Personnel: Joe Satriani (guitar, keyboards); Chad Smith (drums).
Audio Mixer: Mike Fraser.
Recording information: Studio 21; Sunset sound; The Foot Locker.
Photographer: Joseph Cultice.
The very title of What Happens Next suggests that Joe Satriani is opening himself up to the unexpected, and the 2018 album winds up proving this suggestion correct. Teaming with his Chickenfoot bandmate Chad Smith -- best known as the drummer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers -- and Deep Purple bassist Glenn Hughes, Satriani pivots away from the space age prog that had been his stock in trade during the 2010s, but no matter how heavy it gets, What Happens Next is by no means a straightforward hard rock album. Make no mistake, there is no shortage of loud, blistering riffs and thundering instrumental roar, but this is hardly a monochromatic album. Throughout the record there is a significant amount of light and shade, not just in how the album alternates between frenzied workouts and cool, shimmering slow tunes. Even at their hardest moments, the trio members understand the need for levity, so they'll add some space and swing to their intense instrumentals, a tactic that gives even the hardest numbers the slightest air of jazz. Satriani, Smith, and Hughes never quite play jazz -- not even a fusion variation -- but they're players who respect how structure emboldens improvisation, which is why What Happens Next winds up sounding so alive. Satriani's reversion to hard rock feels fresh because it's a players' album through and through, one that demonstrates that the skills of all three musicians are deepening with age. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine