I've had enough time now to consume the album, so here is my honest impressions of the album (if you're easily offended by criticism, please don't read any further
Building the Church - Not quite as powerful an opening track as 'Blood & tears' was, though the structure is quite similar. The song, like many songs on the new album, seem to cut short a little too early and don't really get a chance to progress. One of the better heavy songs on the album, though not nearly as complex and rewarding as 'Under it all'. Nice synth pad sounds underneath the guitar melody though.
Dying for your love - This song is a very bold direction for Steve, and rather than writing a sugar-coated love song following a 'tuneful' diatonic progression, he goes all out to truly
express the uglier side of love. Dark, sinister and experimental. The vocals on this track sound very much like Mike Keneally's style, and I no doubt feel that Steve has been heavily influenced by albums such as 'Dancing' & 'Wooden Smoke'. This is perhaps one of my favourite pieces on the album, though I would have liked Steve to have recorded real string parts rather than dodgy synthetic string sounds (which didn't do the track any favours at all).
Glorious - I didn't really like this song, and the main reason is that bloody aweful 'cat tone' that he uses for the main melody. The mood is set with the underlying rhythm section, then when the cat tone is introduced the whole image of the piece shatters for me. It would have been better without the strangled cat.
K'm pee du wee - This is a very relaxing lydian motif, which reminds me a lot of 'Frank' in the way in which it is sparsely arranged. A nice little track, though the melody doesn't seem to stay with me.
Firewall - By far the worst song on the album for me. I just feel this sound is unbelievably out-dated, and would be better suited to a David Letterman interlude than on the Real Illusions album. Ok so the arrangements are all very prim and proper, but the song has absolutely no edge to it. Jimi Hendrix without the 'oomph'.
Freak show excess - This song is pure Vai at his best. It reminds me of some futuristic flea-market containing star wars-esque musicians from all corners of the galaxy, all vying for the attention of their audience. The song is extremely intense with a relentlessly progressing emotive flow, occasionally stopping for a 'fire garden suite-esque' sitar break-down section (Also I don't know if anyone has noticed or not, but the first three notes of the sitar intro is exactly the same as Joe Satriani's 'Lords of Karma'!). One of my favourites on the album, complex rhythms, incredible performances, lots of substance, classic Vai.
Lotus Feet - An epic diatonic orchestral extravaganza with a slow lamenting guitar melody. Just think 'whispering a prayer' with orchestra. The orchestral parts are written quite well too, with some nice textures and tremelo strings during the solo section. I would have liked to have heard more layered melodic studio guitar lines added though, rather than the monody style single-note melody style.
Yai-yai - doesn't really fit onto the album. A small quirky piece consisting of processed clean guitar panned hard left, electronic percussive part panned hard right. A bit lazy, doesn't really sound fully developed.
Midway Creatures - Now this is a track that I'eve heard a lot about, and I have to say that it is one of my least favourite songs on the album. The rhythm progression is just so uninspired and simple, I just can't seem to get any enjoyment our of it. As Bob Rock famously said to hetfield during the Black Album sessions, 'there's too much 'E' all the time'. The middle section is quite nice though, sounding rather like the complex, denser texturings of 'Fever Dreams', though it is sadly short lived and we are introduced to the simple rhythm section once again. This song echoes a sentiment of mine that I felt the album suffered from, most of the songs are very short-lived, and have very simple structures (quite unlike Vai). I didn't feel this track at first, but I'll give it time, and I'm hoping it will grow on me.
I'm your secrets - Here we see a much more subtle, subdued Vai laying down a really nice, almost celtic-like acoustic vocal track. I really REALLY love the hypnotically gorgeous sound of the acoustic percussion, and the vocal and guitar harmony progressions are extremely complex and mature with some extremely honest and heartfelt lyrical content. One of my favourites on the album, Vai comes of age!
Under it all - My absolutely favourite on the album. This song is what I was waiting for from Vai. It has the same mystical quality to it that the Fire Garden material had, very complex, very spiritually intense and revealing. After the complex harmony progression is established with guitar the vocals are introduced and the harmony is played through again. The time-signatures are satisfyingly complex, the chord progressions are mystical and revealing, and the structure (including the ethnic breakdown section with layerings of swirling vocals, and Real Illusion character confessions) is pleasantly unorthodox yet coherant. This piece I really enjoyed, but I would have liked it to have lasted a little longer.