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Following a high innovative and progressive sci-fi concept album in "Magica", Ronnie Dio set out to release a follow-up to keep the momentum that had been building since the disappointing "Angry Machines". With Craig Goldie leaving the band almost as quickly as he had re-entered it, Ronnie tapped guitar shredder Doug Aldrich to fill the vacuum. Unlike Craig's more minimalistic and hook driven solos, Doug's work on here is very reminiscent of original Dio axeman Vivian Campbell, particularly on the faster tracks.
The overall sense of this album is one of nostalgia. Most of the songs on here are highly similar to Dio's past work either with Rainbow, Sabbath, or on his own. Songs like "Better in the Dark", "Throw Away Children", and "Along came a Spider" have extremely spooky and doom-like intros. The lyrics are especially dark on "Throw Away Children", which is essentially a song describing the rather detestable condition that some children often find themselves in when their parents abandon them.
Mid-tempo rockers like "Scream" and "Guilty" are heavily similar to his earlier 80s material, particularly tracks like "Eat your heart out" and "Breathless" off of the Last in Line. The album's most well-known track "Push" has a highly memorable main riff, spearheaded by a more positive and uplifting message in the lyrics. "Cold Feet" sounds like Dio's Sabbath era music, the song that it probably bears most comparison to is "Walk Away" off the Heaven and Hell album. "Before the Fall" is a bit similar to Ronnie's more rocking work with Rainbow, and includes a rather intricant organ solo courtesy of his current keyboardist Scott Warren.
There are two amazing songs on here that can be labeled as stand out tracks. The title track has a rather spooky sounding keyboard intro, followed by a galloping guitar line that reminds a little bit of Iron Maiden. This song is highly atypical for Dio, and contains probably the most Vivian Campbell-like guitar solo of them all. "Rock and Roll" takes my pick for the best song on here both musically and lyrically. Although the main riff sounds a tiny bit Zepplin-like, the overall spirit of the music is highly riff driven. The quiet and brief intro on this is a staple of the Dio sound that has been with us since the beginning of the band, and probably will never go away. Lyrically this song has a special place in my collection, as it challenges the censorship-happy song police who can never resist exploiting the aftermath of a true tragedy in order to deny certain people their free speech rights.
In conclusion, this is essential listening for members of the traiditional metal crowd. Fans of progressive metal might want to pick this up to for the band's historical significance as an influences on the prog. scene, as these influences are on full display here. It's not "Magica" by any stretch, but it is an excellent album, well worthy of the price it retails for.