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Steve Vai – ‘Inviolate’

Favored Nations/Mascot Label Group
Joe Satriani, Tony MacAlpine, Paul Gilbert
Release Date
Favored Nations/Mascot Label Group
Instrumental Rock

Ever since Frank Zappa dubbed Steve Vai as his “little Italian virtuoso,” the world of guitar has never been the same. I say this without exaggeration and only a modicum of fanboy inflection; Vai has produced some of the most indescribably chaotic, beautiful, and influential music the world has seen. His music will live on well after he boards his spaceship and flies back to whatever planet he is from. 

It is my considered opinion that supernatural, impossibly gifted virtuosos should not sing. Ever. A few exceptions come to mind, but otherwise, they should let their gift spring only from their fingertips. Thankfully, ‘Inviolate’ is sans human voice. No vocals, no whacked out “only-Vai-wtf-isms.” Just. Vai. Magic. This album is a white and black and inverted technicolored rainbow dream.  

The album starts in a majestic yet restrained(ish) fashion. Walls of guitar squig and squog, ushering us into musical worlds that don’t even exist yet. Furious and compressed riffs (“Avalancha”) meet high neck strumming and unchecked bass noodling (“Apollo In Color.”)  “Candlepower” with its dazzling jazzy tones and wonderful dissonance is reminiscent of an electrified Adrian Legg. Staying true to the established “7th song” format, “Greenish Blues” saunters and soars, leaving no star untouched.

Vai has clearly used his Covid and hand surgery downtime to reconnect and revitalize. This album is about otherworldly musicianship, but more importantly, it is about emotion. Take it from a person who knows his history, the instrument, and has more than a cursory understanding of the art form; this is the new high bar. Genuinely full of heart and impossible technicality, ‘Inviolate’ is why we were all drawn to that first note, why we picked up an instrument, why we clicked our first download or put a needle on a record. Unifying. Gratifying. Indispensable. This is Vai at his absolute best.   

‘Inviolate’ is so so so close to rivaling 1990’s ‘Passion and Warfare.’ I am of a certain age and clearly remember the emotional impact that album had. So, trust me on this. Musically, it is perfect. Yes, perfect. Unlike ‘Passion and Warfare,’ this album is without many of the quirks and playful explorations. And that is quite alright by me. In my opinion, this is Vai’s second true masterpiece.

‘Inviolate’ will be celebrated long after we all board our respective spaceships. I know which album will be playing on mine.

"this is Vai’s second true masterpiece"

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