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"Magica" may have served as a comeback of sorts and may have brought Dio into the millennium with a bang, but this 2002 effort may be a little closer to a return to form in terms of style. It is also the last album to feature original bassist Jimmy Bain and the only album to feature Whitesnake/Burning Rain guitarist Don Aldrich.
Musically, this album seems to completely overlook the evolution towards slower and darker material that began on "Dream Evil" and instead embraces a sound that seems to resemble that of "Holy Diver" and "The Last in Line." The atmosphere is a little lighter than the last few efforts, most of the songs themselves tend to go at an upbeat pace, the guitar riffs are executed at a higher speed, the bass is present in Bain's signature fashion, and the choruses are at their most accessible. In fact, I think I like this even more than I like "The Last in Line." While the second half of that album occasionally sank into poppy keyboard-driven territory, this album's lighter tracks such as "Push" and "Guilty" manage to retain an attitude in the midst of the shine.
But like the older albums that this release is emulating, there are a few moments of darkness that still manage come in and take center stage between the lighter affairs. The title track opens the album on a fairly epic note with a foreboding atmosphere to boot, "Scream" plays out a more focused version of "One Night In The City," and "Rock & Roll" is a slower number that channels memories of 9/11 as well as the main riff from "Kashmir."
"Throw Away Children" is another dark tune but I feel that this song really deserves its own paragraph for it may be the saddest thing that Dio has ever had a part in. The verses feature a slow, building riff under a sorrowful vocal performance and the chorus soon brings in an unforgettable hook that is only intensified by the climax's use of a children's choir. If the climax of this song doesn't affect you emotionally in any way, there's a good chance that you may have no soul. End of story.
When taking everything into consideration, this is a pretty hard album to find serious flaws for. There is a hint of the cheese that appeared on the old albums, but I don't think fans would expect any different. This is definitely an album for the fans and probably one of my favorites in spite of how late into his career it was released. Definitely a good first purchase for newer fans if you haven't already bought "Holy Diver"...
1) Great change of style
2) Excellent band performance
3) Good mix of dark and light songs
1) A slight hint of cheese
2) May be too light for some
3) A few lesser songs here and there
My Current Favorites:
"Killing the Dragon," "Scream," "Rock & Roll," "Push," and "Throw Away Children"