Skip to main content

Steve Vai - Modern Primitive/Passion And Warfare album review

Steve Vai's second and definitive album gets a reissue, along with a bunch of newly updated material

Steve Vai Passion And Warfare album cover

Released in 1990, Passion And Warfare was Steve Vai’s second album and is still regarded as definitive by many. An avid student of Frank Zappa, Vai transforms what is essentially a heavy metal instrumental album into a sublime guitar extravaganza with some judicious shredding, well-constructed solos with copious amounts of effects, broken up by the occasional ballad that can stir the heart while eschewing the obvious clichés. What few lyrics there are have an idiosyncratic wit and the overall sense is of an edgy heavy metal that’s invigorating, while refusing to settle.

For the 25th-anniversary reissue, Vai has created a whole new album of material that was written during the six-year gap between Passion And Warfare and his 1984 debut, a period that saw him playing with Dave Lee Roth and Whitesnake, among many others.

But rather than present the music as a bunch of outtakes, he has either recorded new parts over the original rhythm tracks, re-recorded the track with the original musicians or re-recorded the track using his current musicians – hence the Modern Primitive title. It’s a novel approach that has the effect of placing the original album firmly in the present, where it belongs.

How I joined Frank Zappa's band, by Steve Vai

Steve Vai: the 10 Records That Changed My Life

Steve Vai on obsession, greatness, ego and bee-keeping

Hugh Fielder has been writing about music for 47 years. Actually 58 if you include the essay he wrote about the Rolling Stones in exchange for taking time off school to see them at the Ipswich Gaumont in 1964. He was news editor of Sounds magazine from 1975 to 1992 and editor of Tower Records Top magazine from 1992 to 2001. Since then he has been freelance. He has interviewed the great, the good and the not so good and written books about some of them. His favourite possession is a piece of columnar basalt he brought back from Iceland.