New Album Review #4: Joe Satriani – Unstoppable Momentum (2013)



Joe Satriani, a man whose vibrant vibrato and spot-on guitar bendings I will always instantly recognize. As one of the few 80s guitar virtuosos he maintained a steady output of new solo material throughout his whole career, and successfully I might add. Thanks to that, he still is a household name in the guitar-loving community and released signature series of effect pedals, amps and guitars.

To be honest, I haven’t listened to all of his albums, but I’m very familiar with his style of instrumental music. His most distinguished skill is, that he can also, additionally to his amazing solo skills, perform a ‘vocal’ lead guitar line, that resembles the usual human phrasing so well, that I have been tricked into believing that there’s actually somebody singing more than once.

Nevertheless, I like things that are different. I don’t want to hear the same album remade with a different name slapped onto it, as many other famous artist have done. Can ‘Satch’ keep his trademark style and still deliver a fresh work of music that is worthy of being put on a record? Let’s find out!

The Songs & Production

The album Unstoppable Momentum start right away without much of an intro. For me, the title track completely fails as an opener, as the harmonies, the repetitive character of the main riff and the extensive solo-ing feel more like a song fitting for an album’s grand finale. But otherwise the song is fine.

Lies and Truths impressed me with its interesting use of break-beat rhythms, while most of the other song on the album hardly made a lasting impression on the first listen. This usually doesn’t make me want to sit through the whole record again, which is also the case here. The Weight of The World stands out with its 80s-flavored sounds, but falls a bit flat in its last third by ending in an excessively epic solo-section.

Overall the very polished tone and overly perfect performances might fit the guitar-hero’s style and the modern ‘American‘ aesthetics, but for me, the liveliness and authenticity is lost with this kind of sound. On the other hand, it is and always has been his sound, so why should he change it?

As usual, Satriani finds a lot of creative ways to use his guitar for his own benefit. He does what he always does, without adding that much into the mix. Yes, I know, that’s what I always say. Again, I like things that are different and unexpected, so in that regard Satch didn’t impress me at all; it is mostly just more of the same.

The Final Judgement

 A fan of Satriani or instrumental rock music might find a lot of joy in this record. If you’re into guitar playing and mangling your intrument with a lot of cool gizmos and effects, this album could provide plenty of inspiration. But, if you’re looking for new ideas or adventurous innovations, you might wanna skip this one.

Score: 6/10

Official Homepage:
Follow me on Twitter to stay tuned for new reviews:

Posted on 05/09/2013, in New Album Reviews and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I understand that under the first amendment, everyone has the right to express and offer their opinion. But if the 1st amendment is ever usurped by a tyrannical government, I hope this particular review from The Critical Listener will be the first criminally prosecuted.

    This album is a strong 10 out of 10….typical Satch. Check the box for another timeless legendary classic album from the master

    • Even though I don’t need any amendment to respect the freedom of speech, I understand that you are fan of Satch (your “master”) and that you think the rating should be higher. As I wrote, it is a good, or even great, Satriani album, 8 or 9 out of 10 Satch-stars if you like. But on the grand scale of things and in my personal understanding and experience of music this is not a “timeless legendary classic album”.
      I think this way and that’s why I wrote it here on my blog.
      You can write a detailed review so I can understand why you think that way about this album; you can even post a link here in the comments, if you like.

      Until then, tCL.

  2. I’m actually just having some fun as a major satch fan. You have to expect it from nutty overboard fans that worship musicians. Your review was actually good and I respect your objective opinion. Out of numerous other reviews I read online for unstoppable momentum, yours had the lowest rating (most were 8 or 9 of 10 star reviews) so I was being silly with regard to the criminal prosecution of your review.

    Unstoppable Momentum still slightly trails the Extremist, Crystal Planet, Blue Dream, and probably Wormhole wizards, but with Satch, he sets the bar so high that even his “lesser” albums are lightyears ahead of other instrumentalists of the same genres. I’ve seen him live 6 times from Portland Oregon to Orlando FL and various spots in between. I’ve met the guy and he is as genuine as his music. However, I can still actually be objective myself in that I think even he doesn’t touch the blues like SRV, nor does he have the well rounded stylistic structures that Eric Johnson has and his phrasing is easily rivaled by David Gilmore. But putting that aside, he is the sole best all around musician, showman, and his music never tires me. That’s not to say that Time Machine and Not of this Earth are albums I could do without.

    Last time I saw him he played for 4 straight hours. I was standing the whole time and never tired (even after hearing Eric Johnson and Jeff Morse open). He left the audience wanting more.

    But getting back to Unstoppable Momentum, I will say that I found Three Sheets to the Wind one of his most refreshing cuts as it was fun to listen to and so different from his common themes. Again, its a top tier album and I’m really enjoying the latest from a musician than never repeats himself and always finds new and exciting ways to recreate the experience of 12 notes.

  3. U can call me betty

    I love Joe. I’m in my 40s, I listen to music all day and if forced to choose only one artist to listen to for the rest of my life I’d probably choose him. Or Neil Young. But this album wouldn’t be anywhere near the top of the heap for me. I’d say he has at least 6 better studio albums. The reviewer is right, there’s nothing close to new or adventurous about it. But at least it’s still Joe, and that’s pretty damn good.

  4. I’m a massive Satch fan, in fact have front row seats to see him in a week or so. Anyway, the reviewer is spot-on, this album is just a retread of everything from before. It’s so-so, I’ve listened to it a few times at home but it won’t be going in the holy grail of the car or on the phone for mobile listening.

    It’s just Satch by numbers, from Satch himself. 6 out of 10 is spot on.

Write a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: