14 September 2015

Joe Satriani - Shockwave Supernova

Seems only like yesterday when Satch released his Unstoppable Momentum album (read the review here on this link), not one of his more intense pieces like The Extremist, but a nice little showcase of his virtuoso talents on the Ibanez JS and whatever six stringed stylings he unleashes to the eager listener. Unstoppable Momentum isn't much longer than 45 minutes, but this new one, at 15 tracks long, judging from the extra sessionists he's drafted in, seems to be more focused and involving.

I first heard the 1987 launch of Surfing The Alien (read the review here) about 3 years ago, so I was relatively new to Satch, but as a keen guitarist myself, immediately sold on his skill and creative talents to drum up on some fresh penned ideas. However much I try to follow his activities, he really did a good job of keeping this album, number 15 by the way, under wraps until a few weeks prior to the launch. I posted an snippet on a Facebook page thinking, "He's pulled out all the stops again." I've given high marks in my previous reviews, so another benchmark for Shockwave Supernova to live up to.

Opening Shockwave is the title track. Actually, it's very minimal offering, obviously a hard rocking and polished piece as I would expect, but not too many hooks on the bridges, still a lively opener, even if it feels somewhat undersold and perhaps too much rhythm. Next, it's Lost In A Memory, which is an airy and carefree number, Mr Satriani takes up some more shredding in this one and again another track I can warm to despite the album starting on a quiet note. Then it's a slight turnaround in the activity as Satch gets to take a free reign in his tapping and hammer on shows in Crazy Joey. Good back up from drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, and likewise he performs well and distinctive in next track In My Pocket, Satch also features some pronounced harmonica work too.

About a quarter into the album, and On Peregrine Wings gives Shockwave a little more of a hard rocking streak, this is the first track here I heard and posted, and for me, possibly the best one of the lot, certainly a top track contender which really sells the album. The riffwork is simplistic but very memorable, so onto Cataclysmic, which suggests that we're all taking a darker turn. I find it notable that instrumentals can determine the scene for a dark tale, and this does take a slightly deep foreboding direction. The mood swings again with the lightweight San Francisco Blue, minimally arranged by the sounds of it, and maybe another undersold item. Track number 8 is Keep On Movin' which is much more engaging I must say, piano and keyboard are the more prominent players in this thanks to the capable Mike Keneally, it's another highlight of the 15 tracker so far.

Listening to All My Life, it's an enjoyable easy going 80s feel, and I can see where JS might've found the inspiration while recording in the Californian studios of Skywalker Sound. The backup percussion adds some much needed pep to it too. A Phase I'm Going Through follows, and a perfect example of how hammer on should be used, especially for the novice shredsman, but just as listenable and pleasing to my ear. The theme takes a different turn with Scarborough Stomp, it sounds like a Stevie Ray Vaughan's Electric Blues number, till the hook takes another twist. The mini track that follows it is Butterfly and Zebra, a nice little poignant and reflecting piece for all its two minutes.

We're now three from the end with If There Is No Heaven. The rhythm guitars resemble Andy Summers' and it's just as ingraining to the mind as its preceding numbers. The album on the whole has had an airy feel to it, as evidenced on Stars Race Across The Sky, puts me in a good mind to lie flat on the sands and look straight up for hours on end. The recurring concept of an astral approach extends onto the final track Goodbye Supernova, maybe lacking a hook or two, but his leads on the Ibanez JS is the major selling point as the curtain closes on the album.

Too lightweight to be ever considered a hard rocking album in my opinion, but it's never going to bow down easily. A little warning however, you will be disappointed if expecting plenty of edge and serration from Satch, and I ashamedly admit my expectations were heading that way. From a technical viewing, my two slight peeves is that it's a tad lengthy, and it's missing just one more twist to the plot, but in all probability I've missed the point here. It's better to view it differently and see what other things Shockwave Supernova has to offer on the basis of theme, and certainly in terms of the depth and texturing of the layers, this album has it in the truckloads.

8.5 out of ten. Oh, now you have my attention, and maybe my money, time and heart.
Best track : On Peregrine Wings

Buy Shockwave Supernova here on Amazon
Listen to the album here on Spotify
Deezer subscribers can alternatively click on this link
Official Joe Satriani Facebook page here
Official Joe Satriani website here

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