Steve Vai – Inviolate – A First Reaction

Remember Stretch Armstrong?

Oh boy! Oh boy! Oh boy!

I feel like a kid on Christmas morning, patiently waiting for mom and dad to wake up so I can rip open my new Stretch Armstrong action figure.

I’ve grown up, (kind of!) and my interests have obviously changed (kind of!). Now, I look forward to new music, and today, as I sit on my sofa with my trusty sidekick, Geddy The Rock Dog, I am about to open a slightly late Christmas present: Steve Vai’s new album, Inviolate. And I’m not really opening, I’m just hitting play, but you get the drift.

The Hydra

Filled with 9 tracks that are sure to make me smash all of my guitars in frustration, Inviolate, will be released on January 28, 2022 through Favored Nations/Mascot Label Group. What new trickery is in store for all Vai fans?

I have read that he has designed a new guitar called the Hydra, which features everything but the kitchen sink. From his bio, the ‘guitar’ is a “one-of-a-kind custom guitar he coined the Hydra. But calling the Hydra a mere guitar is selling it way, way, way short. Built in conjunction with the designers at Hoshino and based on a “steampunk motif” idea of Vai’s, the Hydra is a beast of an instrument – a one-bodied, two-headstock-ed, three-neck-ed creature that encompasses, among other things: seven- and 12-string guitars; a four-string bass; sympathetic harp strings; half-fretless necks; single-coil, humbucking, piezo and sustainer pickups; floating and hardtail tremolo bridges; phase splitters; and much, much more.”

I have also read that he has recently had shoulder surgery. I also imagine that a recently surgeried Steve Vai is still capable of guitar wizardry that most can only dream of.

Geddy The Rock Dog

I had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Vai in 2017, before a Generation Axe gig in Seoul, South Korea, (read it here) so we go way back! I consider Inviolate a gift from an old friend that I’ve never met and doesn’t know who I am.

If you’re new to Let’s Rock, welcome! I’m glad you are here. Our reviews are a little different than on other sites. It’s a First Reaction review, meaning I just chill out with Geddy The Rock Dog, turn the album up loud and write shit down as I listen to it for the first time.

Here we go!!

Teeth of the Hydra

I’m so excited! Super mellow, with that distinctive Vai sound. No one plays or sounds like this dude. I want to know who’s playing on the album with him. The drums and bass are locked in. This is ultra-cool. The Hydra sounds heavy and deep. Oooh, he’s using a sitar/harp kind of thing. This is a really neat way to start an album. It’s a nice atmospheric number. I imagine it is setting the tone for the rest of Inviolate. Great start

Zeus in Chains

How do instrumental guitarists come up with song titles? Zeus In Chains? Interesting. This one, although the guitars sound raunchy, is also pretty tame…in a good way. The feel this man has in unbelievable. Nice mellow solo. This bass dude is awesome. Oooh, nice little harmony guitar part. It’s a little reminiscent of…he’s rippin now. Good Lord! Anyway, it reminds me a little of Passion and Warfare. Similar sound, but different, if that makes sense. It’s over. Very tasty, with some classic Steve-style shredding. Can’t complain about that.

Little Pretty

I used to have a JEM-copy. I can’t remember who made it, but it didn’t sound anything like what I’m hearing. Maybe it’s because Steve is good at guitar, and I’m…Wow, there’s a lot happening here. It is Pretty, like the title says. Hey, maybe that’s how he gets his song titles. This won’t come as a shock to any Vai fans, but there’s not a note that’s out of place, or doesn’t fit. The bass player is killing it. Reminds me a little of Bryan Beller, from The Aristocrats. It’s funny, I can picture him playing these solos as I listen. As the great Canadian guitarist Kim Mitchell sang in Diary For Rock N Roll Men, Steve has the ultimate ‘Lemon Twist lips.’ He’s so much fun to watch. This one seemed short. Little and Pretty. I get it now. Oh, wait…It was 6 minutes long. That flew by.


Another mellow one. Lovin’ it. Ooh, nice little run. This is a sexy song. Some sweet bends. Maybe behind the nut? Just guessing. I’m trying to make it sound like I know what I’m talking about. This drummer is awesome. Who is it? He’s all over the place. And so is Steve. Fingerpickin’ goodness. Oh my, very cool run at the end. Wait, it’s done already? That was quick.

Apollo In Color

Funky chords with cool noises. Oh, nice scale. Steve has a always been a master of the scale, which i know is the understatement of this article. He weaves them in so perfectly. (Think For The Love of God at the 4:32 mark. My favourite scale ever!) He starts this one off with a sick scale. Teach me your ways. Such fluid playing. It really is awe inspiring. I love his fast stuff, but it’s the slow stuff that really gets me. It’s goosebump inducing.


I just sent a message to the publicist, Steve. He sent me a list of the players on the album. It was Bryan Beller in Little Pretty. This one is the great Billy Sheehan. That makes me think of the first time I saw Steve with David Lee Roth on the Eat Em and Smile tour in Ottawa. That was a jaw dropper. This is a rocker, right from the get-go. Super chunky rhythm sound. Holy crap! Jeremy Colson on drums. He’s pretty good! Double bass drum always gets me going. This is a super fun one. I have a feeling Steve is seriously dropped down in the tuning department here. Billy’s playing is so easy to spot. He’s incredible.

Greenish Blues

Super mellow and bluesy to start. Philip Bynoe on bass on this one. Very chilled out. This is my favourite kind of Vai. This is just beautiful. He’s flyin’ now. Has it ever been proven that Vai doesn’t have 6 fingers on his fretting hand? His use of the tremolo bar is also second to none. It’s very tasteful, not just dive bombs. That’s my favourite so far.


Ah, the one handed tune. I’ve seen and heard this one. This was done after his surgery and without the use of his picking hand. Pretty impressive stuff. As if we needed another reason to be amazed by this guy! This is a tune I want to see live. Actually, I want to see them all live, but this would be amazing to watch. Such mastery of the fretboard. I bet you can tell I’m a fan. Beautiful breakdown. I need to practice more. This whole album has been a joy to listen to, so far. Unreal.

Sandman Cloud Mist

Another chill tune. I think I’m gonna need a nap after listening to this album. It’s just so damn musical. I know that seems weird to say about a music CD, but you’ll see what I mean when you listen to it. I’m pretty sure Steve Vai could fart a perfect tune. This song is very cool. Lots of hammering, beautiful slides and bends. I’m in awe. What else can I say?

Overall Thoughts


I’m not just saying that because I’m a fan. I’m saying that as a fan of guitar music. I’m saying that as someone who appreciates incredible musicianship (not just from Vai, but from everyone who plays on Inviolate). Will my daughters like it? Probably not. They’ll just tell me they don’t get it. But this album isn’t for them.

It’s for all the guitarists out there, from beginner to ultra-advanced. It’s for people who love beautifully crafted melodies, chill inducing fretwork and rip-snorting guitar pyrotechnics…And Geddy The Rock Dog. He didn’t leave my side the whole time.

Steve Vai is in a class of his own, and Inviolate solidifies Vai’s standing, at least in my opinion, as the cream of the crop.



in·vi·o·late | inˈvīələt | adj. free or safe from injury or violation

1. Teeth Of The Hydra 5:12

Guitar: (The Hydra) Steve Vai

The bass, 7 string guitar, 12 string guitar and harp strings on this piece are all performed on the Hydra. The other instruments in the track were programmed by Steve.

2. Zeus In Chains 4:39

Drums: Jeremy Colson

Everything else: Steve

3. Little Pretty 6:26

Drums: Jeremy Colson

Bass: Bryan Beller

Everything else: Steve

4. Candlepower 3:31

Drums: Terry Bozzio

Guitar and Bass: Steve

5. Apollo In Color 4:19

Drums: Vinnie Colaiuta

Bass: Henrik Linder

Keyboards: David Rosenthal

Guitars: Steve

6. Avalancha 5:09

Drums: Jeremy Colson

Bass: Billy Sheehan

Keyboards and guitars: Steve

7. Greenish Blues 6:07

Drums: Jeremy Colson

Bass: Philip Bynoe

Organ: Bob Carpenter

Guitar: Steve

8. Knappsack 5:18

All programing and guitar: Steve’s left hand

9. Sandman Cloud Mist 5:58

Drums: Vinnie Colaiuta

Bass: Philip Bynoe

Rhythm Guitar: Dave Weiner

Keyboards: David Rosenthal

Lead Guitar: Steve

Produced by Steve Vai


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  1. Is it possible to find out how much each session player got paid on this album ?
    Or was it a collaboration project, on which other musicians are compensated through royalties ?

    This information would be really helpful for musicians to understand how Mainstream artists do business.


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