What Happens Next

Joe Satriani

Legacy, 2018


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


After a couple of outer-space journeys that did not necessarily fit the veteran well, Joe Satriani has returned to Earth as part of an ass-kicking power trio that wants to melt your face off.

The legendary guitar player is backed up by drummer Chad Smith (of the Red Hot Chili Peppers) and bassist Glenn Hughes (of Deep Purple and Black Country Communion). The three drive each song with energy and verve. At 12 songs – with only one longer than five minutes – the album is a lean nod to Satriani’s first couple albums, the ones that got us all hooked on him in the first place.

Because this isn’t a step forward, but rather a consolidation of strengths, there’s not a lot that hits the listener with the visceral thrill that Satriani’s early work did. Maybe we’re just used to those fluid guitar runs and the melding of hard rock, funk, soul, and jazz guitar playing – enhanced by lightning-fast hammer-tapping – that define Satch’s work. Certainly, he sounds like nobody else, though many have tried to sound like him over the years. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

To be sure, the best tracks are front-loaded, with “Energy” blasting out of the gate like a stock car at the Indy 500 and setting the tone for the record, making you miss when this sort of guitar rock was normal and not a fringe anomaly. “Catbot” is even better, the most modern-sounding track here, fusing elements of funk, fuzzed-out bass, and Satriani’s scratchy, gritty tone. Smith’s drumming is robotic and repetitive, which mostly works for the track, but one wishes it had a bit more flair to complement the guitar work. “Thunder High On The Mountain” lives up to its title, Satch’s stormy riffs, tapping skills, and a bit of strings coming together in a near-epic.

Things get a bit slow after that; though the fluid guitar work is top-notch on “Cherry Blossoms,” “Righteous,” and “Smooth Soul,” it’s not quite enough to elevate the tracks to must-hear status. Same for the title cut and the closing “Forever Ever,” which retains a lyrical grace in its playing. Note that there are no vocals on this album anywhere, which is just fine.

That said, the boogie-on-steroids “Headrush” continues a theme of aptly-named songs, coming at a necessary point on the disc and giving your blood pressure a much-needed jolt (seriously, if you don’t have any caffeine handy, this song will do the trick). “Super Funky Badass,” despite the title and seven-minute runtime, doesn’t really get going until about four minutes in and really doesn’t live up to the “funk” in the title (Chad Smith should know better, but Satriani’s playing is fantastic all the same). And “Invisible” is a mini-epic unto itself, with Hughes getting a bass solo of sorts and the band going haywire behind him.

What Happens Next, apparently, is that Satriani rediscovers the sound that pushed him to commercial success and creates something more personal than many of his recent outings. If you’re a fan, this familiar territory is a welcome sight, and certainly Smith and Hughes have enough chops to not only keep up with Satch but create a dynamic interplay that I hope stays intact. This isn’t an album that reinvents the fretboard the way Surfing With The Alien did – not that anything ever could – but it’s a nevertheless a solid slice of intense guitar rock, and that’s a beautiful thing.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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