Background and composition
The album was recorded on a budget of $13,000. Satriani's equipment was limited by the budget, consisting of two Kramer Pacer guitars and an adapted Stratocaster guitar, for which he would change the pickups to get different sounds. To save money, the album heavily used drum machines, programmed by Bongo Bob Smith, with Jeff Campitelli recording overdubs of hi-hats, cymbals, toms and snares. Satriani stated this gave the music an "awkward charm", and maintained the combination of loose guitar playing and machine-like drum programming. "Satch Boogie" is the only song to fully feature live drums, played by Campitelli.
The heavy metal-influenced "Crushing Day" contains the only solo on the album that was worked out beforehand, due to its length; the others are improvised. Satriani expressed regret for this decision later, as he felt constrained when having to play the song on stage.
A Casio CZ-101 was used to record the flute and orchestral instruments on "Midnight".
It contains fast and complex songs such as the title track and "Satch Boogie", which helped to further popularize shred guitar during that time. By contrast slower, melodic songs such as "Always with Me, Always with You" and "Echo" provide a change of pace. "Midnight" utilizes the technique of two-handed tapping at high tempo, evoking a Spanish fingerstyle effect. "Ice 9" references the fictional apocalyptic substance from Kurt Vonnegut's 1963 novel Cat's Cradle.