You didn’t expect anything understated, surely? After a gazillion ‘Best Guitarist’ accolades, bafflingly ambitious live projects and various orchestral symphonies under his belt, it’s safe to assume that Steve Vai’s new concept album will be a bit of a beast.
In his 16th solo work, Vai continues on his visionary, cosmic, conceptual, spiritual quest for virtuoso Utopia or what-have-you, via the tale of a mad, grief-stricken man, with escapades of revelation, enlightenment and other noble superlatives. The plethora of modes, choral blasts, unusual timings and tonal dynamics – convincingly forming one record, rather than 20 – is extraordinary.
The metally undercurrent of Velorum is elaborated with psychedelic noodling, Eastern synths and tempo changes galore. Progressive number No More Amsterdam echoes quieter Porcupine Tree, while rocker Racing The World nods to Satch and similarly FX-heavy axe-wielders (you can’t help picturing Grand Theft Auto-style scenes of Vai actually racing the world, with a quadruple-necked, 50-stringed, fire-breathing guitar. Or something).
It’s grandiose, it’s preposterous and it operates on a level of freaky-deaky guitar hero Zen that might easily have proved nothing short of stupid. Conversely, however, Story Of Light is an excellent record, demonstrative of the excitement and creativity behind Vai’s theoretical know-how.