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Unless any "Magica II" recordings ever see the light of day, I guess this 2004 effort is the last studio album Dio ever released while its bandleader was still a part of this life. This was also the first album to feature guitarist Craig Goldy since "Magica" as well as the first to feature bassist Jeff Pilson since "Strange Highways."
While 2002's "Killing The Dragon" suggested that the group would be going for a lighter direction, this release returns to the doomy sound of albums past. The songs move at a slower pace and the atmosphere is overwhelmingly dark in a way that hasn't been seen since "Strange Highways." But while that effort was driven by an angrier outlook, this album is often more laid back and driven by smoother hooks that have more in common with the 80's efforts. In fact, this album's style seems to foreshadow the attitude that would drive Heaven And Hell's debut/comeback five years later...
The band's performance also remains solid in spite of the changes. Ronnie himself puts on a fantastic performance though his singing became more noticeably subdued around this time. While a few skeptics would interpret this as a sign of weakness, it goes along with the music quite nicely and helps with the hypnotic feeling. The rest of the band is also pretty good though I wish the bass performance stood out more. Pilson is a good bass player but he seems to get the shaft in comparison to the popular Jimmy Bain. Must be the Dokken connection...
The lyrics also provide some nice moments of duality and appear to be more topical than previous efforts. While songs such as "End Of The World" and "In Dreams" are driven by bits of cynicism, there are some moments of determination in "I Am" and the title track. Also worth noting are the twists of "Shivers," the paranoia of "The Eyes," and the Iraq War fueled quips on "The Man Who Would Be King."
With these changes/restorations at work, the songs still manage to put out some great variety. You've got a few fast rockers ("One More For The Road," "Living The Lie"), sweeping borderline epics ("Master of the Moon," "The Man Who Would Be King"), upbeat tracks ("End of the World," "Shivers," "Death By Love"), and a few more hypnotic numbers ("The Eyes," "I Am," "In Dreams"). I think "One More For The Road" makes for a particularly blistering opener though I also appreciate "Shivers" and "The Eyes" for the former's driving riff and the latter's spooky guitar effects.
Of course, this album isn't entirely perfect. While the first half is mostly strong, the second half seems weaker with some songs like "I Am" and "In Dreams" coming off as slight filler. It's also another one of those albums that may get crap for being slower, but people should really be used to it at this point...
"The Devil You Know" may be Ronnie James Dio's glorious swan song but this album manages to end the Dio catalogue on a pretty strong note. Definitely worth checking out though it may be a little slow...
My Current Favorites:
"One More For The Road," "Master Of The Moon," "Shivers," "The Man Who Would Be King," and "The Eyes"