Jonas Hellborg / Shawn Lane / Jeff Sipe
Time Is the Enemy
Virtuoso guitarist Shawn Lane passed away in late September 2003, too soon to see the remastered re-release of Time Is the Enemy, a collection of improvisational live recordings taken from a 1996 trio world tour with bassist Jonas Hellborg and drummer Jeff Sipe (aka Apt. Q258).
It was with the likeminded Hellborg that Lane located his distinct musical voice, somewhere amid the various styles of jazz and rock (though always drawing more heavily from the latter), and Time…, their fourth CD together, sees the two of them working together in ways that would, sadly, not be repeated before Lane’s death. The album finds itself occupying the position between the breathless collaborative expanse of Temporal Analogues of Paradise and the Eastern-influenced music of Good People in Times of Evil and Icon. It is not their most visionary release, but the energy, talent and familiarity of format and style may be more welcoming to newcomers than their headier or more exotic work; and the enhanced sound of this remastered version ought to draw an even greater number of listeners, both old and new.
Time… is comprised of six self-contained jams that each offer an unambiguous beginning, middle and end, as well as a clear sense of harmony and structure, without limiting their musical scope. Although it is a unified effort and no performer gets anything like short shrift, Lane comes across as the leader on this disc, underpinning his solos with self-assurance and an infinite understanding of what he’s doing and where he’s taking the songs. This is evident from the first thirty seconds of “Heretics,” the opening track: Sipe lays down the drumline, Hellborg joins and develops it, but it is Lane who slides in and gives teeth to the beast. His ensuing solo is fluid and clear until he starts digging into the grit and dirt for a more urgent and aggressive sound.
Sipe’s playfully stuttering drumbeat kicks off and closes the funky-cum-bluesy “Wherever You Walk,” and the song benefits from a reticent solo from Hellborg. Again, however, it is Lane’s multiple fury of licks that wins the crowd applause and the listener’s attention. “Space Time Continuum,” a mellower and moodier track, gives some general idea where Hellborg and Lane would go on their foray into Eastern music. Hellborg’s solo here is more energetic, full of spark and crackle. The title (and closing) track is a pounding, riff-laden metalfest. Lane dives into a blazing solo barely a second after the intro concludes.
There is a lot of muscle on Time Is the Enemy: thwacking, thumping electric bass placed next to loaded, sneering, whip-like riffs and then laid atop a powerhouse drumline. But on second thought, maybe that phrasing isn’t quite accurate. The three elements arise in conjunction out of some unnamable place and take a coherent shape; it’s not a matter of three musicians laying down three separate or tandem threads, but rather weaving them together simultaneously. This kind of dynamic is rare among jazz musicians, and even rarer in the fusion genre. This alone ought to make the remastered Time Is the Enemy a sought-after disc among fusion adherents. With all its orgiastic solos and its apparent debt to metal, it will not suit everyone’s palate, but it provides a good entry point for fusion neophytes while rewarding existing fans with a superior recording of the 1997 original.