Engines Of Creation

Joe Satriani

Epic Records, 2000


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It really must suck to be Joe Satriani. Think about it: you've proven without a doubt over the course of the last 15 years that you are one of, if not the, leading guitarists on the planet. You've spawned dozens of wanna-be guitarists, but have rarely been duplicated.

Tough life, isn't it? But Satriani had to be bored with the whole guitar-god routine. Why else would he all but abandon the mold he's followed since the beginning and move into the world of electronic music on his latest disc Engines Of Creation? It's a risky move, but in the end, it's a disappointing move for Satriani.

It would be too easy to listen to this disc once and damn it -- but that's not being fair. Some of Satriani's work has turned out to be his most lasting once I've had some time to live with the album a bit. But in the case of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Engines Of Creation, multiple listens weren't doing anything more than showing how the guitar was worked into the background noise.

Take the opening track "Devil's Slide". With the lack of Satriani's guitar prowess until the middle of the track, you're left to deal with a sound that almost is like Satriani is trying to be KMFDM or Nitzer Ebb this time around. One word: blah.

It's not that Satriani hasn't dipped his toes into different waters over the years. Flying In A Blue Dream was more experimental than some people might have expected -- and it was not an album I appreciated on first listen. But making adjustments to your sound is one thing; switching formats is a whole different ball of wax. It's so radical that when Satriani does venture into a "normal" track on "Until We Say Goodbye," it sounds as out of place as David Duke at a Nation of Islam rally.

Granted, there are times that the sonic experiment works. "Borg Sex" is a shining example of this, a track that would be a perfect single for this album. Satriani works his guitar into the mix so well that the overall sound is almost natural. Unfortunately for Satriani, these moments are few and far between.

Engines Of Creation comes off sounding drab and stiff on tracks like "Flavor Crystal 7" and "Clouds Race Across The Sky" -- something I never thought I'd say about Satriani or his playing. It's almost as if he purposely took the influence off of his guitar pyrotechnics and redirected it towards the techno beats he lays down. Big mistake -- that's like saying you read Hustler for the insightful political coverage.

There is just enough on Engines Of Creation to remind you who you're listening to, but there's just not enough to make this album one you have to run out and buy. Then again, this disc might win Satriani some fans from the techno world -- though one wonders what they'd say when they dipped into his back catalogue. I'm guessing they'd say the same thing I'm thinking after dissecting Engines Of Creation: What was Satriani thinking?

Rating: C-

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© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.