Reviewed by MJBrady on 14 May 2002
Steve Vai enlists another ex-Zappa alumni in drummer Terry Bozzio, to fill out this cd that finds Vai moving into new territory as a vocal fronted band. Joining Vai and Bozzio are bassist - T.M. Stevens, and vocalist - Devin Townsend. The music is a strange concoction of progressive metal, fusion, and heavy metal. There are plenty of outstanding songs here to soothe the fans of Vai's guitar antics, and also some dynamic drumming by Mr. Bozzio, and I will also mention the slap-happy bass vitues of Stevens. But what really stands out on this cd are the vocals of Devin Townsend, When he is actually singing his voice is a very powerful midrange, with a sinister twist to it. His screaming is something that I just cannot describe with words, I have never heard someone draw such sounds from the diaphram, it is nothing short of what you might imagine a tormented demon being exorcised would sound like. Strange description but you have to hear him to fully understand this comment. Lyrically Vai seems to be focusing on his personal demons, that reside somewhere between the goodness of God, and the evil of the flesh, and so on, these are very animated by Townsends delivery, his voice is the perfect marriage for the style of demented verbal compositions. Some people I know absolutely loved this cd, others were a bit shocked when compared to the brilliant Passion and Warfare, and some like myself were a bit bewildered by it, there is a ton of ingenuity, and originality. And yet the style of music was something easy to misunderstand. I relisten to the cd and keep picking up things that are musically stunning, and I am finding that Townsends vocals can be very distracting, covering the intricasies that would otherwise have been picked up on at first listens. The highlight of the cd for me is the song Pig, I am not sure what the song is about lyrically, but the sheer technical elements, shown from the instrumental aspects are profound, this is where Vai really shows his musical wares in great fashion. Overall, Sex & Religion is a somewhat perverse, diabolical, and well conceived cd, a very bizarre recording to say the least, maybe not the first place to go to get aquainted with Vai, but certainly one that should be considered.