Few albums have blown me away first listen the same way this album has. Aside from being the album that put Steve Vai on the map as a fantastic guitar player, it pushed the musical boundaries of instrumental guitar music. There weren’t many seven string players during this time, and with some of his tunes using a 7, Passion and Warfare was on it’s way to be a classic.
But We’re Still Animals
If there’s one thing I learned from this album, it’s that the opening to an album is incredibly important. The way opens up the album with “Liberty” is absolutely fantastic. It has a really catchy melody and gives you the exact idea as to what this album will become. “Erotic Nightmares” is your classic 80’s riffage until you really look into how Vai layers the various instruments here. His sparse use of the keys in the beginning, the slap bass and the various accents the drummer does are all so mesmerizing. Of note is his particular phrasing in the video below. It’s so staggered and unpredictable even after a couple listens. It does go off the deep end half way through, but that’s Vai for you.
Vai slows it down in “The Animal” tempo wise to really give the space in the song. The imagery the song gives me is equivalent to being a member of the mafia in the 20’s. Answers has a more upbeat feel, but that can be attributed to the really bright, spanky guitar that gives the song that syncopated rhythm. The tapping exhibited half way through the song is some of the cleanest tapping I’ve heard him do on this project.
“The Riddle” is almost a continuation from “Liberty” in terms of content. Musically it’s a complex piece with multiple layers that I still can’t fully digest. It has quite a few tempo and feel changes and it is probably my least played song on the album, but not due to lack of interest. “Ballerina 12_24” is probably the weirdest song on this album. With no instruments aside from a pitch shifted guitar, Vai creates a multi layered experience unlike any other…
That Steve Vai, what a nice little boy
Right at the half way point of this album is Steve Vai’s most popular track to date, “For The Love Of God”. Clicking in at just over 6 minutes, it’s a ballad, a rock song, and a cornerstone of instrumental rock music. From the cathartic Sitar, and sliding bass line, Vai expertly crafts a beautiful piece of music that just takes you to another head space. The solos are absolutely incredible and captivating. Fun fact: Vai fasted for 10 days and ended up recording the song on day four of the fast. Following FTLOG is my personal favorite song off the entire album “The Audience Is Listening”. This fast moving, but groovy tune has Vai using a 7 string and quite well I might add. In the following song, Vai channels his inner Van Halen for the riff and he sounds really comfortable doing so. This may have been inspired by his days with David Lee Roth in the DLR Band.
“Blue Powder” is ballad, but with Vai absolutely shredding on it and adding his personal touch to it. I love the more prominent role the piano has in this song for dictating the musical changes. Following “The Audience Is Listening”, “Greasy Kid’s Stuff” is my second favorite song. There’s something about the really tight pocket groove that Chris Frazier plays on the drums with Vai on bass is infectious. “Alien Water Kiss” is similar to Ballerina for me in the sense that it’s a noisy track with less reputability to me. “Sisters” is an emotional ballad, and truly a ballad in the conventional sense of the world. The production is extremely sparse and the song just works. It’s an exceptionally mesmerizing piece of music. Vai closes out the album with “Love Secrets”, a very sci-fi sounding song. Vai really manipulates space in this one, playing less is more is his mantra for the closing piece.