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The Story Of Light

Favored Nations (2012)
Rating: 6.5/10

Best known to hard rock fans as the guitarist for David Lee Roth and Whitesnake during the respective height of each of their careers, Steve Vai is known worldwide as one of the premier guitarists in the world today. In fact, he is one of a very select few in the genre who has found mega success as an instrumentalist. The Story Of Light is Vai’s eighth studio solo album.

It must be hard to be Steve Vai. Trying to record a new album must be tremendously challenging with albums like Passion And Warfare (1990) and Fire Garden (1996) in your discography. What Vai does here though is offer a mix of new dynamics and tried and true rock ’n’ roll formula.

The best example of this are the opening two tracks. The album’s namesake kicks things off with an exploratory, introspective sounding tune topped off by a foreign language narrator. ‘Velorum’ pulls up behind it with a much more straightforward and driving hard rock beat complete with screaming guitar melodies. ‘Gravity Storm’ is a groovy rocker as well, that comes off like a jam. I would be willing to bet that this song will be a highlight of his set at just about any tour stop.

The best moments here for me though are the ones where Vai allows a vocalist in to take the songs into more traditional sounding territory. The Beverly McClellan (The Voice contestant) led heavy blues of ‘John The Revelator’ is insanely good. It grinds so hard you just want to crank it to 11 and scream along. I wouldn’t be surprised if Vai smashed his guitar every night at the end of this song.

The gentle ‘No More Amsterdam’ is as beautiful as it is technical and features the distinct vocals of alt-rock legend Aimee Mann. Vai provides the vocals for the mysterious sounding ‘The Moon And I’, which reminds me more than a little of some of Yes’ classic work. The vocals interplay with the guitar on this song in such a way that it comes off as a duet of sorts.

Overall, this is a solid album from start to finish. If you like mostly instrumental guitar albums, Vai is your man. Same as he always has been. If that isn’t your thing however, this won’t convince you to make an exception like some of Vai’s other albums could. The Story Of Light is slightly less fluid than Vai’s classic work but will still leave you wondering how the hell he plays like that.

Mark Fisher

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