Update: The surprise Steve Vai album is for real, and maybe not such a surprise, but also, yeah, a surprise

Steve Vai, it turns out, has actually been quietly talking about a late 2022 or early 2023 new album since mid-October. He mentions the upcoming release both in an October 13th interview with al.com and in an October 18th interview with iheart.com. So, kinda cryptic tweet aside, maybe the album is not a super surpris-ey surprise.

The album will be called Vai/Gash. The unfamiliar part of the title refers to vocalist John “Gash” Sombrotto, who Vai pictured today in a tweet.

From Vai’s telling, Sombrotto sounds like a raw, unique, unknown vocal talent who is present on the whole album. So, that’s a surprise! This is music Vai made right after his cycles in the bands of David Lee Roth and David Coverdale, not mention before he formed a new band with then-unknown Devin Townsend.

The music made with Sombrotto, according to Vai, is rockin’ and poppy, and but not metal. Here, too, is a genuine surprise: there is a previously unknown chapter to Vai’s work on the more straight-ahead side of rock music. It’s not hard to imagine that this is amazing news for those who most dig Vai on the two albums he made with Roth. Eat ‘Em and Smile has its die-hards. No one can deny the brilliant solo on this track:

What, however, does “straight-ahead” really mean when talking about Steve Vai’s music? Among rock guitarists, Vai is one the most singular and idiosyncratic figures there is. The only recording in his catalog that unambiguously fits the “straight-ahead” tag is Slip of the Tongue, the one album he made with Coverdale’s Whitesnake–and that one is also a rare case of an album on which Vai played but did not write. Quirk and humor frequently sit right next to harmonic, melodic, and technical daring in Vai’s style, and one can only expect his take on Harley-riding music to be, well, his take.

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