Is it really 15 albums!? The Sci Fi theme continues with Shockwave Supernova, Joe Satriani’s latest studio album, and yes, his 15th at that! I have enjoyed listening to his work since the very first release, Not Of This Earth way back in 1986. For me the guitar world was first shaped by Jimi Hendrix, shaken by Eddie Van Halen and then sent into overdrive by Joe Satriani. Thousands of us sat in our bedrooms trying to work out how to play Always With Me Always With You and Ice 9 (although I always went for Circles).
Satriani’s impact on guitar music has been unfathomably huge, to his genre breaking musical tangents to the people he has tutored (Steve Vai, Kirk Hammett and Alex Skolnick). He is the Ibanez wielding Gandalf of the Musical Middle Earth. I loved Steve Vai’s Passion and Warfare, I bought into Eric Johnson, I recognised the brilliance of Hendrix, but the number one guitarist I always return to is Joe Satriani. His music is wonderfully diverse, drawing on a multitude of sounds, using everything in the guitarist trick bag and then some, there’s nothing he can’t do.
People have different expectations from his albums. Some want blistering speed guitar solos with whammy bar dives, insane harmonics and volume swells, and others just want the heartfelt songs that we can relate to that Satriani is so good at writing. So what’s Shockwave Supernova like?
Shockwave Supernova opens up and it’s space rock combined with an eastern feel in parts before jumping into some dirty guitar slides. It’s unhurried, it has nothing to prove, a good song is just that, a good song. The guitar solo is wonderfully bright and typical Joe Satriani, sure the speed is still there, but it’s far more subtle.
Lost In A Memory, plenty of chorus, plenty of reverb, a much softer track with some delicate tapping work here and there with a beautiful solo line over the top. Who needs a vocalist when you have the one of the greatest voices ever when Joe makes his guitar sing. And whenever he picks out a title for one of his tracks, it’s not by chance, and Lost In A Memory is so evocative.
Crazy Joey opens up with a bombastic bass line that wouldn’t be out of place on a Leftfield album before a nice bit of guitar work that weirdly reminded me of Eddie Van Halen circa 5150 time. After that though we have a lovely groove going on. In My Pocket, sees the return of the harmonica!
On Peregrine Wings reminded me a little of one of his earlier tracks, Train of Angels. It’s not so much the notes he plays, but the feel. There’s a very slight eastern feel dropped in, but my god the melody over the rhythm is just stunning, and the solo, pretty much everything is thrown at it in short bursts so that it’s not overpowering. Never mind Peregrine wings, this should be Daenerys Targaryen on Drogon.
Cataclysmic has a slightly darker sound to it, but there are times that it breaks convention with some dissonance that absolutely shouldn’t work, but typically, does. If anyone else had done that, it would have broken the track. San Francisco Blue has got an old blues swing sound to it. It’s a little odd coming after Cataclysmic, but then he always likes to keep us on our toes!
Keep On Movin’ starts with some lovely bright piano work, which makes way for Joe to take over, and it’s hefty. It sounds like it should be the soundtrack for some blockbuster film, before we’re treated to a solo with some lovely harmonics.
And just when you think you know which direction he’ll go in next, nope. All Of My Life takes a swerve from the predictable. A moody cathartic song which again reflects the well chosen title again. Walks on the beach in an amber cast sunset, looking through a shoebox full of old photos.
A Phase I’m Going Through continues the theme as All Of My Life, but picks up the pace a little in the solo briefly. Scarborough Stomp has a slightly retro feel with some keyboards at the start but for me personally, not so much a fan of this track.
Butterfly And Zebra has a much gentler start and is almost an Always With me Always With You and If There Is No Heaven is a heavy concept to ponder which continues some of the religious themes that Satch has on his albums, although I can’t remember him ever stating his beliefs.
What we have is an absorbing superb album where there’s less emphasis on speed or on setting new benchmarks. The songs have room to breathe, it feels far more “comfortable” and relaxed, but with more than enough hooks to make you sit up hit rewind and play again to see what he’s just done.
Photography courtesy of:
Photo Credit: © Chapman Baehler
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