Sound: When it comes to execution, it's hard to find fault in a guitarist like Joe Satriani. Whether garnering Grammy nominations or earning accolades from his Chickenfoot bandmates (who, by the way, say he beats out Eddie Van Halen in terms of all-around playing ability), Satriani has solidified his stronghold as a guitar god. For his latest record Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards, the musician has indicated that he wrote songs that his audience probably might not expect and those tracks caught him off guard as well. It's not necessarily that the 11 new songs are completely out of left field stylistically, but they do indicate that Satriani has been drawing from a variety of world influences other than your typical rock format.
Out of the 11 tracks, the opener Premonition could be considered your most standard Satriani fare. Driven by a mellower rock tempo, the phrasing of each section is tastefully done without excess showiness. While a solid track on the whole, Premonition becomes even a bit more engaging with the introduction of an engaging, groove-oriented lick (and more frantic soloing) enters into the equation about halfway through. Light Years Away begins with a calm, unassuming ambient synth sound, but Satriani quickly enters with a good dose of gain-fueled rock riffage. That particular song does take a few breathers in terms of the energy level, but it's nothing in comparison to Solitude. A quiet, almost chillingly subtle piano line constitutes the foundation of the instrumental one-minute track and makes for an uncharacteristic guitar-less interlude.
Littleworth Lane was inspired by the passing of Satriani's mother Katherine, who resided on a street of the same name in Sea Cliff, New York. A down-tempo, pristine blues track inspired by Katherine's love of a variety of musical styles, it is beautifully played and is a tasteful tribute. In the latter few songs of the album is when Satriani truly thinks outside of the box. The Golden Room is characterized by a striking rhythm and Middle Eastern influences, but the big payoff comes through Satriani mixing in a metal sound within that same track. Wormhole Wizards builds upon a quiet intro and delivers one of the most memorable guitar lines on the entire album. There is a section within Wormhole Wizards that veers off to a classical tangent, but Satriani doesn't abuse this aspect and lets his soloing to take the spotlight for the remaining portion of the track. // 8
Lyrics: N/A // 8
Overall Impression: Instrumental albums can be hit or miss, but with Satriani you can at the very least know that you're receiving some of the finest feats of execution within the guitar world. Black Swans And Wormhole Wizards is certainly satisfying in that regard, but Satriani never strays too far from his typical sound. The rock and/or metal moments don't necessarily taken precedence on Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards, with mellow, sleek compositions representing a good chunk. Dramatic musical choices are kept to a minimum, which may leave some listeners eager for something a bit more edgy or dangerous. Even so, Satriani continues to impress with his playing skills and that is probably what will be the biggest draw for his fans in the end. // 8