Jonas Hellborg

Ars Moriende

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Normally it's wise to steer clear of albums that make three tracks last for over an hour. When two of those three tracks have titles like "Ritual LoveDeath" and "Regicide," when the album title is in Latin, when an ancient swastika figures prominently in the liner photo and when the accompanying notes consist primarily of a glorification of ancient death rituals, then it's usually time to turn tail and run from the record store. But when the artist in question is bassist Jonas Hellborg, it's time to put common sense aside and listen carefully -- Hellborg is not only one of the world's finest living bass players in a technical sense, he is also capable of putting the listener into completely unexpected musical situations and completely confounding whatever expectations he or she may have, all the while revealing, layer by layer, wholly new musical worlds. This duet album, recorded with percussionist and overtone singer Glen Velez. Velez is primarily an ethnic percussionist, and he really gets to strut his stuff on the 23-minute "Regicide." He's also a pretty respectable singer, and his eerie overtone singing insinuates itself in and out of the music throughout this album. As for Hellborg, if you don't believe that solo bass guitar can hold your interest, then you need to listen to more of his stuff. It's not just his chops, though he established those long ago in his note-for-note cutting sessions with John McLaughlin; it's his oblique, almost otherworldly approach to melody and his ability to spin new motivic matter seemingly out of thin air at the drop of a beat. Hellborg is a genuine musical phenomenon, but more importantly, he's always a pleasure to listen to.

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