Album review: Joe Satriani – What Happens Next

Back with his 16th studio album and with previous collaborators Chad Smith of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple, Joe Satriani is back in the stratosphere with his virtuoso guitar ability, but how does his newest work hold up?

“Energy” by name and energy by nature; “Satch”‘s new album opens up with exactly what you’d expect from its callsign. A driving riff drenched in distortion hammers out the rhythm for the track whilst a high-pitched melody wails over the high tempo drums and bass work. It’s hugely reminiscent of “Up In The Sky”, the epic opening track from Crystal Planet (this reviewer’s favourite Satriani album) and the perfect album opener.

Instrumental rock, particularly one centring directly on just the guitar can be a tricky beast to master, particularly as there’s only so many ways to skin a cat. And following the opening track (and my preceding awful pun) comes “Catbot”. Using a backing tune signature you could almost attribute to jazz or funk, the song feels tighter and more controlled than just a guitar solo layered over backing music for four minutes, Satriani weaves his melody through distorted synth, funky bass and a breakdown or two to allow for tempo changes.

“Smooth Soul” takes this same Southern-state inspiration (as the name might suggest) to weave a slower, more down to earth song the ends up sounding like a 70’s disco hip thrust looks. The track exudes a confidence and a cockiness that Satriani draws out of the guitar like water from a well.

This is not to say the album is without gratuitous technical bravado. “Thunder High On The Mountain” is precisely that, but is this a bad thing? The answer is a resounding “no”! Satriani’s career has spanned over three decades, since his first left football practice in New York to pick up a guitar to mourn Jimi Hendrix up until the present day, where his conceptual G3 concerts have been running for twenty years on the premise that the world loves to watch some epic electric guitar… and it most definitely does.

A couple of other highlights amongst the already spectacular track listing come with “Headrush”; a blistering tour de force that seems to be Satriani’s soul taking control of the guitar with or without his consciousness’ say-so, and in the title track, “What Happens Next”. The song has Satch take the guitar through its paces like few others could imagine how to, in what feels like a warm up for the finale of the album.

Satch knows how to clean the sound up as well though. “Cherry Blossoms” opens up with Chad Smith’s pounding drum beat and flowers into the masterful, clean and barely effected guitar runs of the rest of the track. “Righteous” follows directly on from “Cherry Blossoms” in the same vein. The track is exuberant and uplifting, it’s all the positivity of “Always With Me, Always With You” (From 1987’s Surfing With The Alien) but without the bittersweet edging.

Satriani’s work has always seemed somewhat space focussed, with previous work including Surfing With The Alien, Crystal Planet, Redshift Riders and more recently, Shockwave Supernova. For the most part, this seems some of his most introspective work, with the tracks feeling more human than ever and towards the end of the album, “Invisible” feels like the most soul-searching track of the album wth an intimacy not usually found in much of Satriani’s work.

Not long to be bound for this Earth however, this inwards journey hurtles back out into the galaxy Satch usually occupies with the final track, “Forever and Ever”. The track opens up from the intensity of “Invisible” to the spacey and exploratory reaches of this track.

What does the future hold for Satriani’s works to come? Who knows… but if anything is certain, it’ll be awesome guitar.





Author: Steve, Southgate store