Legacy Records (Sony Music Group) – July 24, 2015
Review by Edwin van Hoof
Literally all must have been said in appraisal to Joe Satriani’s extreme skills and technical abilities as a guitar player as well as a songwriter. Satch is one of the modern day guitar pilgrims exploring the widest range possible, able to align notes in its most diverse nature without ever forcing his hand. He showcased his skills worldwide in long running tours, ‘frustrating’ guitar players all over the globe. His natural groove and fretboard handling have driven fans to the edge of insanity trying to frickle away like their hero.
With Chickenfoot Satriani stepped up to the plate as a band player which clearly opened his eyes towards this new endeavor. Joe chooses to explore his playing in service of the song and thus created his alter ego “Shockwave Supernova.”
“Shockwave Supernova” taps into Satch’ veins deeper than ever before exploring a new dimension for his as a player and songwriter. The concept evokes a guitar player evolving during the course of his life, this record. An evolution unloading in sheer beauty showcasing Satriani’s abilities to create a 3 dimensional musical landscape evolving around extreme playing without discarding intense melodies. The captivating trip can be seen in the light of his own evolution as both a player and a person perhaps. But as always, “Shochwave Supernova” is all about awesome music and great playing as is instantly proven by the opening track. The title track is a full force entry deeply rooted in rock but with a fling of Latin, like Santana on speed. Sudden stop motion sections and key changes make it an extremely interesting endeavor which sets the tone for the rest of this remarkable CD. “Lost in Memory” is crafted around two chord progressions which and blooms with a jaw dropping solo by Satch. The song is propelled by an ultimately strong groove laid down by Marco Minnemann (drums.) and Bryan Beller (bass). It perfectly links with the swagger laden and joyful driven “Crazy Joey” which is an upbeat sizzling tune that has Joe spitting flames. Apreggios fly in all directions while Satriani’s hammer-on’s cook up the pot with an intense (VH-like) momentum. Adding up to the spicy stew is the intense multi-dimensional drumming of Vinnie Colauita. “In My Pocket” starts off in the opposite direction with an undefined country fiddle and slowly evokes the typical Satriani style. The song blooms when it reaches the solo that is as extravagant as the conceptual input of the story. High notes screaming at you while the southern (harmonica) vibe returns in the closing groove.
“On Peregine Wings” is perhaps the best ever Satriani song. It consists of an impeccable beat taking off and the song is propelled by a stiff riff on the top board, unloading tremendous power. His tremolo is working overtime while Joe steers keenly through the feedback. The melody of the song is heartwarming and beautiful. The body of the song is indicative with exotic scales and moving with an emotive underscore. “Cataclysmic” is an old school rocker song that revives the contemporary (rock) side of Joe’s alter ego. Extremely contrasting with this hard rocking outburst is the shuffle and swing in “San Francisco Blue” which warps us back into the 60’s. A stretched melody in the very best, the Shadows tradition adds up to the feeling while Marco’s drums have that organic old school swing to it. “Keep on Moving” comes in with the typical jazzy Mike Keneally keyboard / piano swirls. The song fuses together the jazzy interludes and melody lines with bluesy solos.
“All My Life” lingers on with a Latin percussion section and groove while the Satriani stays focused on the melody rather than drifting away in freakish mayhem. It’s a resting point in this ‘story’ which continues with the stop’n motion riff on “A Phase I’m going Through”, blooming with the typical old school Satriani extravagance. Returning to base is the organic and 70’s vibe in “Scarborough Stomp” that is staggering and nests inside your head on the spot.
“Butterfly and Zebra” is a short interlude with a gorgeous sustained fluent melody paving the way for the fierce velocity on “If there is No Heaven”. The song is rooted in the eighties and has a Police feel to it, matching the Synchronicity album. With a verse and three choruses’ the construction is also out of the ordinary in terms of composition and style, but it fits the record and it fits the mood swing implemented in the story.
The album comes to an end while Shockwave transcends into his current personality on “Star Race Across the Sky”. While Satriani spits his riffs all over the place, Keneally fills in the blanks with repetitive arpeggios throughout the track. Perhaps it is technically the most interesting tune on the album the song breathes a certain level of spiritual well-being. Warmth is spread over the length of the song and it links together perfectly with the closing chapter of the album; “Goodbye Supernova”. The song sums up the metamorphosis of Shockwave with blues verses firing away at us while key changes frequently and arpeggios spit gravel. It’s a dramatic rendition of his transformation in which technique is leading. The orchestral arrangements from Keneally are impeccable that add up to the dramatic feel that brings in sight.
“Shockwave Supernova” displays a different side in the songwriting of Joe Satriani without discarding his patented and out of the ordinary Satriani guitars escapade. Bold riffage and spitting arpeggios thrive while introspective and dramatic passages reveal another side of the conceptual story. The dynamics of the record are out of the ordinary as is the musical craftsmanship at hand. Minnemann, Beller and the spot on arrangements of Keneally are balancing out the finesse Satriani is so well known for. With the addition of Colaiuta and Chris Chaney Joe also manages to focus on the internal difference musically. Little adjustments in style do the trick and keep us on the edge of our seats as the story unfolds. The flamboyance of the character is sonically rendered perfectly by Satch and the growth and transition of Shockwaves personality if to be felt as the album evolves. It has, and I have to say it… the immaculately Unstoppable Momentum.
92 / 100