Artist: Eric Gillette

Album Title: The Great Unknown

Label: Radiant Records

Date Of Release: 2 June 2016

The name of Eric Gillette came to my attention just last year thanks to his role within The Neal Morse Band as guitarist and backing vocalist. I was mightily impressed by ‘The Grand Experiment’ and so it seemed only right and proper to check out Gillette’s new solo album, ‘The Great Unknown’, especially because it promised to deliver more in the way of progressive rock/metal, one of my favourite musical subgenres.

Apparently, Gillette did release a solo album back in 2013 called ‘Afterthought’ but given the lack of waves it created and my lack of knowledge about it, I can only assume it failed to set the world alight. Thankfully though, Gillette seems unfazed by the response to that debut effort as he has gamely returned for another go. Equally adept atop the drum stool and behind the keyboards, Gillette has instead chosen to focus on the guitar and lead vocals for this record.

Things quickly got tastier as far as I was concerned once the line-up for this record was unveiled. Joining Eric on this venture are some very exciting musicians, namely drummer Thomas Lang as well as Haken duo Conner Green on bass guitar and keyboardist Diego Tejeida. As a Haken whore, this was suddenly something that I couldn’t afford to miss.

That said, a few spins of ‘The Great Unknown’ and there is no doubt that Gillette is the star of the show. Each member of the ‘band’ puts in a brilliant performance but thanks to Gillette’s rich and effortless vocals as well as his unbelievably slick skills with the guitar, he cannot help but dominate the listener’s attention.

The first thing that strikes me about ‘The Great Unknown’ is the heaviness of it. The album opens up with the title track and right from the off, it takes no prisoners. This is a full-on hard rock track that veers wonderfully and unequivocally into heavy metal territory. The song packs a real punch, dominated by some deliciously chunky riffing and an impressive rhythm section that’s as powerful as it is clinically precise. It bounds along with real gusto and with a demonstrably modern, bang up-to-date feel, before easing into a surprisingly simple but hook-laden chorus that’s rather addictive.

Credit: unknown

Credit: Joel Barrios – Norrsken Photography

I don’t know whether it was a deliberate decision to distance himself from the prog associated with The Neal Morse Band but ‘The Aftermath’ follows swiftly and it is another heavy metal monster from Gillette. The drumming from Lang is sensational, full of flair and panache, Green’s bass work is intelligent and intriguing, whilst the keys of Tejeida come more to the fore, giving the song a much more dramatic, almost cinematic sheen. As I listened in the early stages, I noted ‘Dream Theater meets Haken’ and largely, thanks to the instrumental prowess on offer from all quarters, I’d stick with this appraisal by way of a reference point. Again, there is a strong chorus and plenty of guitar histrionics to enjoy.

This latter comment is even more true of ‘Escape’, an 18-minute prog behemoth that sits majestically mid-album. It begins with some truly beautiful lead guitar work that’s both dextrous and highly melodious. There is then a moment to draw breath as the hectic pace and power of the preceding two tracks is slowed in favour of a quieter, more atmospheric section where Gillette’s voice really shines. It really is sickening how talented this guy appears to be. From then on, ‘Escape’ explores multiple directions to great effect, with the highlights being the intense interplay between the various protagonists during an extended instrumental mid-section, not to mention the rousing lead guitar-led conclusion.

I really like the way in which ‘Damage Is Done’ is dominated by an intriguing chorus, a real grower that took a lot of time to really latch onto. It also builds in clever fashion to a dramatic midpoint before easing back off again towards the end. In direct contrast, ‘Empty’ is the unapologetic ballad, complete with emotionally-charged vocals, rich piano and more gorgeous lead guitar work as it builds in intensity.

Interestingly, it takes until the penultimate track for the real Neal Morse influences to come to the fore. As a result, ‘Runaway’ is much more in the ‘classic’ prog rock vein than the remainder of the album and yet it fits beautifully and not for a second does it feel out of place. Tejeida is clearly in his element here, bathing the track in all manner of sounds and textures. But it is Gillette that stands front and centre by virtue of a fantastic vocal performance which accentuates a marvellous, sprawling chorus that is easily one of my favourite moments on this record.

The album closes with ‘All I Am’, a properly epic and fitting ending to such an impressive album. The guitars are properly menacing, complimenting the cinematic synths to great effect, creating yet more drama and intensity. Gillette’s vocals once again soar with real intent whilst Lang’s drumming once again catches the ear.

Unlike this record, Eric Gillette can no longer be referred to as ‘the great unknown’. This body of work, these seven compositions should rightfully thrust Gillette into the spotlight because they demonstrate beyond doubt that here is a musician that has the talent and the conviction to succeed at the very highest level. Very impressive indeed.

The Score Of Much Metal: 9.0

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others right here:

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Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence
Fates Warning – Theories Of Flight
Wolverine – Machina Viva
Be’lakor – Vessels
Lacuna Coil – Delirium
Big Big Train – Folklore
Airbag – Disconnected
Katatonia – The Fall Of Hearts
Frost* – Falling Satellites
Glorior Belli – Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes)
Habu – Infinite
Grand Magus ‘Sword Songs’
Messenger – Threnodies
Svoid – Storming Voices Of Inner Devotion
Fallujah – Dreamless
In Mourning – Afterglow
Haken – Affinity
Long Distance Calling – Trips
October Tide – Winged Waltz
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Iron Mountain – Unum
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Novembre – Ursa
Beholder – Reflections
Neverworld – Dreamsnatcher
Universal Mind Project – The Jaguar Priest
Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again
InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
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H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld


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