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And Now For Something Completely Different... - 80%

YADF, May 14th, 2012

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).