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Album Review: Joe Satriani – Shockwave Supernova

2 min read

You don’t often come by guitarists who are as hard working, influential and technically proficient as Joe Satriani. With his 15th studio album Shockwave Supernova, Satch has turned back the dial in terms of effects and fretboard tricks, and lets the foundation of his masterful playing do all the talking.

JoeSatrianiShockwaveSupernovaSatriani has stated that it’s not exactly a straight concept album – it follows a theme of renewal and awakening and tells the narrative of his extroverted alter ego if you want to listen for it – but the album is open enough in scope to allow creative decisions to be made track by track. For example, four of the tracks were actually recorded for his previous album but were not ready at the time and so have been slotted in here where they sound at home.

Although the album has an underlying sci-fi edge about it, each song has its own character and feels very personal. The album’s backbone is provided by straight forward instrumental rock with an atmospheric edge and progressive tinge, and blues sensibilities are melted seamlessly into many of the tracks. We hear some more traditional sounds than may have been expected, with the shufflin’ San Francisco Blue, samba percussive beats in All Of My Life and swing rhythm  hiding on In My Pocket. Of course, you won’t go hungry for the crunching riffs and virtuosic guitar solos that Satch is so well renowned for, but things like flourishes of hammer-ons and tapping solos are used sparingly rather than being done to death. The guitar master instead focuses on evoking feeling and mood through melody and tone rather than overly complex technique.

I was first drawn to Satriani’s music for his technical showmanship on albums like Surfing With The Alien, but I have to say I find Shockwave Supernova a hell of a lot easier to really connect to. It’s just over an hour long, spread over 15 tracks, but there’s a real sense of flow and continuity. Each separate song feels like a chapter of a common underlying story, and an outcome like that can be difficult for instrumental music so Satriani has done particularly well in that respect. I put it down to guitar playing that is more direct and less showy,  and allows Satch to send his message clearly.