This is heavy, metal-infused music that rocks hard, includes strong, big, multi-layered ballads, and has all of the elements you look for in progressive rock

Eric Gillette

7 tracks / 58:23

You put the CD in your player and the title track of The Great Unknown comes thundering out of the speakers like a heavy-metal freight train powered by progressive rock fuel. Eric Gillette’s second effort as a featured artist is a fully-realized hour of mostly prog – but certainly hard and heavy – rock music. The drumming (Thomas Lang) is full of double-bass and fills that sound almost impossibly dense. The keyboards (Diego Tejeida) create otherworldly textures and dazzling synth runs. The bass rumbles and thunders throughout, creating dramatic and sometimes ominous underpinnings to the compositions. Gillette’s stunning guitar playing is already a given, a fact made obvious in his work with The Neal Morse Band. His guitar screams, wails, fires machine gun-like riffs and delivers passion-filled phrases of emotional intensity on this project from start to finish.     

Gillette is somewhat of a musical chameleon who – always keeping his own identity intact – reveals influences in both his writing style and his vocals. It would be easy to hear him slip into a Michael Sweet mode on “The Great Unknown,” while the likes of former Kansas vocalist John Elefante and, of course, Neal Morse seem not too far below the surface elsewhere.. Eric’s got a great range and delivers the lyrics with a passion and conviction that’s equal to the dynamic of the music.

And speaking of lyrics, Gillette pulls no punches. While this project might not pass the ‘how many Jesus-mentions per minute’ lyric-police, a careful listen will reveal a solidly Biblical world-view. In fact, the album’s closing track, “All I Am,” states in a big, heavy, powerful musical setting, “I give you all that I am / I’m with you until the end / I’ll never hide who I am / I live with not one regret.” Revelation’s seven-year Tribulation period is vividly described in “The Aftermath,” and faith-affirming lyrics are liberally sprinkled throughout the project.

“Escape” is the album’s prog-rock showcase which, at eighteen minutes, is pretty impossible to describe in words. “Now you can see that there’s life beyond tomorrow,” sings Eric, continuing,”…it’s the end – you’re finally free,” in very Neal Morse-like tones. The song has multiple parts with each player featured in blistering solos. There are plenty of highlights – moments that stand out even after only a few listens to the album. The big, dramatic guitar solo on “Empty,” the drumming and inspirational chord changes on “Runaway,” and the pure prog intensity of “Damage,” to name just a few.

In my review of Gillette’s first solo project I suggested that there was a new progster in town. Well, I was right. The Great Unknown fulfills all of the promise shown in Afterthought and delivers above and beyond expectations. This is heavy, metal-infused music that rocks hard, includes strong, big, multi-layered ballads, and has all of the elements you look for in progressive rock. Gillette also understands the value of writing in a more economic style, keeping most of the songs at a reasonable, easily-digestible ten minutes or less, with the exception of the eighteen-minute epic, “Escape,” which uses all of those minutes well, without any filler.

Wonderfully self-produced by the artist, The Great Unknown is an album that belongs in the collection of every fan of bands like Kansas, Dream Theater, and (of course) The Neal Morse Band. Definitely recommended.

-Bert Saraco