Steve Vai: Story Of Light

Satriani’s ex-pupil goes large. Really large.

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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.

Polly Glass
Deputy Editor, Classic Rock

Polly is deputy editor at Classic Rock magazine, where she writes and commissions regular pieces and longer reads (including new band coverage), and has interviewed rock's biggest and newest names. She also contributes to Louder, Prog and Metal Hammer and talks about songs on the 20 Minute Club podcast. Elsewhere she's had work published in The Musician, delicious. magazine (opens in new tab) and others, and written biographies for various album campaigns. In a previous life as a women's magazine junior she interviewed Tracey Emin and Lily James – and wangled Rival Sons into the arts pages. In her spare time she writes fiction and cooks.