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Unleashing the angel. - 80%

hells_unicorn, May 20th, 2009

While most tend to remember Dio for their mid 80s material with Vivian Campbell blazing up the fret board and all of the fantasy theme trappings to boot, as well as the famed return of Dio fronted Black Sabbath with a new and heavier sound, the middle era of Dio after Vivian left the band is often ignored or not looked upon as favorably. This was not really much a result of the quality of the music declining, although some mildly noticeable changes in the band’s sound began to emerge, but more of a strange yet all too familiar phenomenon where fans get attached to lineups of a band rather than the product they put out. Most who dismiss “Dream Evil” as an afterthought have probably not heard it all the way through or had their minds made up the minute that Campbell’s name ceased to appear on the album’s liner.

Anyway, after “Dream Evil” fell a little short of the sales precedents set by previous albums, the band went into a state of limbo for a while. There was a period before the band completely collapsed where some songwriting went on and ended up occupying about half of “Lock Up The Wolves”, but ultimately the character of Dio’s sound shifted a bit due to the input of Rowan Robertson, who had a much more bluesy and classic rock take on riff construction and soloing than either Campbell or Goldie. Likewise, the addition of former AC/DC drummer Simon Wright brought a much stricter and more regimented sense of rhythm to the arrangement, as opposed to the freer flowing, quasi-jam feel that Appice had brought with him to the earlier Dio albums from his brief stint with Ronnie in Black Sabbath.

The resulting songs had the same epic quality in most cases, but were coated with more of a rock exterior rather than the fast metallic riff assault of the Campbell years or the somewhat slower and darker approach of Goldie. One of the best examples of this is the album track “Hey Angel”, which is the lead off song and title track of this single. The opening riff definitely takes some cues from Accept, although the general feel of the song definitely has something of a “Heaven And Hell” era Sabbath vibe to it. Rowan definitely shows a bit of a tendency to develop his riffs and avoids playing the exact same thing twice in much the same way that his predecessors did, but there is a sense of openness to the chords that he uses which heavily contrasts with the other two. His solo definitely takes the road of gradual development, starting with a small idea and then working it up to a climax, rather than fast tracking to the impressive parts the way Vivian often would. In basically all respects, this song is geared towards the guitar, as everything else sort of grooves along and plays support. Even Dio’s lyrics are very straightforward and lack all of the poetic themes that often accompany his longer, more ambitious songs.

The 3 songs that come along with this single are somewhat curious, mostly because they are cut from the same style of straightforward, verse to chorus approach to songwriting that Dio began adopting in 1984, but all of which sound completely different from the principle song. “Mystery” and “Rock And Roll Children” are heavily keyboard oriented and light listening compared to the heavy ended nature of Dio’s new sound. “We Rock” is essentially a speed metal song with something of an arena vibe to it; not too far out of character from the lead off song except in term of tempo. The only logical sense that can be gleaned from their inclusion here is that this era of Dio was being sold as a return to the form established before “Dream Evil”, which is pretty far off from what the actual sound of “Lock Up The Wolves” comes out as. There are maybe some commonalities with “Holy Diver” on a couple of songs, but the overall feel of the album has more in common with Ronnie’s work with Rainbow that either “The Last In Line” or “Sacred Heart”.

There’s nothing here that can’t be found on Dio’s various studio releases between 83’ and 90’, so tracking this down is only recommended for those who are completists and who prefer vinyl to Cds. It’s an interesting era of this band, one that basically lasted for a year or so and then completely went away. The only thing of permanence to come out of this is that about 10 years down the road Simon Wright would become a much more permanent member of Dio in the absence of Vinnie Appice after 1999.