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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Helmet of Gnats

Travelogue

Review by Gary Hill

This album is an instrumental set. This quartet hails from Connecticut and create a brand of music that has plenty of fusion built into it, but also plenty of hard rock, pure prog, space rock and more. It's an intriguing blend and an album that manages to be effective all the way through. It never feels tired or redundant, either.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 1. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
Silver Bitches
The sounds of a horse bring this into being. There is a spoken, processed voice that reminds me a bit of something Rush might have done in the classic era. An electric guitar rises up to bring this in with a classy riff-driven movement. Keyboards join after a time, and as this song pounds forward and works through changes I'm reminded of Rush and Deep Purple along with other acts to a large degree. A dropped back section brings a bit of a space-meets-fusion vibe. It also features some killer keyboard work. I also love the keyboard dominated movements later. The guitar has some particularly meaty jamming along the road, too. There is a killer section later in the track that makes me think of Dream Theater a little. That peaks, and then we're taken into a mellower movement from there. As this grows upward a little it takes on both King Crimson-like tendencies and hints of fusion. That segment eventually ends the track. At over nine-minutes of music, this is rather epic size, but it's also epic in scope.
Junk Fish
This starts fast-paced and tastefully quirky. It drives outward with a lot of style and charm from there. There is plenty of fusion in the mix here, but I can make out hints of Frank Zappa in some ways. They take this through a lot of twists and turns along this musical journey.
Travelogue
Some cool bass work makes up the starting point on this number. As it begins to get more layers of sound added to it, there are some sound-bites of voices saying things I can make out. The cut works to some smoking hot fusion meets King Crimson jamming from there. This has some particularly classy jamming that at times makes me think of the Doors a bit as it gets into the final passage of the piece.
Afternoon T
The opening movement of this is a bit restrained, but very fusion-like. This builds outward into some rather pure fusion. As the changes ensue the cut wanders into more pure progressive rock zones at times. There are some killer synthesizer jams that come over the top at times. There is a peak hit late in the track. That gives way to a mellower section that eventually takes this to its end.
Surging Valente
Here we get a fiery jam that combines instrumental fusion and progressive rock in fine fashion. I really love some of the keyboard work on this number, but everything about the piece screams "class."
Cuchifrita's Ballet Lesson
I particularly enjoy some of the bass work on the first part of this number. That part of tune is more pure fusion jamming. It some nice changes that bring some cool variety and dynamic range. A King Crimson like movement comes in later with a circulation kind of sound. The piece keeps evolving and growing as it makes its way forward. There is some smoking hot piano work in a mellower movement later. The bass gets a chance to show off again as they come out of that portion of the piece.
American Wood
I dig the dramatic fusion-styled jamming that brings this piece into being. There are some killer twists as it keeps growing. A mellower movement later has some strange laughter built into it. The cut seems to descend into madness for a time during that movement. It has a real trippy, psychedelia turned jazzy approach. There is a drop-back to a keyboard dominated section that gets a bit Doors-like after the three-and-a-half-minute mark. They play with that movement a little bringing some different textures and layers over the top, including some killer guitar work. There is an inspired synthesizer jam further down the road as the song is powered back up to some degree. They continue shaping and rearranging the sonic zones until it is done. Over ten-minutes long, this is the epic of the set.
 
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