Steve Vai is best known as one of the finest and definitely most famous guitar virtuosos in history. His status as a highly acclaimed hired gun from working with the likes of David Lee Roth and Whitesnake is also well documented. His technical prowess is stunning throughout his solo material, which is mainly instrumental. Sex & Religion however, is a different beast, with a solid backing band on each track and vocals on most of the tracks. The specialty of this album that makes it so dear to myself that it is the major recording debut of then 19-year old Canadian wizkid, Devin Townsend, who handles the lead vocals. Most of you (should) know what a diverse and magnificent vocalist the grand madman is on his latest material, but by God he was one at mere two decades old! This album justifies purchase by the vocal performance alone, which goes from choir-like smoothness to epic wails and enraged screaming in the blink of an eye. The backing band is quite impressive as well with T.M. Stevens laying down massive basslines and progressive hired gun virtuoso Terry Bozzio striking down brilliant beats on the drums. The song material isn’t overshadowed in any sense, be it diversity or quality. Here & Now and Sex & Religion are up-tempo rockers that cause instant headbanging and singing along with their massive choruses. Slower but quite heavy balladry is provided by the gut-/heart-wrenching In My Dreams With You and Still My Bleeding Heart. Awesome grooves and inisidiously funky twists are blasted out by Dirty Black Hole and Survive, probably my favourites off the record. Touching Tongues and State Of Grace feature more of the eastern flavours that Vai has a considerable affection for. The Road To Mt. Calvary is a quite peculiar song with it’s ominous choirs and clanking noises that are topped with what can best be described as the cries of suffering humans. Not a very relaxing piece, I can tell you. The final pair of tunes, both clocking in at 8+ minutes are the most progressive pieces on the album. Down Deep Into The Pain is a more frenetic, aggressive piece with time changes that in the end morphs into a strange soundscape of jangling that sounds like a children’s playpen toy and spoken words that sound like random rants by the guys in the studio. Rescue Me Or Bury Me is an acoustically driven ballad sung by Vai himself that turns into some signature atmospheric guitar widdling. The noodling gets a bit overblown with this length; a couple of minutes shaven off the song and the technical mastery would have come across more effectively. All in all Sex & Religion may not be Steve Vai’s best-known or most appreciated album, but it is my personal favourite. Devin Townsend is a total showstealer throughout the record. I love every second of his output. Slap on one virtuoso unit of players, killer songs and solid production and you've got a disc that is equally technical and catchy, but hard rocking all the way.Highly recommended for all!