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Dio is like a machine going on for eternity, ever releasing records, ever singing like a god with built-in speakers and double amps. Master of the Moon is his best album for a long, long time and while it's not better than the debut and just questionably better than Last in Line, it's the release that's hardest to grow tired of. We miss the usual highlight (which has become synonymous with the title track), but then there have never been so few and so small fluctuations in quality between the songs before.
The sound feels like Strange Highways revisited, compared to Killing the Dragon the music is much slower, darker and heavier. Yet it doesn’t lose the energetic, pumping beat to back it up. And that’s what Master of the Moon is – a splendid, crushing beat back there, as well as guitars and bass that have been made more audible than ever before. It’s rasping and hard, imagine the dark, pounding bass rhythms with gleaming power chords… It’s nice to have Craig Goldy back again. He makes the guitar sound stay dark and heavy; yet let it change forms over the songs. It goes through the full scale from raw and menacing to somber and thoughtfully pondering to exploring, searching and feeling. And that’s a hell of a difference when comparing with the dry stick that Doug Aldrich was.
Perhaps it’s a little too few riffs, but it just adds to the atmosphere. The tapping solos are simpler than what he uses to do, but oh, boy do they fit. Keyboards are just there to provide the sound with some extra atmosphere every now and then; they’re more remote than apparent. The songs end slowly, fading away, keeping their punchiness, heaviness and catchiness all the way to the end.
As always Dio’s voice makes for the most important and prominent instrument. One seriously starts wondering if he’ll ever have a bad day, if he’ll ever do badly. He didn’t this time, after all. Instead we get what might be one of his best performances. We get the best range and power that metal can offer packaged in that tiny body. As with Strange Highways, the sadder and more introspective songs, give his voice this thick twist, bringing a mercantile of emotions into the listener’s ears.
Many have called Master of the Moon a doom metal album. It’s exaggerated. Even End of the World, which basically deals with the doomsday, is more about sadness and fright than the final fall of the Earth. This is just some dark heavy metal, where ‘dark’ is just a describing aesthetic, no genre classification.
I like it. Whereas none of the songs will ever take the titles away from Holy Diver, Last in Line, Rainbow in the Dark and so on, the album still is more quality-work than any of his earlier records. There could’ve been some faster song, raising the tempo a bit, but the way it’s now will definitely pass. There’s more room for the melodies and rhythms to mellow, ripe, blossom than ever before – they can live their own life, in a sense. It’s like Dio didn’t feel that every song had to have a catchy chorus, like one can experience from a few of his earlier productions. They just happened to be this time. It’s questionable whether Master of the Moon really is the best Dio album, but I know for sure that it’s the hardest to grow tired of. I can spin this cutie an infinite number of times.