While Jonas Hellborg, the former bassist for the Mahavishnu Orchestra ('80s edition), has dealt almost exclusively in acoustic, Middle Eastern-flavored exotica of late, his most recent offering is a rip-roaring, no-holds-barred, electrified fusion affair with a capital 'F.' A live set of mostly improvised long-form compositions recorded in Germany, Personae is primarily a showcase for the frightening fretboard fusillades and swirling psychedelia of Shawn Lane, a ridiculously accomplished electric-guitar virtuoso on par with Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Allan Holdsworth, Steve Morse, Frank Gambale and other fire-breathing ax manglers.
With Hellborg's low-end tones providing the sonic anchor and Jeff Sipe's crisp, muscular backbeats lending the crunch factor, Lane wails with impunity on the blistering opener "Time Is the Enemy," full of challenging, fusionesque unison lines, and on the 20-minute excursion "Rag B/B." Hellborg also struts his own signature single-note and slap-bass virtuosity on the drone-oriented "Rag B/B," while Sipe nimbly shifts gears from polyrhythmic pulse to powerful pocket playing to sizzling ride-cymbal swing patterns.
The title track and the ominous "Hell Is Other People" both carry the sonic kick of a vintage heavy-metal band-to be expected from any band with Lane, who at age 14 was the lead guitarist for Black Oak Arkansas. Sipe shows off his seriously funky side on "Heretics," which sounds a bit like Eric Johnson jamming with Zigaboo Modeliste and the Meters. And they close out on a blazing note with a super-charged "Rice With the Angels," a savage, completely over-the-top guitar showcase by the indefatigable Lane.
Too many notes? You bet! But real fusion fans like it like that.