Sex and Religion (1993) was the third album put out by seven-string guitar virtuoso Steve Vai. A follow-up to his highly-acclaimed 1990 effort, Passion and Warfare, Sex and Religion was, by all accounts, an effort to expand the boundaries of his music beyond the "standard" guitar licks and effects expected from him -- as if such a word could ever be used to describe anything that Vai produces.

Putting together a lineup that features drummer Terry Bozzio and bassist T.M. Stevens, Vai also reined-in the stratospheric sounds of previously unknown vocalist, Devin Townsend. On Sex and Religion Vai explores a soundscape that differs greatly from any of his other work prior, ranging from meandering, free-flowing pieces to harder-edged, frenzied tracks that best demonstrate his formidable chops.

Now, it is true that any bold experiment can have both great and mundane moments, not to mention intended and unintended consequences, and Sex and Religion is no exception to this. As it stands, Vai is an exponentially far more accomplished guitarist than he is lyricist, and such, unfortunately, is fairly evident on this album, whereupon we sometimes find the band straying on vaguely absurdist, quasi-metaphysical tendencies that are very likely the biggest detraction from this album. Furthermore, while Townsend's sonic yowls are impressive, and sometime fit into place nicely, they are just as often vaguely unnerving and perhaps distracting, even to the most avid of Vai fans.

This said, Sex and Religion is not without its merit. On this album, Vai displays what are perhaps some of his most creative and original exhibitions to date, from the hypersonic harmonies that are heard in "Touching Tongues" to "Deep Down into the Pain", where Vai orchestrates a truly innovative composition, performed using the "Xavian scale", an entirely new musical scale that Vai himself created, with sixteen divisions to the octave.

In the end, Sex and Religion is not an album for everyone, and perhaps understandably, it was not much of a commercial success, although this doesn't seem to be what Vai strives for, insofar as his overriding prerogative seems to be the a continual search for new and undiscovered guitar horizons. Regardless, there are redeeming features on this album, and it is worth a listen, if only to hear something one is guaranteed to have never heard before. Who knows -- perhaps you'll find that you like it.

Track Listing:
1. An Earth Dweller's Return
2. Here and Now
3. In My Dreams With You
4. Still My Bleeding Heart
5. Sex & Religion
6. Dirty Black Hole
7. Touching Tongues
8. State of Grace
9. Survive
10. Pig
11. The Road to Mt. Calvary
12. Down Deep into the Pain
13. Rescue Me or Bury Me

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