Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Helmet Of Gnats - 2004 "Helmet Of Gnats II"

A Helmet of Gnats has been around in various incarnations since around 1980, playing music of bands like U.K., Return to Forever, Zappa, Brand X, Happy the Man, Ponty, Focus and the Dixie Dregs along the way. You can hear the amalgamation of these bands in the unique sound of their second eponymous cd...and it is simply SUPERB!

All of the band members attended Berklee College of Music at one point or another, and their pedigrees show up in the flawless chops they exhibit. Guitarist Chris Fox plays some very melodic lines with a sound that reminds me most of Allan Holdsworth and Jeff Beck in many places. Influenced by Rick Wakeman and Eddie Jobson, Matt Bocchino provides a great symphonic rock background to much of this jazz fusion, frequently favoring the organ as his weapon of choice. Bass player Wayne Zito lists Chris Squire as one of his influences, but I hear a lot of fretless bass a la Jeff Berlin and the like. And drummer Mark Conese is more on the jazz side of drumming (think Bill Bruford and Billy Cobham), but he keeps a strong, confident groove driving these songs as well.

If I could fantasize an all-instrumental supergroup of Beck, Jobson, Berlin and Cobham, it would sound like this! They do not disappoint, folks - very energetic and interesting, with original and complex compositions.

The 3-1/2 minute "Lesser Beings" is the only quirky/spacy track that they could have left off the album (and delighted me even more). But the rest of the album is fast-paced, melodic, fusiony, groove-driven, symphonic progressive rock bliss...and gnats a fact ;-)

This record is one of those records that delivers exactly what i am looking for in a record; rising/falling action and a level of performance that only gets better as the record progresses. Each track has a life of it's own as well as a life within the greater context of the record. Just in the first few tracks, the band shows you what they can do, and trust me...they can do. From the very beginning, to the very end, the record shows the various types of music the band works with while truly illustrating the sound of the band itself. With multiple movements in each piece and virtuosic mastery of their instruments, helmet of gnats proves to be an outstanding progressive band that, you can tell, puts much care into the production of their music. 

A Helmet of Gnats biography
Chris Fox- Guitar- Berklee College of music. Played briefly with Eddie Jobson (Zappa,UK,Yes)
Mathew Bocchino -Keyboards- Attended Berklee Collegel of music
Mark Conose-Drums-Berklee College of Music and Miami Univeristy
Wayne Zito-Bass-Berklee College of Music

As you can see the members of this band have a great pedigree in music. They bring their assorted talents to the group known as A Helmet of Gnats. As that name suggests music high in energy but balanced in virtuosity. A blend of Jazz with a dash of classical elements underlined by some very good in your face rock.

In 1980 guitarist Chris Fox and keyboardist Mathew Bocchino decided to form a band while in high school. This band was to play the music of such progressive giants as UK, Frank Zappa and Kansas. They called themselves Left Testicle and only played three concerts (small wonder with that name). By 1982 this band had morphed into more of a fusion cover band called "By-Product" doing covers by Return to Forever, Bruford and The Dixie Dregs. Their live shows left everyone wanting more.

The band changed their name to Helmet of Gnats in late 1982. After several line up changes at bass and drums AHoG played mostly Dixie Dregs covers. More Personnel changes left the band without a bass player. They recorded some demos using a Roland midi sequencer for the bass lines but by 1988 they had disbanded.

Chris and Matt reformed in 1990 a more mainstream band with a female vocalist. They called themselves "Doctor Curious" named after the singers gynecologist. After a short time Chris and Matt decided they wanted a return to the instrumental adventurous music they loved. They fired the signer and took back the name Helmet of Gnats. They released a self titled album in 1996 with Nicki Defala on bass and Nicki Vitiello on drums. By 2000 the band had replaced the Nicki's with Wayne Zito on bass and Mark Conese on drums. In 2004 they released their second CD A Helmet Of Gnats II. They tour with this line up to this day.

Fans of fusion such as Return to Forever and Dixie Dregs will enjoy this band. Recommended highly!

Why this artist must be listed in www.progarchives.com :
Great band in the fusion style of Return to Forever and Dixie Dregs. Samples can be heard on the bands web site:

A Helmet of Gnats 1996
A Helmet of Gnats II 2004

I received this CD thru SwapaCD from Chris, the guitar player :-)

Track Listing:

1. Almost Babylon
2. Chinese Leftovers
3. Yesterday's Brain
4. Crumbs
5. Lesser Beings
6. Misfit Toys
7. Chimps in Space


Chris Fox- Guitar
Mathew Bocchino -Keyboards
Mark Conose-Drums
Wayne Zito-Bass