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Off To Slay The Dragon Again - 86%

YADF, May 24th, 2012

Nobody was doing this kind of medieval-themed metal in the 2000s (that I'm aware of or care to know about) but RJD didn't care. He knows what his fans want and he delivers. Even though the "Dragon" is a metaphor it still sounds like he's "off to see the witch" again. That ominous keyboard intro is pure Dio. In "Better In The Dark" he sings "Running with monsters in shadows/And monsters always knows it's better in the dark". Then again on "Along Comes A Spider" he sings: "Remember when you only needed no one/Everyday's tomorrow and it's alright/No confessions-not for you/Forget the things you've done/it's about what you do/The first time your superstitious/What's the gliding down/Along comes a spider." Dio's lyrics are usually open to interpretation and he uses sinister imagery as inference but he does speak of "running with an evil woman" and says "But don't get caught next time/Along comes a spider/a spider/a spider inside her". Succubus? So..."Women- can't live with 'em can't...."

The single, though a bit simplistic as regards the hook, was "Push", which earned it's own music video co-staring the obnoxious Tenacious D (sorry but Spinal Tap already cornered the market on metal parody and did so with wit rather than shock humor). It's nice that Jack Black showed his appreciation for Dio and even helped raise his profile a little higher but it's hightime he gave up this awful "metal" side project and stuck to acting. The fact the Tenacious D movie, "The Pick Of Destiny", was a box office flop should have been a sirenesque wake-up call. Once you become a parody of a parody you've officially jumped the shark. The movie has a few laughs but the best scene in the flick is the brief one with Dio although the song he appears on, "Kickapoo", is pure drivel. Meat Loaf also sucks (but he has balls (or is masochistic) to sing on the same track as Dio and thus effectively show how tremendously inferior he is vocally).

I've read many comments about this being Dio's "return to form" but then what was "Magica"? And to be honest I consider "Strange Highways" and "Angry Machines" to be solid albums as well. I saw a video recently where the man himself called "Strange Highways" one of his best albums. Dio never made a truly poor studio album so there's no need for him to "return to form". The EP "Intermission" was the record label's gaffe. Dio wanted a 2 LP live album but got stuck with that head scratcher of a stop-gap release instead.

Dio's "valleys" were not too far from his peaks and the peaks are very high. Some albums are just better than others. "Killing The Dragon" has a few mediocre songs ("Before The Fall", "Cold Feet", "Throw Away Children") but all the ingredients we (Dio fans) want are here- that amazing voice, killer guitar riffs and fantastic imagery in the lyrics. It probably ranks in the bottom third of his ten studio albums but it's still a keeper. There's some real gems here other than the title cut and "Spider". Dio's always had a concern for the welfare of children ("Who cries for the children? I dooooo" from "Stars", anyone?) so the musically plain, "Throw Away Children" reeks of sincerity:

"Someone's thrown away their children
You can see them running from your smile
Sing for the runaway children
The throw-away child"

"Someone's thrown away their children
You can hear them only if you try
Sing for the runaway children
Goodbye"

As a side note both "Killing The Dragon" & "Magica" are out-of-print but have been re-released together as a 2 CD set for the price of one BUT the liners do not contain lyrics or session info. Instead a long and tedious fanboy essay fills the booklet. So while I purchased that 2 cd set first I have gone to buy the albums separately.