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Helmet of Gnats: Helmet of Gnats

Helmet of Gnats is the brainchild of guitarist Chris Fox and keyboard player Matt Bocchino, who along with drummer Mark Conese and bassist Wayne Zito, have created a smoldering pot of hot and bubbly fusion on their latest CD. Not that Helmet of Gnats are a new band mind you, as Fox & Bocchino have been toiling around as a cover band for close to 20 years with various members. Now with a solidified line-up and solid original songs, they are ready to make their mark in the progressive fusion scene, and believe me with this one they are headed in the right direction. The sound quality is outstanding, and if you have a SACD player all this hot fusion I'm sure will sound that much better.

The first thing you notice on cuts like "Almost Babylon" and "Chinese Leftovers" is the swirling yet aggressive Hammond organ work of Bocchino, whose playing will remind you of ELP's Keith Emerson as well as John Novello from Niacin. His tasty tone works well with the biting attack of Fox's sinewy guitar leads. On the bouncy "Yesterday's Brain", the group goes for a 70's fusion vibe ala Brand X or Return to Forever, complete with some screaming guitar solos and neat synth runs that reminded me a little of Chick Corea at times. Fox dips into his Tommy Bolin and Jeff Beck bag on the slightly bluesy & passionate "Crumbs", while "Lesser Beings" is a short little spacey ambient piece that has a creepy vibe. This seques into the raging "Misfit Toys", a song with a hot groove courtesy of Conese & Zito, and searing synth & guitar duels from Bocchino and Fox. Conese even turns in a melodic fretless solo on this one that brought to mind veteran Mark Egan.

Of course, the best is saved for last, with the epic, 13-minute "Chimps in Space", a smoldering tribute to Chick Corea's Return to Forever & The Electrik Band, with Fox laying down some blazing Latin tinged leads like a young Al DiMeola, while Bocchino's electric & acoustic piano work, coupled with his melodic synth passages, reminded me of classic Corea. Conese turns in a thunderous performance on this track, and Zito's sinewy bass work rips alongside Fox's guitar parts. Jazz fans will simply adore this piece.

The plain and simple truth-this is a winner of a CD, and a band that in my view hasn't even hit their stride yet. Look for big things from Helmet of Gnats in the future.

Track Listing
1) Almost Babylon (8:23)
2) Chinese Leftovers (7:55)
3) Yesterday's Brain (7:45)
4) Crumbs (5:53)
5) Lesser Beings (3:34)
6) Misfit Toys (6:07)
7) Chimps in Space (13:05)

Added: December 12th 2004
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Helmet of Gnats Official Website
Hits: 6204
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Helmet of Gnats: Helmet of Gnats
Posted by Yves Dubé, SoT Staff Writer on 2004-12-11 11:44:08
My Score:

Like a gnat circling your head, this one appeared and created a buzz immediately. This, for me, is usually where I look for the negatives of a disc.Well, I'm still looking. Sure, the opening sequences seemed a bit contrived, but the flawless musicianship dispells any notions that this band merely threw together a list of all things "fusion" , checked it twice, and made sure to include them all in the finished product. Stellar guitar work meshes with dexterous keyboard playing; whether Hammond organ or acoustic piano, and a solid rythym section to make each carefully crafted number stand out from it's predecessor.

Yes, the boys have got chops, but we're not constantly hit over the head with them like so many modern fusion bands like to do. "The song "seems to be what was first and foremost on the minds of the musicians , and within the paradigms of the composition, the individual musician ( ususally guitarist or keyboardist) is given ample room tear one off.

Sure to make most critics' Top Ten Of 2004 lists, including mine, Helmet Of Gnats is a can't miss disc for any fan of well composed, well played, fusion with soul. Highly recommended.

» Reader Comments:

Helmet of Gnats: Helmet of Gnats
Posted by Gordon Brion on 2004-12-22 07:30:42
My Score:

A sonic treat ,and a trip back to the 70's when music was still vital & creative!
If the Bruford band or UK reunited, it might sound something like the Gnats!

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