I've been listening to Joe Satriani's 2006 album Super Colossal over the last month or two. The opening riff of track #1, "Super Colossal" did not impress me. No, it does not sound like Satch. However, the rest of the album is great. I did not really like it the first time I've listened through, but it somehow just grew in me.
Some songs are different from the Joe Satriani that I was familiar with -- high gain fast paced space rock guitarists that moves up and down the fret like a crazy alien (actually the "alien" part still holds true). I mean it is different from classics like Flying in a Blue Dream, The Extremists or Crystal Planet. There is a lot of "music", and some parts of compositions have thick layers of multiple guitar backings which produce that yummy rich texture. Wow.
One thing I also enjoyed is the Super Colossal podcasts, which were available before the official release. Satch had a introduction or a short story behind each song, like for track #4 "Redshift Raiders":
Satch: "...crazy piece based on the idea that in the future people could travel through space/time ... could take advantage of cosmological redshift effect so they can be swung around large planetary objects and get across universe a lot faster than normal..."
It is up to you to figure out what it sounds like. Redshift Rider is indeed one of my favourite track. It sounds more like old-school Satch but having a very "delicious" opening riff that just has so much texture (can't seem to wrap words around tunes here). The song might start "light" but Satch went crazy in the last 30 second of the track after the last verse...
Other songs are more "relaxed". It's So Good is very groovy and "feel good" with an excellent base line that makes you want to swing yourself around. Movin' On is another feel good song, with rock rhythm guitar and ringing melody (think "If I Could Fly" from Satch's previous album). I love those songs -- simple background riff, dominating lead like a versatile vocalist trying to sing a story, and amazing solo in the middle and to finish the song off.
Two slow songs in the album -- Ten Words and A Love Eternal. Maybe I'll say the former is the "Always with You Always with Me" of "Super Colossal" -- a soft rock that just stuck in your mind. Later sounds more like "Cry'" from "The Extremist", with its singing lead and each note struck at the right time. Lots of expression -- so much to tell.
Songs like One Robot's Dream and Made of Tears are just cool. One robot's Dream has a very funky drum beat that sets up a futuristic groove for Satch to tell the story on top. Solo kicks in at around 4:20 and it's just, hmm, cool?! "Made of Tears" on the other hand is my personal favour. 10-12 guitars overlay backing, very relaxing, overdrive lead, very nice tone. Yum.
There are cool songs, and there are weird songs. Crowd Chant, the last track of the album, is just plain weird. Satch plays a lick, and the crowd will hum the same tune back. I guess it will be funny having it in the concerts.
Indeed I have enjoyed this album very much. 19 years since "Surfing with the Alien", and there are some good albums and some "not so good" ones (am I the only one that hates all the techno in "Engine of Creation"?) -- however personally I found "Super Colossal" one of the better ones. Not something you'll discover when you first listen to it, but after repeated wash and rinse, you'll also discover the amazing depth inside.
Update: Found this review on Super Colossal, and here's an interesting quote from the comments:
Steve Vai is a wizard but I think he seems to alternate between being too weird (ie, trying to be Zappa) or too many notes (ie, Malmsteen). Satriani, to me, strikes the very nice balance of having jaw-dropping shreds while still making music.
Couldn't agree more.