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Dio’s fourth album has proven to be an interesting turning point in terms of the band’s history and sound. It was the first album to feature Rough Cutt guitarist Craig Goldy, the last to ever feature keyboardist Claude Schnell, the last to feature drummer Vinny Appice until 1994’s "Strange Highways," and the last to feature bassist Jimmy Bain until 2000’s "Magica."
Musically, the album seems to take the keyboard oriented sound of 1985’s "Sacred Heart" to a whole new level. While that album seemed to use the keyboards to create more commercial and, dare I say, fluffy textures, this effort uses to create a dark and foreboding atmosphere. These techniques are especially effective on tracks such as the epic "All the Fools Sailed Away" and "Naked in the Rain." Of course, the commercial tendencies of the last album are still retained in the form of "I Could Have Been a Dreamer," though the song itself is much darker than "Hungry for Heaven" or "Mystery."
Aside from the keyboards, everything else is performed in the classic standard that we’ve all come to love. The rhythm section is always solid and distinct, the riffs and solos are strong and memorable, and Dio himself continues to sing in top form. The songs themselves consist of speed metal tracks ("Night People," "Sunset Superman"), dramatic mid-tempo tunes ("Naked in the Rain," "When a Woman Cries"), and even a few bluesier numbers (The title track, "Overlove"). In fact, it makes me think of what Black Sabbath was doing at the time with vocalist Tony Martin...
While Dio’s lyrics have always been about sympathizing with the underdog and overcoming adversity, his specific themes seemed to have changed with this effort. While previous albums (Particularly "SH") dealt with themes related to fantasy and the supernatural, this tune seems to focus on more realistic ideas. Of course, there are still hints of cheese in the mire and it’s still quite the challenge to determine the meaning of tracks such as "Sunset Superman..."
Like previous efforts, this album’s main flaw seems to be related to its dated sound. The songwriting itself is done in good taste but the keyboard layering and kooky sound effects may make this an intolerable listen for closed minded metal fans. Another thing I’ve noticed is that a few songs seem to borrow from Dio’s older material. The title track’s bluesy main riff is rather similar to that of Rainbow’s "Man on the Silver Mountain" and the structure of Overlove reminds me of "Kill the King" with its energetic guitar playing and soaring vocal lines. Fortunately, it’s not that big of an issue as he’s ripping off his own bands...
Albums such as "Lock up the Wolves" would expand on what this album only hints at, but it stands alongside "Holy Diver," "LUTW," and "Magica" as one of the strongest Dio albums to date.
1) An excellent band performance, with Goldy in particular standing out.
2) Memorable songs and catchy hooks.
3) An interestingly dark atmosphere
1) Occasionally dated keyboards/sound effects
2) A few unoriginal moments
3) An over-reliance on one-liner choruses.
My Current Favorites:
"Night People," "Dream Evil," "All the Fools Sailed Away," "Naked in the Rain," and "Overlove"