Joe Satriani has been making records since 1986 and over 27 years he has created his own musical language and landscape and, expanding the definition of the rock instrumental genre and by producing commercially successful, timeless albums opened the door for many imitators and lesser talents as well as a few near equals. He has experimented and expanded his language, refining it to the point where his audience knows what to expect from one of his records. He's past the point of tailoring his sound to win new converts and can now comfortably play to the faithful.
Even an innovator like Satriani runs the risk of becoming stale and repetitive and as he approaches the end of nearly three decades of work he has largely avoided that trap- largely, not completely. Satriani may have created his own musical language and is thus its most fluent speaker so there are no mistakes but too many of these songs sound like he's reading from the phonebook rather than recreating Shakespeare in his native musical tongue.
"Unstoppable Momentum" is the type of song Satriani has made a staple of his canon and he executes them brilliantly most of the time. He fails to capture the spirit and energy present in so much of his work. He strives for anthemic but it comes up anemic, lacking muscle in the low end from either the bass or rhythm guitar. Nothing here feels unstoppable or momentous. The playing is fantastic as ever but the music misses.
That's the story of the bulk of the record: the playing is too often superior to the songs and the gulf makes much of the album unmemorable. There are highpoints, though, such as "A Door Into Summer." It recalls his hit "Summer Song" from The Extremist and I wouldn't be surprised if these two songs were played sequentially. The riff lacks crunch but the tone of the melody and the lead lines are vintage Satriani. This would be a solid album track on his best albums rather than a standout moment but it's a good song.
"Jumpin' Out" is notable for its loose, jam-oriented feel, something not often found in Satriani's tightly constructed songs. "Weight Of The World" finds our guitar hero playing like an orchestra performing a symphony. It's a shame the rhythm and supporting pieces were as interesting as the classical-rock hybrid of the lead guitar.
Joe Satriani remains among the most respected guitarists in the universe and I've been listening to him more than half my life. His contributions and legacy are secure and I won't hesitate to buy his next record. Unstoppable Momentum isn't a bad record but it's title is a bit of a misnomer. I wish I liked this one more than I do but this album is a victim of the high standard we've come to expect, one he so often achieves and eclipses. I already know the next time I'm in the mood to hear one of my favorite guitarists, this won't be the album I reach for.