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Estradasphere - Buck Fever CD (album) cover





4.24 | 58 ratings

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5 stars You ever play those theoretical games? You know, if you were stuck on an island and had only one thing to eat, or could have one thing to pass the time with, or if you could only have 4 albums to listen to, what would those things be?

As a fan of so much music and so many genres, picking a Mount Rushmore of prog albums, let alone albums of any genre, is a daunting task, yet if I had to take 4 for a Mount Rushmore, give me Dream Theater's "Octivarium", Pink Floyd's "Animals", Mars Volta's "Frances the Mute" and this album.

Yes, I'm excluding a ton of great records (I'd be smuggling "Court of the Crimson King" onto the boat before they dropped me off), but I chose these four simply for the variety. I get classic psychedelic perfection from "Animals", modern prog metal done right with "Octivarium", technical schizophrenia with a latin twist with "Frances the Mute".

And for every other genre under the sun rolled into a cartoonish atom bomb-like package that puts a smile on my face every time, give me Estradasphere's Buck Fever".

The first album from this outfit is enough to turn heads, what with their usage of middle eastern and eastern European motifs, along with jazz, death metal and video game sounds, but it was more of a rough draft than a final essay, if you know what I mean. There's definitely room for improvement, improvement which pulls through in spades on this record. This record, unlike "It's Understood" is built around a theme of, you guessed it, hunting. There is a story being told here, somewhere, but honestly it's not necessary. The instrumental performance alone carries this entire record, and the absolute enormity of different textures, sounds and genres rolled together here is mind boggling, not just the amount of different sounds, but the way each sound coalesces together in a neatly rolled package.

"Buck Fever" begins with a sort homage to a classic 50s-60s pop ballad before it jumps into the kind of haunted rockabilly surf rock you'd hear in an Addams Family cartoon or something Halloween related. Jason Schimmel has such a great guitar tone that leaves an impression very few guitarists can do, and with John Whooley wailing away on that sax of his, it's such a unique song with a dramatic soundtrack orchestra blitzing away behind the band. With a dramatic introduction like that, you know you've popped the top on something special here.

"The Dapper Bandits" continues this sort of classic movie soundtrack-inspired feel with a twisted waltz of sorts before the music breaks out into their trademark middle eastern inspired dance moves. There's considerably less jazz influenced motifs here, but you do get some funky interchangeable passages along with the first semblances of what I call the "detective" sound (you know, when the guitar makes that 'wakka-diga wakka-diga' sound when the detective walks into the room and takes his shades off in dramatic fashion while staring seriously at the camera during the TV promo? Nope, just me? Ok then...) before their eerie death metal drone fades the song out into nothing, foreshadowing the equally dark and heavy "Silent Elk of Yesterday", echoing bands like Enslaved and Insomnium. And, as Estradasphere tradition, after some dark and morbid sounding tunes, they throw in a 45 second homage to Super Mario Bros. on "Crag Lake" to put that smile back on your face.

"Meteorite Showers" is where things get wild and wacky. Within the first minute alone you get a groovy pop rock beat underneath a Russian dance sounding motif, a brief cartoon montage, a 70's dance spoof and crunching death metal riffs. This is just an ever changing kaleidoscope of genres, textures sounds and rhythms. It transitions to a soft ballad to polka to dramatic soundtrack rock to a Southside Johnny meets bubblegum pop bit. A brief silence allows a montage of sounds to build up before the introductory dance theme returns before the band waltz to a soft conclusion.

"The Bounty Hunter" just exudes cool. That jazzy intro guitar, some dramatic outbursts and some funky beats make this a really cool tune before the middle eastern and eastern european dances come in. Some brief heavy chords make their appearance before the tune turns decidedly latin. After some drum heavy grooves, the song once again returns to its opening theme (a recurring format throughout this album) before the band overlays death metal chords overtop before finishing with a funky disco flourish! Whew.

Those two tracks were a bit overwhelming, but don't worry, because "Super Buck II" is here to save the day! In essence, it's basically a swing cover of the Super Mario Bros. theme (another recurring feature on Estradasphere albums), and a damn good cover at that, featuring a funky upright bass solo.

Another hefty track follows in "Millennium Child", a song that begins with a wonderful vocal feature before a furious double bass drum assault joins in underneath. Two minutes in, a funky metal riff powers through trading off with a samba esque rhythm led by Whooley's sax. Also featured is a arena rock esque spoof, that detective guitar sound again, a killer Schimmel guitar solo, more Whooley amazingness and a brief spoof of a hair metal riff that I can't remember that's going to drive me nuts now, dammit.

Up next is a sequence of tracks that never fails to amaze me every time. "Trampoline Klan" is another video game inspired chip tune piece that fills about a minute of time before the obligatory "hunting skit" returns (as it does at the end of most tracks throughout this album) which then transitions into 14 seconds of pure and actual grindcore in "Burnt Corpse" (no, I'm not joking, it's about as close to grindcore as you can get) before it goes straight into the jazzy "Rise n' Shine" that then transitions into a funky tropical jazz pattern that closes out the sequence with some distortion added to the guitars before the band loops back to the opening theme. How bands do you know that transition from chiptune to grindcore to jazz in 4 minutes?

"Bride of the Buck" is a brief cartoony skit talking about the deer that's being hunted (at least I think that's what's happening, I'm not paying attention at this point), before "A Very Intense Battle" starts with very intense distorted chords and screeching strings. This is without a doubt the heaviest track Estradasphere made (I assume at this point in the story [if there really is one] is a massive bloody battle between the evil hunter Redcoats and the Arnold Bucksenegger of the Dearcoat tribe, defending his land from the evil space invaders. Sorry, I think I'm rambling here). Midway, a challenger appears! Tribal elements from Native American cultures, as well as dramatic symphonic elements and just a lot of noise.

Oh, and because we heard a dark, morbid track, the obligatory video game song follows, only this time "Green Hill" spoofs the Sonic series as opposed to the traditional Super Mario Bros (kudos to the pause sound effect as the gamer stops to eat some chips, as well as the game freezing and the player removing the cartridge to blow the dust from it. The inner gamer in me approves).

"Feed Your Mama's Meter" takes the standard Estradasphere recipe of funky rhythms with eastern elements and throws a techno remix overtop it all along with some disco elements while "What Deers May Come" is like an atmospheric outro that you'd hear in a dramatic video game campaign.

Whew, that's a lot of typing, because there's a lot to type about. That's how you can tell an album is good, when there's so much to talk about. When an album is average or mediocre, you're straining to find something interesting to talk about. There's just so much in this album that each listen introduces something new that you probably missed last time. Of course, the biggest thing is just the fluidity of which this band transitions from genre to genre to musical element after musical element, not to mention the fact that these songs feel like songs now and not like ditties they threw together and then ruined by screaming incessantly and throwing noise together for no reason (see "D(b) Hell" off "It's Understood").

Above all, it's listenable. It's so groundbreaking in terms of the genres and instruments implemented that not only is the musicality so mind blowing and awe inspiring, but it's polished enough that it makes you go back and listen to it again and again, because there's simply nothing else like it in the world, and there never will be. A gem of a gem if there ever was one.

Wicket | 5/5 |


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