red Track Suit”, which is a barnstormer that also has some lovely, ghostly quieter pieces. It’s so good. I love how all these songs have, in a sense, choruses, highlighting how much effort the man put into these tracks.

Not only is every song here good, I would argue that all of them are great. This is pretty much everything I want in a Buckethead release. Sure, there are some aspects of his work that aren’t present here, but as far as his riffs, solos, and writing goes, this is the standard they all get held up to for me. It’s not necessarily my favorite of his releases, but it’s up there, and if by the end you’re not ready to parade with the slunks, I don’t know what to tell you. It’s the album I’d recommend to anyone interested in getting into his work, as it gives a pretty good impression as to what Buckethead is like when he’s on. fucking. point. S
Pike #30: Mannequin Cemetery
Seems appropriate that after the full-on noodling in Splatters that we should return to a full-on rifffest with the follow-up. I actually think that a good number of the tracks on Mannequin Cemetery are among the best heavy material I’ve heard from Bucket. Since about 2020 I’ve really taken a liking to fat, chugging riffs with squeals and screams and shit, so this was right up my alley. Not every song here fully grabbed, including the title track at the end, but the majority of it is a lot of fun to rock out to. B

Pike #31: Pearson’s Square

After a streak of mostly heavier-oriented Pikes, Bucket pulls out the acoustic guitar for a really nice breather. It’s always good to hear the softer side of the Bucket Man and this is a really worthy addition to the discography. Certain parts of it run a little overlong, but the base elements are all super good.

The title track is super chill, autumnal in a way, filled with a bit of wanderlust. “Eagle’s Nest” and “Eagle’s Flight” seem to flow together, encapsulating the freedom of nature and travel. The root ‘riff’ keeps repeating in here, with Buckethead just changing his leads over top it, until the end where things shift gears a bit for a satisfying closure. “Eagle’s Flight” is a bit long, over 11 minutes, but it’s pretty good throughout.

“Hearts Delight” is really the star of the show here. Again, a bit overlong but oh my god is it beautiful. Some of Bucket’s most soulful playing.

I could’ve used a little more variety and some bits could’ve been cut down but overall this was a positive release. The great parts are super good and it’s a wonderful change of pace as the Pikes progress. B

Pike #32: Rise of the Blue Lotus

A continuation of the previous Pike, but even better. This is one of those Buckethead releases you can get lost in, sucked into the rhythms and the serenity. There’s a melancholy to this Pike that’s completely devoid of any sorrow that oft accompanies that melancholy; no, this is melancholy in its most joyous fashion. Sometimes you need to sit with your twilight-tinged emotions and let them well over inside of you to grasp the happiness covered under the moss in your soul.

“Mountain Cabin” is simple and to-the-point, exactly what it says on the tin. This is music I would 100% play in my mountain cabin as the smoke wafts over my chimney, as the brook streams by my door, as I sit and watch the daisies from my rocking chair, all alone in the breadth of the woods with nature as my only companion. Meanwhile, “The Flooding of Pain” seems to coax joy to bubble to the surface, to embrace your mortal weaknesses and to just let go and drift with the music. And the title track shifts gears, keeping the serene sounds going but adding a much-needed aspect of empowerment to the mix. As the little chorus rolled over me it really made me want to start fighting off the tyrants of the woods to free all the little flowers and bees.

Basically, this is Buckethead’s mellow side perfectly embraced and executed incredibly well. These songs are also longer but more focused than on the previous album, and seem to expand on what “Hearts Delight” was only hinting at. Beautiful, gorgeous stuff. A

Pike #33: Pumpkin

And now for something completely different. Credit where credit is due, this Pike really sounds like a haunted rollercoaster in Bucketheadland. I appreciate what it’s supposed to do, and it’s not bad per se, but damn, it just goes on and on and on. It’s fairly chaotic too, with eighteen tracks adding different aspects of the theme park attraction. As a one-off I don’t really mind it too much (thirty minutes is about fifteen too much, though), but it did have me thinking that if those 32 Halloween Pikes from 2015 are going to be like this, I might have to eject from the ride. At least the banjo playing at the end was neat. I guess. D

Pike #34: Pikes

The circumstances surrounding when you listen to music can change your appreciation of that music, and that might be the case with Pike #34, simply entitled Pikes. I decided to take a bit of a detour home to give this record a listen. The sun had set hours before; there was no moon to be seen; fog was rolling in; and as I drove through silent and quiet backroads, I found that I had picked as my sole companion the perfect album for the drive.

Pikes is a continuation of Pumpkin, obviously, from number to cover to title (Pumpkin Pikes). But instead of just continuing the wild barrage of spooky sounds from the previous Pike, this one is way more subtle, a lot more focused, and lets the atmosphere take complete hold of the reins. If #33 was a haunted rollercoaster, then this is a haunted tunnel. But it also brought to mind children’s TV shows, like Thomas & Friends or TUGS, and how they would use music to intensify ghostly escapades.

It’s almost like a photo negative-negative to Pike 33 in the way that it uses time to build the tension. There are some moments that actually made me jump. Pike 33 had one track that randomly started playing weird telephone-ish noises; this one repeated that slightly but made it really feel like the sound of a signal as a train navigates through the dark. So much better. So much more investing.

One other thought I had was that some of these elements almost remind me of Tool. And if I can sit through four minutes of bug zapper noises and actively enjoy it, then there’s no reason why I can’t sit through thirty minutes of amusement park ambience and actively enjoy it.

The chaos comes out a little bit towards the end, but as the ride comes to an end I’ve actually found that I’ve loved the journey. For a Pike that I was really dreading, I was absolutely floored to find that not only is it good, but I fucking love it. Sure, I fully admit that I might be biased because of my experience while listening to it, and returning to it in the future might change things, but right now I will say that it’s among the best Buckethead releases I’ve heard to date. Very different from his usual stuff, but surprisingly right up the alley of my inner spook-obsessed child. S

Pike #35: Thank You Ohlinger’s

After some tinkering with haunting ambience Bucket returns as the riff-god to slay all posers, and may I say, what a thoroughly enjoyable experience from start to finish. This one eschews a lot of the chugging from previous Pikes for a higher-end, looser metallic sound that never breaks into solos per se but often feels similar. And he is absolutely on fire here, every single track is killer, and it only gets better as it goes along.

One thing that stands out to me about this release is that it does not feel unbalanced like some, where the lengthy title track dominates over the shorter remnants. No, every song here feels like they’re all part of the bigger puzzle. The nine-minute title track is only the start; it doesn’t really feel much longer than the others. One thing that helps is the way it’s arranged - it feels like Buckethead had a bunch of different pieces that he seemlessly stitched together to create one long song. It’s pretty great.

But again, the record only gets better as it goes along. Starting from “Alphabetical Order” each song tops the one before it. There’s weirdness arranged in methodical fashion, heavier moments, almost soul-screaming ones, but they always keep in line, ready to march with the slunks into the great wide open. There’s also a lot of moments that seemed reminiscent of Iron Maiden (the beginning of the title track is pretty much “Fear of the Dark”, awesome to hear) and Metallica (with a little bit of their usual clunkiness mostly ironed-out with Bucket’s sway). Meanwhile, the beginning of “Shoe Lock” felt like a hard rock / glam metal riff, until it transformed into a Dream Theater-style explosion. Really cool.

Overall? Awesome Pike, one of the best in the series so far. This is the kind of Buckethead riffing I am all-in for, and I think that as time goes on it’ll become a great favorite of mine. A

Pike #36: The Pit

I’d heard of this Pike before I even started listening to Buckethead thanks to the Edgar Allan Poe story, and it seems like it’s a really popular one among the fanbase. I can see why. The six-part title track does not feel its 20-minute length at all, and is incredibly engaging throughout. I love the quiet, ominous intro that drops the drums when it gets reprised as the outro. Well-rounded stuff.

Between the beginning and end we get a lengthy stretch of powerhouse riffing that feels like you’re falling through the pit. Whereas the intro and outro section dip their toes into some horror vibes, everything in between, I think, is more akin to Alice in Wonderland, with new stuff to see as you pass through each layer, none of it frightening but all of it odd. Part 4 is the best, with a lot of tension being built up throughout it.

I do think that the payoff doesn’t quite hit the way I’d like it to. Part 5 is solid, but the previous parts were better and when it switches into the outro in Part 6 it feels a little sudden. Maybe this is just stuff that will be ironed out on a further listen, though - the majority of this track is great.

Then you’ve got an eight-minute coda in the form of the entirely acoustic “The Pendulum”. It’s incredibly serene, like you’ve gone through the pit and emerged on the other side and can now take in the sun again. It’s a little long but it’s very peaceful music.

Put it together and I can really see why this one is so beloved. There’s a lot of focus in here, and perfectly weighted. The light balances the dark, the soft balances the heavy. Very good Pike. A

Pike #37: Hollowed Out

We’re in a really good stretch of Pikes now, and Hallowed Out is a big standout for me. This one has riffing, but places a bigger emphasis on guitar leads than other Pikes have done. There’s also a ton of melodic playing on here as well. The seven-and-a-half-minute opener “Low Rolling Hills” kind of sets the tone for the rest of the Pike. It opens with some of his most incredibly emotive lead work and is truly spectacular. I wish he built on this even more, but always one to dodge expectations, the song instead dives into some Megadeth-esque riffing instead, and switches through more melodic and more heavy bits until the finale.

The rest of the Pike is really well-balanced in this regard as well. You’ll have “One Foot in Front of the Other”, which has some awesome mellow playing, and then “Sideways Jaw Trap”, which is more typical iconic Bucket work, with guitar notes in a flurry. “Trading Post” is a major highlight; never stagnant, always moving but filled with power and style; love the leadwork in this song.

The best track is saved for the very end, though. A complete deviation from everything that’s come before, “Hallowed Out” is a completely acoustic affair, with an ominous backing track giving it structure. What shocked me, and what I’m surprised few people comment on, is how this track reuses the backing track to “The Pit Part 1”. I really like the choice though, and it gives the title of the song new meaning. I think “Hallowed Out” is an even better track than its predecessor too; the acoustic playing is amazing and it’s an incredibly somber way to end out the Pike.

As a whole there’s so much to love here. Not all of the sections flow as well as I’d like, but every track is filled with great moments, all culminating to a spectacular ending. Well worth your time. A

Pike #38: It Smells Like Frogs

A solid Pike, but not quite as good as the four that preceded it. In the same vein as The Pit, this one opens up with a multi-part epic, this time almost 25 minutes in length. What separates “Gold Dragon” from “The Pit”, though, is that it definitely feels its length. There’s not to much variety in style, it’s pretty much just an assembly line of riffing. Good riffing, but it feels a lot more aimless than I want it to. There are moments that come back at the end, but largely it’s just a blur.

I appreciate the title track stitched onto the end, and the way it utilizes some of Bucket’s wackier playing to really make it smell like frogs. As a whole it’s a good Pike, and his playing is sharp as always, but it doesn’t grab me in the ways that especially the last three do. B

Pike #39: Twisterlend

The first track on Twisterlend is a phenomenal stand-out from Buckethead. “The Closed Triptych” is over 11 minutes long, and none of it feels like time wasted. There’s a ton of soloing here, but it doesn’t really dive into the typical Buckethead noodles, instead opting for soul-soaring swings and ascensions. It’s fucking awesome.

I don’t think the rest of the Pike matches this track, though. The other tracks make up for the lack of noodles in “Triptych”, and it’s all very strong playing, it just doesn’t grip me as much. The closing title track is cool though, with some dark mellow bits between the heavier parts. Definitely feels like an amusement park.

Strong album, but not perfect. B

Pike #40: Coat of Charms

Now for a much milder affair all-around. The first two tracks here are fully acoustic, a reprieve from the heaviness of the previous Pikes. There’s some incredibly playing on them, too. But then we’ve got another twenty-minute, multi-part track in the form of “Jettison”, which brings back heaviness and balances it with the acoustics. I love the back-and-forth here, and the playing is really cool. Much better than “Gold Dragon” and honestly a lot of this is even better than “The Pit”. It’s a better-weighted track that knows where it’s going and where it wants to go. Great Pike all-around. A

Pike #41: Wishes

And if Coat of Charms wasn’t mellow enough for you, then Wishes should do the trick. The opening track “Ascending Soul” is exactly what it sounds like, featuring a flurry of acoustic playing that is absolutely incredible. It’s just under three minutes in length and is the highlight of the Pike.

Unfortunately the other three tracks are just too long with not enough variation to keep me focused. They’re not bad, they just drag. The playing here is really good, but they all have a similar shuffling rhythm underlying them that, especially for eight- and fifteen-minute tracks, does get old. I think this would be a great Pike to play during a massage or when trying to fall asleep, but as focused listening it just doesn’t do enough for me. C

Pike #42: Backwards Chimney

Pretty ugly cover to this Pike, but fortunately the music is really good. This is another mellower Pike, but it takes a lovely, bluesy approach that really brings out Buckethead’s incredible playing super well. Each track here is super strong, and the melodies and soloing are fabulous. My one problem is that arguably the best track, the closing “Other Paths”, ends way too soon! Otherwise there’s nothing much to add here, just a very strong release. A

Pike #43

The thing with Buckethead’s untitled works is that you never really know what to expect. I certainly was not expecting the sheer amount of quality on display here. This isn’t a Pike I’ve seen heralded online, but my god was I absolutely floored. It continues what Bucket has been doing over the past few Pikes and really expands on it in incredible ways.

Thing is, you don’t expect that from the first track. Four minutes of quiet, somber, mellow guitarwork; it’s great, but you don’t really need a whole thirty minutes of that. And on this Pike, Buckethead really understands that. Track 2 is a lot more lively and has more pep in its step, building and building in glorious fashion until a proper, mind-blowingly emotive guitar solo erupts from the speakers. Glorious. This has to be one of his best tracks.

We come down from those heights for more peppy world-building in soothing, happy fashion. The big epic of this album is Track 5, ten-and-a-half minutes of quiet, contemplative playing that brings back the slow methodical rhythms from Wishes but improves on what that album only hinted at. I was a little unsure of this track at the start but it does not disappoint. It’s music to get lost in and it doesn’t drag at all.

That’s the thing about Pike 43; it doesn’t drag. A lot of Bucket’s work will have small sections where you’re like “okay, I get it”, and some will get ridiculously lost under their own weight. This one knows how to build to where it wants to go and not only reaches those heights but then goes even higher. Definitely some of the most incredible playing I’ve ever heard from him. Even Tracks 4 and 6, which are short little interludes if you will, I would have loved to hear him expand on. They’re awesome, but man imagine if he’d continued what they started.

And ultimately that’s the biggest thing about this Pike. With a lot of others I’m okay with their 30 minute runtimes, and there are some that I think could’ve been cut even shorter. With Pike 43, I would have loved to hear Buckethead expand this into a proper 40+ minute album like before the series began. It’s just so good. This is easily the best Pike in the series so far. In spite of the lack of titles or the faceless cover, you’re not getting a simply churned-out Buckethead recording with zero thought put into it. Rather, with this release Buckethead uses the following philosophy: The music speaks for itself. S

Been cramming Buckethead into about any moment that I can, add yesterday on my day off I went and knocked out a full seven. It's been a really good stretch for him, with only one C-Tier album (which still had its own merits) and one D-Tier album (rollercoaster ambience); and then two very different Pikes that left me really astounded and which I think rank up there with his best work for vastly different reasons. Curious to see how long he can keep this standard up and if/when the quality will start to drop. Right now I'm still very much enjoying these Pikes and I think they bring a lot of different stuff to the table.

Also glad that @Mosh did this already because his notes and reviews are a nice grounding point for me. Looking forward to when @CriedWhenBrucieLeft started reviewing the reviews (around Pike 60 IIRC) so I can get his thoughts too.
This summarizes my highlights for releases since 2018.

Fourneau Cosmique - Good title track, though a little long to my taste.
Unexpected Journeys - Familiar Spirit is a good song, though he also posted it for free.
Skeleton Keys - All four songs are strong.
Through the Looking Garden - One long, good song.
Ghouls of the Graves - Good title track.
Fork - I'm listing this one because I find it memorable, but I don't like it. Its Malcolm Young with no Angus, and no Malcolm lead either.
Vincent Price - I think the first song is very good, though a little long.
Warm Your Ancestors - Good title track.
Thank You Taylor - Good multi-part song, a bit boring to me, includes a chord sequence like the bridge in Trapped Under Ice, which I've heard variations of on a couple other Pikes also.
Dancing Soul - Good long song, a bit boring to me.
Dream Meadow - One long good mellow song.
Wellspring - One long good mellow song.
Treehouse Backwards in Time - This is variations on the Keep On Rockin' in the Free World riff, but I think it does rock.
Communicating Through the Stars - Another long song, and I like this one also.
In The Sky - Two good songs.
Emeryville Mudflats - One long relatively atonal but listenable song.
Moon Water - Two good songs, though the title track has almost exactly the same background as the song Leave the Light On
Blue Dunes - The title track is very much like Phase Yellow from The Mighty Microscope, but longer and with a bit more edge.
Sculpture Spirits Remain - I usually don't like weird, but this one is good.
Live From Patchwork Mountain - I think all the live albums at the music.bucketheadpikes site have terrible sound quality, except for Live in Bucketheadland, which sounds live in the studio to me. But I bought them all anyway, to support the artist, and with the intent of using machine learning to improve them when I get time someday. This one has a longer than usual version of Revenge of the Double Man that I especially like, aside from the sound quality. Note the Doors lick in it.

To help clarify what I mean by "good", I don't like Buckethead's experimental stuff very much. The more its like conventional rock, blues, or metal, typically the more I like it.

I think 2013 and 2014 were much better years, but I'm not complaining. Buckethead could crank out nothing that I consider listenable for the rest of his life and I'd still be grateful for the ~1300 songs from him that I enjoy listening to.
This summarizes what for me are the high points prior to 2018, with non-pikes listed first, and otherwise approximately in descending order of personal preference:

Ghost Host - released as Decoding the Tomb of Bansheebot
The Elephant Man's Alarm Clock - I particularly like Lurker at the Threshold Part 2
Electric Tears - I like this better than Colma or Electric Sea, but those are good too
Population Override - $15 on bandcamp (don't listen to it if you don't like the price, IMO)
The Dragons of Eden - $10 on bandcamp - another good one with Travis Dickerson
Pepper's Ghost
A Real Diamond in the Rough
Captain EO's Voyage
3 foot clearance - this is the third pike, but its an album re-release, hence its length
Claymation Courtyard
Backwards Chimney
Hold Me Forever
Polar Trench
Monument Valley
Look Up There
Old Toys
Forgotten Library
The Silent Picture Book
Worms for the Garden
The Pit
March of the Slunks
Paint to the Tile
Final Bend of the Labyrinth
Leave the Light On
Rooms of Illusions
Closed Attractions
Pike Doors
The Spirit Winds
It Smells Like Frogs
Oneiric Pool
Sideway Streets
The Astrodome
Our Selves

I think that's most of them where I like the whole record or close to it. There are many others like Crime Slunk Scene, Enter the Chicken, or Bolt On Neck which have individual songs which I consider to be more than worth the purchase price of the record.
Two Buckethead songs that sound notably like Iron Maiden:

Magellan's Maze, from March of the Slunks
Storms, from Nettle

There are several decent sound quality bootleg covers of Wrathchild.

Some other relatively accessible Buckethead metal songs:

HD Autopsy from 3 Foot Clearance
Battlefields from 3 Foot Clearance
Floating Graveyard from 3 Foot Clearance (obviously influenced by Black Sabbath)
Rammelzee: Hero of the Abyss from 3 Foot Clearance
Any of the 7 songs from Twisterlend
Snow Owl from You Can't Triple Stamp a Double Stamp
Crator Ridge from Abominable Snow Scalp
The title track from Collect Itself
Torch from Bumbyride Dreamlands
Most of The Elephant Man's Alarm Clock
Most of Worms for the Garden
Fountains of Forgotten from The Cuckoo Clocks of Hell (maybe not so accessible)
Botnus from Enter the Chicken (there are two instrumental versions on his website also)
Eerie Canal from Claymation Courtyard (contains Metallica influenced riffs and melodies)
Checkerboard Incision from Ghost Host (has a Tool-like deranged quality in my opinion, though doesn't sound like Tool)
Beginning Putrification from Forgotten Library (has both blues and metal elements)
Hexagon from Rooftop
The title track from Shores of Molokai
Halls of Dimension Part One from Halls of Dimension
Glowing Gate from Chart (this is more doom than thrash)

A couple of good blues based hard rock songs:

Bought Big Ben from Bolt on Neck (an obvious tribute to AC/DC)
Track from Fog Gardens (The Bottle House is in this style also)

Some heavy blues songs (some of these remind me of John Lee Hooker, though maybe other people can find better analogues, since they're darker and more psychedelic):

Liquid Mantis from Infinity of the Spheres
Murky Waters from Down the Bayou Part One
Ghosts of Broken Eggs from In The Hollow Hills
Clock Striking from Region
River of Liquid Fire from Region (borrows from No Quarter, which I think borrows from parts of Machine Gun)

Some other rhythm and blues-like songs that are more funk or rock-like or not as heavy:

Any other song from Region
Any song from Backwards Chimney
The Poultry Show from Propellar
Fairy Boat from The Mermaid Stairwell
Squirrel on a Perch from Hide in the Pickling Jar
Flooded Ballroom from Bozo in the Labyrinth
Quadruple Chicken Barn from Coop Erstown
Polar Trench from Polar Trench

Some other songs that would be called metal or hard rock or defy categorization but to me loosely belong with the others:

The title track from Shapeless
Any of the six songs from Telescape
The other three songs from Claymation Courtyard
Pepper's Gost, Goblin Shark, Brewer in the Air, Plankton, and others from Pepper's Ghost
Lebrontron, Crack the Sky, and Brooding Peeps from It's Alive
Siege Engine from Clockunwise (Albino Slug)
Flare from Northern Lights
Venomous Fog from Sonar Rainbow (has a similarity to Passage to Bangkok by Rush)
The title track from Magic Lantern
Nottingham Lace from Enter the Chicken (sounds vaguely like All Along The Watchtower with a Primus intro - he often includes the Hendrix solo live)
We Can Rebuild Him from Crime Slunk Scene (the album with Soothsayer, which I'm ignoring since everyone else has heard it

Of course I left a lot out - he has about 1300 songs that I consider to be 7/10 or better. But hopefully if you're new to Buckethead and are starved for new guitar based hard rock, that saves you some time searching through his hundreds of records.
Here are some favorite soft Buckethead songs, though I suppose these are less appropriate for a Maiden site, unless we want to compare them to Prodigal Son or Strange World:

Beyond the Knowing from Electric Sea
Padmasana from Electric Tears
Whitewash, For Mom, and Big Sur Moon from Colma
Lantern Alley from Closed Attractions
Invisable Forest (to me this Pike is so expressive I have actually hallucinated parts that aren't there, suggested by the spaces between the notes which seem to say as much as the notes.)
The Pendulum from The Pit
Lirtson Nostril from Monument Valley
Dawn Appears from A Real Diamond in the Rough
I Love My Parents from Giant Robot
The title track from Godzilla Sleeps Alone
Aunt Suzie from Cyborg Slunks

There are others, including some more eulogies.

A few other exceptional songs not mentioned in my previous posts:

The Bellman from Leave the Light On (I mentioned the Pike already, but that song deserves extra attention)
The title track from Meteor Firefly Net
Lotus Island from Inbred Mountain
Red Hot Mama bootlegs
Frozen Brains Tell No Tails from Bucketheadland 2 (I like various bootleg versions better)
Decay from Forgotten Library (should have been included in my blues-based list)
McDougal Street from Halls of Dimension (also psychedelic blues)
Glasses from Hats and Glasses
Computer Master from Bucketheadland
Seven Laws of Woo from Transmutation by Praxis (I probably prefer live versions)
The Interworld and the New Innocence (another Praxis song, also arguably better live)
The Pike Racks has a few good songs
The Pike Hollowed Out has a few good songs
Upside Down Skyway has good songs
Loff from The Frankensteins Monsters Blinds
The title track from 22222222
There are a few more good records with Travis Dickerson

I figured everyone knows about Jordan. I don't like the octave pedal in that song - The Bellman is probably the only song where I think the octave pedal improves it. But its a great song in any case.

I don't like the earlier relatively experimental records like Bermuda Triangle, Cobra Strike, etc. I'm not saying they're not good, just that they don't work for me at present.