Featuring not one, but two what some might call musical geniuses, Vai's 'Sex & Religion' should have been amazing. With both "The king of the space-age guitar" [Brian May, Guitar Legends, Seville 1991] Steve Vai, and the supremely talented Devin Townsend present, what could go wrong? But putting two masterminds together doesn't necessarily create alchemy. After all, if it did, there'd doubtless be more that one album from Vai the band.
Released in 1993, 'Sex & Religion' was born into a world where the musical landscape was changing. Coming on the heels of Vai's year in Whitesnake, and his solo success with career-defining 'Passion And Warfare', 'Sex & Religion' was born into an alternative universe, where grunge and alt. music had decimated the musical landscape. Given that Steve had also served a high-profile tenure with David Lee Roth, a few aesthetic changes were necessary, to distance the guitarist from what had come before.
Musically, the album didn't stray that far from Vai's signature sound and production style, but stylistically, it all felt just a little too contrived, with the guitarist sporting a new haircut and some stubble, and a dank piece of fisherman's rope stuck to the back of Townsend's head. The dreadlocks weren't the issue though; it just wasn't very good. It simply didn't feel like a real band, and it wasn't; with only the two main protagonists sticking around for longer than the recording sessions.
Save for a few stand out moments, 'Sex & Religion' (which had the working title of 'Light Without Heat') was largely forgettable. Lead single 'Deep Down Into The Pain' was painful indeed, and we're still not sure what the message in the creepy 'In My Dreams With You' - co-written by monster hit-maker Desmond Child, presumably on an off day - was about.
Even Townsend himself was unhappy in the end, taking a somewhat unconventional route to express himself, as he told us in 2016; "I didn’t know how to articulate my discontent, so I took a shit in his guitar case at one point, and he was really like; “Why the f**k would you do that?!” I mean, I had no reasonable answer, other than: [in a zombie-like voice] “Devin upset, Devin not happy”.
Still, 'Still My Bleeding Heart' has a genuine honesty about it, and a sincerity that is absent elsewhere, Steve Vai plays like a demon throughout, and it introduced the world to Townsend. It was no surprise however, that the whole thing was over and done with, within a little over a year, with Vai returning to work as a solo artist.
Vai and Townsend would eventually make an earth dweller's return, as exclusively revealed by eonmusic in 2017, but it would take almost a quarter of a century for this to happen.
Though it contained sparks, it left us feeling cold. Perhaps 'Light Without Heat' would have been the more accurate title after all.
Click for #1, #2, #3 and #4 of the Albums That Didn't Rock My World.
Like this story? Like us on FaceBook and follow us on Twitter for regular updates & more of the same.