Inviolate by Steve Vai

Man, Inviolate by Steve Vai is so bloody good. I’m gonna write a little review about it at some point.

In 1990, Passion & Warfare came out. It was Steve Vai’s best work. That remained true until January 28th, 2022, when Inviolate came out and became Steve Vai’s new best work. Steve’s been making great songs right along, of course, but there hasn’t been an album that’s as good or as cohesive as Passion & Warfare — until now. Of course, this is all just my opinion. I find Inviolate to be better. The songs are more musical. The guitar work, as you’d expect, is technically stunning, but Vai’s playing has matured and developed a distinct voice that is quite expressive, even when blasting 32nd notes at 800bpm. (An exaggeration for comedic effect.) So the guitar work overall is more organic and tasty on Inviolate than on any of its predecessors. This is the most radio-friendly, accessible, yet still elaborately cool Steve Vai stuff ever.

Highlights. Highlight the first: the first three tracks (“Teeth of the Hydra”, “Zeus In Chains”, “Little Pretty”) are DYNAMITE. Well worth the price of admission. The rest of the album is really solid, with a few exceptional bits sprinkled into six tracks of good solid songs.

Highlight the second: “Knappsack”, a song played without the right hand. It’s all hammer-ons and pull-offs. A clever idea well executed.

Highlight the third: from a production standpoint, this is far and away the best-sounding Steve Vai I’ve heard. In the past I’ve found his production kinda hokey, and there are moments on Inviolate that are a bit Vai-y, but for the most part this album sounds competently produced. It sounds good. His tone is exquisite on this album. He switched from Carvin Vai Legacy amps to these preamp modules that somebody makes. I can’t remember the name of the company. I guess I could find out. <zang> Synergy Amplification. Vai’s got a signature green preamp module with them. It’s two channels, clean and lead. Specifically, Vai’s clean and Vai’s lead sounds. It’s tube, this preamp module, but it might also be partially digital, I don’t know. Maybe not. And I believe that’s where he gets the majority of his sounds for this album. It sounds great. And if you want to take the sound home with you, you can drop $400 and they’ll give you a Vai preamp module of your very own.

I’m so pleased that Vai finally surpassed Passion & Warfare. But is there anything here for folks who aren’t into guitar wankery? I actually think so. There’s some real cool music here. Some of the sounds here are deliciously tasty, groovy, and bizarre. Instrumental rock with a side of face-melting guitar work. A minimum of weird Vai stuff. Listen to the album Flex-Able by Steve Vai and you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say, “Weird Vai stuff”. It’s usually fun, but it diminishes the dignity of the proceedings. This is very best number one Steve Vai album. You don’t want to put “Little Green Men” on that album. You just don’t. The silliness decreased in Passion & Warfare and in subsequent releases. In Inviolate, it’s nonexistent. Just good songs. Fun songs. Powerful songs. Groovy songs. Happy songs. It’s all there.

Check out the album on the playlist above. I mean, like, if you wanna. And then buy it, also if you wanna. It comes out on vinyl on March 18; I preordered. I also bought the mp3s from Amazon. I can’t wait to hear it on vinyl. That guitar is gonna sound amazing.