With this grunge-laden release, the one-time Mahavishnu bassist and John McLaughlin collaborator returns to his own heavy metal/punk roots with fellow Swedes Anders Johansson on drums and Jens Johansson on keyboards (brothers formerly in guitar hero Yngwie Malmsteen’s neo-classical metal band). But it’s the young Swedish guitar phenom Mattias IA Eklundh, a marvel of post-Steve Vai/Shawn Lane guitar vocabulary, who steals the show on Art Metal. The great South Indian percussion master Selvaganesh, a member of McLaughlin’s Remember Shakti and a longtime collaborator of Hellborg’s, is also onboard here, although his subtle contributions on kanjira are largely obscured by Eklundh’s explosive six-string pyrotechnics, Anders Johansson’s powerful drumming and Jens Johansson’s wailing Jan Hammer-influenced synth excursions. Selvaganesh’s playing is felt most prominently on the more subdued piece, “The Three Princes of Serendip,” which features a particularly expressive and lyrical fretless solo from Hellborg. The dramatic title track is chockfull of remarkably tight stop-time unison lines and also features some dynamic call-and-response exchanges with Selvaganesh’s kanjira pitted against the metalesque bombast from the rest of this highly disciplined unit.
Elsewhere, Hellborg provides the aggressive rhythmic glue on the lovely Indian-flavored “Nataraja,” the crunchy “Muthucutpor,” the grinding “Round Metal Hat” and the intricate speed-metal workout “Solitude.” And the prodigious bassist shines in his extended solo on the Indo-fuzoid raga “Vyakhyan-kar,” which also features Eklundh unleashing with wah-wah-inflected abandon. Hellborg’s latest outing, his 22nd as a leader, is as original as it is audacious.