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The End of an Era. - 90%

hells_unicorn, February 23rd, 2006

This album marks the end of Vivian Campbell’s tenure as Dio’s guitarist, and the sound of the band has obviously not been the same since. His contributions to this album are quite exceptional, though looking back at the other 2 albums it almost seems that his efforts had tapered off a bit since the beginning. Analyzing the differences between the other guitarists is quite intriguing, as Ronnie has obviously eyed up differing talents over the years, but part of me does long for Vivian to give up his lackluster job as Def Leppard’s rhythm guitarist and do something spectacular again.

This album sees the ante upped in terms of production and songwriting, the keyboard tracks are becoming more and more ambitious, as is the style of songs being written. Some songs are melodically obvious and tend towards mainstream 80s rock while others are adventurous and delve into more complex forms. Sometimes this album comes off as a bit inconsistent, and this is probably due to the deteriorating relationship between Vivian and Ronnie.

The individual performance of the musicians is a little less extravagant than in the 2 previous albums. Ronnie is at the helm with his amazing vocal performances, stealing the show as any lead vocalist would. Vinnie Appice’s drumming isn’t quite as complex and advantageous as it was before, and Jimmy Bain’s bass playing is the usual set of ostinato drones. Claude Schnell’s keyboard lines are stepping it up a little, but the lack of risks taken by the others is still highly noticeable. Now let’s take a look at the individual tracks.

King of Rock and Roll (9/10) – Good energetic album opener, excellent guitar riffs with some superb vocal hooks. Though I don’t think that Elvis ever rocked this hard, this would be a fitting tribute to any King of Rock and Roll. The lyrics are pretty much the glorification of the rock star (playing off the individualistic side of Dio’s metal worship) and the subject definitely fits the music.

Sacred Heart (10/10) – Excellent Dio epic, tons of fantasy based symbolism at work here in the lyrics, but the overall message of it seems to be Ronnie’s constant philosophical message of “be an individual, and dare to dream”. A great effort on the part of Vivian also, 2 very exceptional guitar solos go to his credit in this gem.

Another Lie (8/10) – A lower tempo rocker that sounds like more of the Deep Purple/Rainbow influenced rock that we saw on the previous two albums. Lyrics are pretty much straight forward, and the song tends to drag a bit.

Rock and Roll Children (10/10) – Commercially this was one of Dio’s biggest hits and its music video was, in my opinion, the best that the band put out. The lyrics really hit home for me, being someone who has tried to make music on my terms with the same “conform or else” response from society. Great guitar on this one as well, the solo is a bit simplistic but it conveys a very powerful feeling of both sadness and rebellion.

Hungry for Heaven (8/10) – Catchy rock ballad that bears a strong resemblance to “Mystery” on the Last in Line album, consequently it gets a similar rating from me. The only thing that I would argue that would suggest this song is superior is the guitar solo, which is well done.

Like the Beat of a Heart (9/10) – Hard, mid-tempo rocker that is somewhat comparable to “Straight through the Heart”. Interesting use of the bass drum to literally sound like a heart beat. Not quite up to par with the song that it tends to sound like, but it gets the job done, particularly the vocals.

Just Another Day – (10/10) – This is probably the most underrated song ever released by Dio, I don’t think it was ever played live and few ever mention it, but all I can say is wow. The guitar riffs are crazy, the lyrics are excellent, and their description of a person whom stubbornly refuses to think differently is quite telling of the way things often are in life. Five stars!

Fallen Angels (7/10) – Bah, this is clearly the weakest song on the album, musically this just doesn’t work for me. Sadly, there is a song on a classic Dio album that I will occasionally skip over. It’s not horrible, but despite its intriguing lyrics, it often bores me and strikes me as mediocre.

Shoot Shoot (9/10) – After a mild slip up, Dio recovers with a decent closer. Basically a song that sticks it to the man, daring the person with the power to do their worst, conformity isn’t an option. Good guitar work, good all around band effort, and an excellent vocal delivery.

In conclusion, this is the end of an era for Dio, and also the end of the stability that had magically been established for the first 3 years of this band. Unfortunately Vivian Campbell was a major self-doubter, and that is not the kind of musician to have tearing up the fret board for one of the greatest acts of the 80s. I recommend this album to Dio fans and Metal fans alike, it’s not quite as good as the previous 2, but it’s still excellent.