Saturday, March 18, 2017

ERIC GILLETTE (Neal Morse Band) - The Great Unknown (2016-17)

ERIC GILLETTE (Neal Morse Band) - The Great Unknown - full

ERIC GILLETTE is mostly known as the guitarist in the Neal Morse Band, but the man himself is a talented multi-instrumentalist and vocalist. His last solo album "The Great Unknown" was released last year but now is being available on physical CD, and believe me, it's something you'll want to hear.

When Mike Portnoy announced last year “Brace yourselves for a new guitar hero in Eric Gillette! He is the new king of shred and feel! He reminds me a lot of my old partner in crime (if you know who I mean!)”, that was some serious praise for the relatively unknown Gillette.
Of course, as many who listened to the recent Neal Morse Band albums or witnessed in person on tour can attest, Eric Gillette is almost annoyingly talented, to the point where the phrase, “You’ve gotta be kidding already” seems highly appropriate.
A multi-instrumentalist, equally skilled at drums and keyboards as he his on his main instrument, guitar, Gillette was a revelation as a vocalist on his recent outing with the Neal Morse Band. Allowed to sing solo parts on that last album and in concert, it became apparent, this guy needs a solo album.

To those that are still new to Eric Gillette, he did release a solo album in 2013 but mostly instrumental and with reduced distribution.
Well, "The Great Unknown" is a completely different beast; this is an explosive, overpowering, mammoth of an album. Joined by musical standouts in their own right, Thomas Lang (Paul Gilbert, Peter Gabriel) on drums, and Conner Green & Diego Tejeida from progsters Haken on bass & keys respectively, Gillette comes out guns blazing on this album.
The album is heavy, aggressive, and spectacularly produced.

The title track on ‘The Great Unknown’ opens with Thomas Lang’s destructive toms declaring that one pay attention, because something is about to happen. Immediately, the crunch of a thousand metal guitars kicks in, and the album is off.
The welcomed surprise here is that Gillette did not opt for a carbon copy, Neal Morse style, album opener. Instead, he wants to show his metal, hard rocking side.

Gillette has a clean, almost pristine voice, one that typically does not work with such heavy guitars, but he makes it work surprisingly well here and on the album’s other rocking track, follower “The Aftermath.” Diego Tejeida makes his presence known on the second track as the album starts to take on more dynamics.
Thomas Lang’s drums are massive and his talent is not underplayed on this album. While staying within the songs, Lang showcases why he is widely considered one of the best rock drummers in the world.

ERIC GILLETTE (Neal Morse Band) - The Great Unknown - inside

Gillette’s progressive side finally appears in the form of the 3rd track, the 18 minute epic 'Escape'. It starts with Gillette soloing before diving into the opening vocal section, a soaring verse/chorus combination. Things take a turn for the heavy, ala Dream Theater towards the middle for a true Prog extravaganza.
The syncopated riffs and interplay between Gillette, Tejeida and Green are perfectly produced and immensely entertaining. The epic closes with a piano ballad section complemented by a sizzling piece of guitar fretwork at the end.

The album does not let up from here with the melodic progressive “Damage is Done”, elaborated but at the same time accessible. The lone ballad 'Empty' follows, to provide a breather from the intensity of the rest of the tracks.
The most keyboard-laden song is the penultimate 'Runaway', which contains some brilliant moments and might be one of the best songs on the album.
This fascinating disc closes on colossal 'All I Am', a hard-hitting number where Gillette declares “I give you all that I am, I’m with you till the end!” The album fades out with Lang speeding up his double bass for a real head-banging end.

Holy cow... you need to listen to Eric Gillette. You need to listen to "The Great Unknown".
There are nods to groups like Dream Theater or Transatlantic here, but Eric Gillette musical style is unique, more accessible and instant. We have fabulous rocking pieces, progressive passages, poppy melodies, crystal clear vocals, all wrapped by a fantastic, first class bright production.
If you love Dream Theater's Images & Words ('that' particular sound) and Trevor Rabin's approach to prog, "The Great Unknown" is a mandatory listen.
In fact, this album is absolutely recommended to all audiences.

01 - The Great Unknown
02 - The Aftermath
03 - Escape
04 - Damage Is Done
05 - Empty
06 - Runaway
07 - All I Am

Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards - Eric Gillette (Neal Morse Band)
Drums - Thomas Lang (Paul Gilbert, Peter Gabriel)
Bass - Conner Green (Haken)
Keys - Diego Tejeida (Haken)



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