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The Peak before the Valley. - 97%

hells_unicorn, February 22nd, 2006

Much has happened since the conception of Dio at this point, owing to some line-up changes, and these changes that include the addition of keyboardist Claude Schnell and new guitarist Craig Goldie become of great consequence on this album. Before I get into the album itself, there are some things I wish to explain about both of these musicians which would later leave the fold.

As far as I’m concerned, Craig Goldie is the best guitar player that Ronnie has ever worked with. In addition to getting the job done in the studio and writing some excellent guitar riffs (which Vivian was equally capable of), Craig is a brilliant showman when on tour and also has a more refined character to his solos. He out-classes Vivian on many levels, as he does with just about every guitar player Dio has worked with since, except perhaps Doug Aldrich who has them all beat in sheer technical ability.

Claude Schnell’s keyboard playing provided a very unique atmosphere to the Dio song that hasn’t fully been recaptured since, even by recent addition Scott Warren. But the full extent of Claude’s capabilities weren’t fully realized until this album, which sees a variety of textural motives, and a brilliant solo on “All the Fools Sailed Away”.

This is the best album from Dio’s 80s era both in terms of songwriting and production. The lyrics are powerful and loaded with symbolism, as with every Dio album. All of the songs are well defined dynamically, with nothing drowned out by the thick texture of vocals and guitars. Now let’s take a look at the breakdown of the individual tracks.

1. Night People – Very catchy minimalist guitar riffs superimposed over an orchestral synth drone. Fairly up-tempo, though not quite as lightning fast as “Stand Up and Shout” or “I Speed at Night”. The lyrics mostly highlight the lifestyle of the non-conforming metal masses, whom by nature tend to be nocturnal, hense the title.

2. Dream Evil – Classic guitar riff that is reminiscent of “Man on the Silver Mountain”. Basically this song is dominated by Craig Goldie’s catchy guitar work, and his solo is no exception in this respect. Ronnie delivers a memorable vocal performance, making this an instant classic.

3. Sunset Superman – Probably the most unique intro to a Dio song I’ve ever heard, bordering on filmscore, kudos to Claude Schnell for the brilliant synth orchestration. What follows is a barrage of memorable guitar riffs and some rather brilliant lyrics, playing upon the theme of the anti-hero. The classic enhanced low-tone vocal drones from “One Night in the City” are back once again to accompany Dio’s ad lib outro.

4. All the Fools Sailed Away – This song is my 2nd favorite Dio track to this day, it meets and surpasses all the requirements of a true metal epic. Deep philosophical lyrics, driving guitar lines, a memorable chorus, and one of my favorite keyboard/guitar solo trade-off sections of all time make this song top notch. If this song had been a single, I would have bought it just to show my solidarity.

5. Naked in the Rain – A rather gloomy sounding synth intro kicks of this track. This one is more of a mid-tempo rocker that critiques the state of society, particularly the metaphorical line “2 children, guns loaded, take aim and blow all the dreams away”. All around this song gets the job done, though it sort of fades into the mix of the rest of the song in the middle of the album.

6. Overlove – Wow, from a 1950s sounding intro to a fast paced extravaganza of guitar mayhem. Lyrics pretty much fit the title, though there is a little reference to Shakespeare’s Othello with the line “Jealousy behind the greenest eyes”.

7. I could have been a dreamer – A quasi-ballad rocker that reminds me a bit of “Mystery” off of the Last in Line album. Lyrically, this song is stronger than the one it seems to draw similarities from, but it is probably my least favorite song on this album.

8. Faces in the Window – Another up-tempo rocker that recaptures the energy that began to taper off a bit in the middle of the album. Even the bass shows some intricacy on this track as it follows a thunder volley of impressive drum fills. The rhythm section almost threatens to drown out Ronnie and Craig on this one with its sheer power.

9. When a Woman Cries – Somewhat similar to “Straight Through the Heart” from the Holy Diver album, though it doesn’t have nearly the same amount of punch to it. All in all, not a bad closer, though the lyrics do tend to bring things down a peg from the zenith that was “Faces in the Window”.

In conclusion, excellent album, the only one that can top it in my view is Magica, which sees the return of Craig Goldie after an 11 year hiatus. A must have for the Dio faithful, and for fans of traditional metal in the 80s mold.