without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
Dio's first concept album. Being that this was released in 1999 that fact in itself is surprising enough since Dio has always been fascinated with epic tales of "good vs evil" and medieval, mythical times. Even though they may seem like it Dio's first three albums ("Holy Diver", "The Last In Line", "Sacred Heart") were not truly concept albums. They seem as such because of the similar "dragons, witches, sages, demons, ancient times" themes but, upon closer inspection they are really motivational and cautionary songs delivered with imaginary settings. Also, each of those albums had it's share of straight forward songs that didn't use ambiguous lyrics or cryptic messages.
Now, "Magica", on the other hand is indeed a "soundtrack" to the "Magica" story, one which Dio recites on the final track. More on that later. Though there's some computerized vocal interludes sprinkled thoughout the flow of the album is not hampered by dialogue between the cuts (the full story is recited at the end). The lyrics do relate to the story without making them overly specific.
First let me mention the cut "Fever Dreams". Craig Goldy has come up with one of the best guitar riffs ever (not hyperbole- it's awesome) heard for this cut (so good the mighty fine himself Doug Aldrich couldn't do it on the Killing The Dragon Tour a few years later!). This track smokes with a crisp Dio vocal and flawless rhythm beneath that Goldy riff. Masterpiece. I caught myself bobbin' my head and stomping my foot on this one. Here we are introduced to the hero of the story Eriel, who has his own song in his name. On "Fever Dreams" Eriel is being haunted in his dreams by the villain of the tale, Shadowcast. Honestly, I don't really care. The "concept" is just a cool bonus for when you want to concentrate on it. Another reviewer went into depth on the storyline contained in each song. Definitely worth reading. That said, I won't be doing that here.
The aforementioned song, Eriel, owes a debt to "Holy Diver" (which owes a debt to the bassline of "Heaven & Hell", only slightly slowed down). This piece definitely resembles soundtrack music to a theatrical event. There's a string arrangement and vocal section. Another standout is "As Long As It's Not About Love", which opens with acoustic guitar and builds with bluesy lyrics with two startling solos from Goldy. This track has become a favorite with longtime Dio fans.
Even though the "story" is told within the songs the album closes with Uncle Dio reading you a story as if puffing a pipe by a fireplace. 18 minutes worth. THIS is how to do a concept album. No lengthy interludes between the cuts ruining the flow of the album. You have a choice you can just listen to a headbanging album and skip the last track or you can put on headphones and get lost in the story with one monster of a soundtrack. Essential addition to the Dio canon.
This is like Dio turning over a new leaf. Of course, Holy Diver and Last In Line were amazingly ground breaking classics with tracks that any live concertgoer could not get enough of. But here we see something that one would have expected to come much earlier just from the types of lyrics that Ronnie writes - a concept album. The best part is, that if you buy the album that coupled with the coverart booklet, there is a seperate booklet that folds out into this massive write out of the story. Likewise, the last track on this album is about 18 and a half minutes, with Ronnie narrating the story. This is much different from other concept albums out there, even though the type of lyrics definitely fit for Dio's music. But the whole theme seems darker and heavier, musically and lyrically, and he uses much less of the "fire" and "higher" and "rainbow" words that he used on past (and present) albums. In fact, the line "Waiting for my turn to climb upon the cross. Maybe they'll forget about me."... It's what the man who wanted Ronnie to take his music in a heavier and darker direction had hoped for for years.
This album features Craig Goldy on guitar. Now, while Doug Aldrich can play remarkably fast (as can be told on the newest DVD Evil or Divine, or on the track Killing The Dragon's solo) and complexly, he doesn't have the heavy handed guitar work that Craig does. In fact, the only song that Doug screws up on the DVD is the main riff of Fever Dreams, it seems as if only Craig can pull it off. Craig, returning to the band for the first time since the Dream Evil album [and then later returning to do Master of the Moon], lays down some great guitar playing for this album. His solos fit perfectly, (most of them being melodic and very catchy) and while he may not have the chops that alot of other guys have, he definitely falls into the Tony Iommi school of being able to play and write what he does so well that it doesn't matter. On bass is Rainbow and Dio alumni Jimmy Bain, who lays down a very memorable bass line on Lord of the Last Day. Also in the band is Claude Schnell on keyboards, and drummer Simon Wright (ex-AC/DC) who came aboard around the album Lock up the Wolves and is still with the band.
Of course, Ronnie's vocals on this entire album are just as good as they always are (live and in the studio). He is truly an immortal figure in heavy metal, and should be preserved as such for eternity. A definite addition to the so called 'Book of Heavy Metal'.
The album starts out with Discovery, which features these robot voices, and then it goes into the instrumental Magica Theme. Somewhere in there, Ronnie says the words "Magica" in such a perfectly chilling voice, it sets the tone for the album. The instrumental features some great keyboard and guitar rhythm and soloing.
After this, the actual songs start with the best track on the album - Lord of the Last Day. This song is so evil, it's great. "I love the night. So many shadows." It helps that this is a very doomy type riff, nice and slow to mid tempo. But better than that, are the vocals. Seriously, Ronnie is a genious, and also definitely took a turn for the better in his lyrics. After this comes Fever Dreams, Turn To Stone, and Feed My Head, which are all great tracks.
Then come Eriel, which starts out almost like a Savatage rock opera, then rather than slamming into a heavy riff, goes into a mid-paced riff with more awesome vocals. Then comes Challis, which makes me think of Ted Nugent's Cat Scratch Fever, and it just is another twist in the songs on the album - though a good one.
As Long as it's not about Love is next, and followed after it is Losing My Insanity which has a split sound. It's a cross between medieval ministrel music and Blackmore's Night, and it's another great turn for the album. Lots of pinch harmonics in the riff that comes later. After this comes Otherworld (would be Annica if you have the Japanese CD, and it ALSO is a very good track and it's a shame they didn't put it on the US CD...), a decent track but nothing too exciting.
But then something new to finish out the album, the last two tracks are Magica - Reprise and Lord of the Last Day - Reprise. Wow, it's a great way to start and end the album with the best track on it! It's also something new in the realm of Dio albums. In fact, it makes it seem as if the whole album is one flowing concept medley based inside of Lord of the Last Day. And of course the last track is Dio's reading of the story, which is really an intriguing story of fantasy that sounds even cooler when you listen to him read it. It really sets this album apart from other Dio albums, and with Ronnie himself saying he intends to make Magica II & III as a double album (with Craig, depending on how soon he gets better), it will be interesting to see how that turns out and in what direction that will take the band [and if that will be when Ronnie retires].
So if you want to hear Dio turned darker and given a core theme to write new lyrics about, you'll probably like this album. In fact, I feel like this is a good point to go to from Black Sabbath's Dehumanizer in terms of giving a facelift to what you'd expect from a band. Also, coupled with a great story (and if you like fantasy or science fiction stories, you'll also probably like this), this album shows that Dio could overcome the skepticism that he wouldn't make a decent concept album. So if you want to jump into another Dio album, then either get Killing The Dragon or Magica - depending on whether you want more Holy Diver and Last In Line type stuff, or if you want something new and different... And heavy as hell!
I would probably consider this about my 4th favorite dio album. He's been kind of riding a rollercoaster with albums and has done alot of experiementing, and there are actually a few superb songs on this album. I'll do a synopsis of a few of them, because many of them are just talking or instrumental.
Lord of the Last Day has some pretty competent playing all around. A nice song that doesn't really sound like something typical of dio. Its has a bit of a medieval feel to it, but isn't really too boring.
The only description I can give for Fever Dreams is "Dio at his best"! Perfectly written, worthy of appearing on albums such as Holy Diver or Last in Line. Not only a great song, but also has a mind-numbingly good solo.
Turn to Stone, or as I like to refer to it, turn this track. Its a pretty uneventful track. Seems like Dio used this just as a filler. The chorus isn't too great and the instrumention is sub-par.
Feed My Head is probably my favorite track after Fever Dreams. Lyrically not much, but it is Ronnie's best song vocally. Sounds like Holy Diver in the way that such bad ass drumming is being played as the song is ending.
I don't know what happened, but I honestly don't remember Eriel or Challis. I've listened to this album several times and these two tracks just fail to stick with me.
As Long as Its Not About Love is probably one of dio's better ballads, but it doesn't stand a chance against songs like Don't Talk to Strangers, Egypt, or My Eyes. I personally find the lyrics to this track to be rather cheesy, but it is sung rather heart-felt at least.
Losing My Insanity is a surprise. After a few uneventful songs, I didn't expect to be blown away by anything remaining on the album. This is another song that sounds rather special. I don't think this track would fit on another album, but it is a gem on Magica. Very great instrumentation.
Otherworld once again seems like a track that Ronnie was running out of ideas when he wrote. Once again, he sings it magnificently, but the music is not very inspiring.
My main complaint about this album is the vast tracks that are only a little over a minute long with nothing new to offer. I also didn't like the fact that Dio included the who story of Magica as the last track. I guess he's assuming that most metalheads can't read, or are as old as him and can't see neither. Ronnie is still a great musician, but sometimes I wonder why he does what he does. The music for Magica is exceptional, but the concept of the album and the story itself are rather boring. I still like this alot better than Angry Machines, but Dio can do better still.