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The jokey title of this review is slightly misleading but please read on..... By the time this album was released (1996) I had lost interest in Dio and all hard rock and had moved on to other genres of music like Blues and Soul so even though I saw this CD on the shelf at the now defunct Tower Records I didn't purchase it. Perhaps I would have have reacted negatively the way some Dio fans and critics did towards this LP but up until last month I had never even heard a single note from the album. I hadn't purchased a Dio-related CD since 1992's "Lock Up The Wolves". I figured my wildly eclectic tastes had just narrowed some. But, there were a couple times I was tempted to purchase one of the Rhino Records compilations ("The Very Beast Of" or "Stand Up And Shout: The Ronnie James Dio Anthology") but they were always missing some songs I liked so I think I may just have been waiting for some 2 CD "Essential Dio" set like tons of other bands have out there.(I like real officially-released CDs so even though I could've downloaded and burned my own "best of Dio" I never did).
Somehow my interest in Dio resurfaced about a month ago. I remember not thinking twice when I had read Dio died of stomach cancer in 2010. I had the same reaction when Freddie Mercury died (more about Freddie later). Yeah, I was kinda bummed because he was at one time part of my life. Still, I didn't rush out and buy a Dio album and become suddenly nostalgic. I guess I truly had forgotten why I liked Dio. I wasn't a metalhead when I liked him. It was his his voice. Since I had become a Christian in the interim I may have temporarily bought into the it's "demonic music" or something. It's natural to become super self-righteous when you finally find God but then eventually you balance out and don't sweat the small stuff. Dio is not and never was a Satanist. He didn't believe such a being even existed, let alone a literal "heaven or hell". It was all just fantasy to him. He was quoted as being "fascinated" by the whole "good vs evil" concept. Really, who isn't? Dio used the "devil horns", witches, angels, demons & dragons as just fantasy- escapism- entertainment. The "devil horns" is just a symbol for heavy metal music not some kind of satanic sign of the cross-like ritual for satanism. There may be some bands out there who may truly be satanists but not RJD. He didn't like organized religion but was pretty much an agnostic from what I've read and seen in interview. (I feel like I'm trying to justify my acceptance of Dio's music despite the "dark content" but like I've said before it's no different than playing Final Fantasy 9. If any fellow Christians are reading this to each their own. Follow your conscious. Ironically, I think Dio would say the same thing!)
I think my renewed interest in Queen late last year was the catalyst. I love Freddie Mercury's voice and early Queen (first 4 albums in particular) and bands like Rainbow, Black Sabbath and Dio do have a little in common with the musical grandiosity of the music and mythical imagery in the lyrcs. And of course their vocalists most certainly do have something common. Both Mercury & Dio can sing beautifully melodic and then hit the high notes with full voice on harder songs without screeching (Halford) or using falsetto. Two best Rock singers ever these two. Anyway, I read somewhere how someone was comparing Mercury's and Dio's voices and noticing the similarity so I went to youtube and listened to a few of the most recent Dio tracks (as part of "Heaven & Hell") and I was on the hook. I have now purchased every single Dio-related CD post Elf in the past month! I regret not keeping up with his career for the last 20 years. He really was at another artistic peak with the terrific Heaven & Hell CD "The Devil You Know".
As regards "Angrey Machines" there's no doubt a progressive and even "grunge" influence is going on here. Just not as much as they'd lead you to believe. Yes, some of Dio's vocal phrasing reminds me of Cobain (Nirvana) and "Dying In America's" guitar intro is almost identical to "Smells Like Teen Spirit" but there's also some strong melodic moments. The final track, "This is Your Life", is an absolutely gorgeous song. If Paul McCartney were to write a metal ballad this would be it. The song and Dio's vocals are definitely one of the highlights of his storied career. The snarling "Black", "Golden Rules" & "Dying In America" have memorable refrains and Dio's voice is flawless.
Overall, the tone of the LP is very angry, which was the prevailing mood of grunge & progressive metal. Even in interviews around this time Dio seemed more cantankerous than normal. He was still annoyed that Black Sabbath couldn't stay together after he rejoined for "Dehumanizer". While "Strange Highways" followed and was the heaviest, most doom-filled Dio album ever it still was Dio. "Angry Machines" wasn't the Dio of the early days where he was hard as nails for the fun of it. He genuinely seems pissed if a bit frustrated ("Dying In America", "Don't Tell The Kids", etc...) on this album. Keep in mind that this was his first independent label album (as his Reprise/Warner Bros. contract was over). I doubt he was happy going from platinum record days down to an artist with a cult following. Metal was decimated by Grunge. Dio's last major label (Reprise) album had only charted at #142 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums, a precipitous drop from the #61 debut of his previous record ("Lock Up The Wolves"). Not surprisingly, "Angry Machines" did not chart and was quickly relegated to the scrap metal heap despite being an above average album.
True, there are a couple real duds here. "Hunter Of The Heart" lumbers along and goes nowhere. Same goes for "Double Monday" and the weak "Stay Out Of My Mind" (This track is the only track Dio didn't co-write. It was solely credited to bassist Jeff Pilson. Although, lyrically banal, I rather like the long quasi-orchestrated instrumental section in the middle of the song). "Big Sister" suffers from seemingly misogynistic lyrics.
So, in retrospect, I probably wouldn't have been keen on this album had I purchased it in 1996. I hated grunge and nearly all metal bands other than Dio anyway. I would have thought: "What the hell? Dio's gone grunge? I hate that whiney crap". But having just gotten this album a month ago I think it rocks and is a nice slice of variety in the Dio canon. But, yes, it is likely the "least" great of all his LPs
(On a side not the Japanese version contains the extra track "God Hates Heavy Metal", which would've been a nice replacement for some of the other tracks on the album. I just made my own "Dio Rarities" CD with this track and many other non-album or import-only cuts).
This album is quite difficult to defend, even being the die-hard Dio fan I am. There are many problems with this album -- it lacks a great deal of direction; its progressive nature breaks away from Dio's traditional themes; and it generally contains many "unfavorable" elements when it comes to metal (seeming to be influenced some by the Groove Movement). Anyway, I shall defend it as best I can...
In the album, there's no really poor performance on the part of the performers -- Tracy G, Jeff Pilson, Vinny Appice, and Dio himself all perform well, and it's not as though they're lacking in experience playing together; Strange Highways is, in my opinion, a challenger to the classic Campbell era albums. The problem is that many of the songs lack the strength and conviction of previous efforts. For instance, compare a song like Institutional Man to the semi-similar Hollywood Black -- Institutional Man is not only quite a lot more chaotic, but it also lacks the intensity and power of its counterpart. The thundering bass line is there, the chugging riff carries on, the drumming is on tempo as always, and the vocal performance is fairly similar, but when it comes together, Angry Machines just sounds feeble in comparison.
There are many saving graces and exceptions to this rule, though. Hunter Of The Heart and Double Monday are both powerful enough tracks to make their way onto Inferno in the following years, and Dying In America gives a well-made contemporary track for Dio. Also, the diamond in the rough for this album, This Is Your Life, is one of the classic ballads Dio managed to throw into the workings of every album. Plus, for those who bought the Japanese release, the track God Hates Heavy Metal has a very unique and enjoyable sound, despite its low production quality.
Overall, the problem with Angry Machines is that there's too much fluff with all of the progressivism and "groove", which detracts from the quality of the songs that turned out well on the album. If it didn't have those qualities, I'd imagine it'd be about as successful as Killing The Dragon, which isn't saying too much, but it just goes to show the expectations of Dio's fanbase at the time.
Strip off the progressivism, and Angry Machines is a fairly good album. I'd recommend it to anyone willing to take some time to learn to look beyond its flaws and love it for what it is.
One of the most painful things in the world is to watch a hero of yours fail in his quest, and that is what I felt when I first purchased this album 11 years ago. After coming off some gigs with my all Metallica cover band that didn’t go so smoothly, I sought solace in the fact that Dio’s 7th LP was out. My band mates at the time used to make fun of my fan boy obsession with the former Sabbath front man, referring to him as a washed up has been, and I had feared when I bought this album that that was what he had became, in only a short while after successfully bouncing back from the Sabbath debacle with a solid Doom Metal album in “Strange Highways”.
The principle flaw in this album is a complete lack of direction, something which is common in the genre of Progressive Metal, and technically Ronnie’s status as a pioneer qualifies him as being part of it. Once we get about 1 minute into “Institutional Man” we recognize that he’s pushing a bit too hard for something new, in addition to drawing from some rather questionable sources. The beginning of this track sounds a tiny bit like Sabbath, but the muddy as hell tone sounds like a clumsy attempt at emulating a Crowbar album. The usage of odd time signatures doesn’t mix well with the muddy guitars (I think Tracey G used a baritone guitar on here, which was also used on Sepultura’s Chaos AD). Likewise the drums are not dense enough for a metal album, resulting in a quasi-punk sound unintentionally sneaking into the mix.
“Don’t tell the kids” is a Pantera style speed metal song with good vocals, definitely a winner if you’re a fan of songs like “Shattered” and “Rise”, and thankfully the muddy baritone guitar is not to be found on here. “Black” is a doom track that is under-developed, not enough riffs to keep it interesting, and Ronnie’s vocal delivery is all over the place. “Hunter of the Heart” is an odd mishmash of old style Dio metal from the Holy Diver era and his newfound sense of tonality, resulting in something that doesn’t stick in the memory at all, it’s simply there and then gone. “Stay out of my mind” is loaded with weird keyboard sounds and a small collection of doom riffs, although a bit too long for its own good, it’s a wild mind job for anyone who likes Progressive sounding Doom Metal.
“Big Sister” is a big loser; not a bad bass line, but otherwise it just plods along and occasionally switches feel before plodding some more. “Double Monday” picks up the tempo a bit and we get something that sounds a bit closer to “Strange Highways”, definitely a keeper. “Golden Rules” and “Dying in America” both repetitive Groove Metal tracks with somewhat interesting atmospheric intros, they’re good for the first 45 seconds and then fall apart. And before we finally leave the weird ass place that is this album we hit the closing ballad/afterthought “This is your life”, which not only is lyrically steeped in cliché and musically derivative, but is 100% out of place amongst the previous 9 tracks of sludge driven Doom/Groove.
When interviewed about this album, which was not received well by fans or critics, he stated that at the time he wasn’t really even sure what metal was at that time. I can sympathize with him in that at the time I was completely baffled at what it was. Was it the repetitive bore fest of Pantera and the Groove Movement, was it the dark hell of post-Technical Brutal Death Metal, or was it the completely devoid of structure approach of many Prog metal outfits at the time? The metal movement had absolutely no unifying symbol at the time, only a bunch of tribal leaders trying to establish their own dogmatic styles and turncoats who wanted to sell records by playing Alternative Rock.
Dio’s answer to this was ironically to take the catholic (small “c”, not the religion) approach and to simply embrace all of this, in other words he chose to be eclectic. And the resulting mess of contradictory styles and sounds is blatant, though more than anything a sign of the times. There is absolutely nothing wrong here with Dio’s singing, Tracey G’s playing (he gets ripped on for not being Vivian Campbell as Craig Goldy did, but he is good), with Jeff Pilson’s bass work (this is the most active I’ve ever heard him) or Vinnie’s drumming. The problem is that the songwriting is devoid of any continuity, it’s trying to be both everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
Fans of Dio will not be happy with this release, nor am I. When I buy an album with his name on it, I get something that listens well from start to finish; I don’t have to use the skip button constantly. You’ve got 3 or maybe even 4 songs on here that are good, but even they are a bit out of character for him. I can’t endorse this album, although I continue to happily endorse pretty much every other release he’s put out. Every band is entitled to a flop at some point, and Dio was fortunate that so far this has only happened to him once. If any of the songs on here sound appealing, shop for this at $3 or less.
Ronnie, Tracy, Jeff, and Vinnie unleashed Strange Highways upon us in 1994, and then totally caught the metal world off guard yet again with ANGRY FUCKING MACHINES in 1996. People slag bands all the time for releasing the same album over and over, and people slag bands for radically changing their style. Well slag this one, because for what this album was intended to do...it worked. Awkward sound all across the board, dissonant riffs, random baroque symphonic pieces, and confusing social commentary! Its probably the only piece of 'musical art' that I value as an artful expression.
"Institutional Man" is great and connects itself to Strange Highways very well. "Don't Tell The Kids" is as cynical as they come, and "Black" is pretty catchy albeit annoying. That's probably the worst song on the album.
"Hunter Of The Heart" is pretty good, and the most accessible track on the album, but stuff like "Stay Outta My Mind," "Big Sister," and "Double Monday" keep me coming back because I still don't fucking understand the songs. But it just works, like "Golden Rules" flows through clean riffing, disjointed bridges, dio hooks, and screwed up solos....all with a very focused message. Whether you get it or not, the album is making a statement. "Dying In America" is brooding and fun, while "God Hates Heavy Metal" chugs pretty nicely. The ballad "This Is Your Life" is just damn beautiful and an excellent closer. I even quoted the song in my high school yearbook.
Yeah yeah yeah, its not classic dio. Oh no!!! He definitely didn't sell out, but still tried a new direction. And I like this more than Magica or Lock Up The Wolves. Great release that DOESN'T get its due respect.
Following 2 years after the (incredibely underrated) "Strange Highways" comes "Angry Machines" - an album which, sadly, can be described as Dio pushing the previous album (musically and lyrically) not TO the edge but darn well OVER it - resulting in a free fall into mediocracy.
Simply put, everything which worked so well for "Strange Highways" doesn't seem to be working on here - it seems as if Dio himself was unsure and confused about the direction to follow - resulting in an album filled with different ideas (some good, some not) but without any form of cohesion.
It starts well enough with "Institutional Man", a dark and plodding song and somewhat of a follow-up to the title-track of the previous record, and both "Don't Tell The Kids" (up-tempo) and "Hunter Of The Heart" (mid-tempo and groovy) can also be considered to be top class material but the rest of the tracks are just plain boring ("Big Sister", "Double Monday" or "Stay Out Of My Mind" anyone ? I didn't think so eh...).
Shame - but this album pretty much lacks everything which made Dio so great (save for the vocals, which are great like usual) - die-hard fans can pick it up (cheap though, don't waste money on this) to complete their collection, but the rest of you - steer clear !!