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This is hands down one of Dio's heaviest albums, from the drums, to the sludgy, chugging guitar sound, to the overall production which seems to emphasize the sheer power in each respective instrument. The band seems to favor a Black Sabbath-like sound in the way that it's slow, sludgy, somewhat hypnotizing, but monstrously heavy and very take-no-prisoners. I'm not suprised this album took that direction, since this album follows the Black Sabbath album "Dehumanizer", which saw Ronnie James Dio return to the Sabbath fold....only to leave again. So, alot of this material could've been on "Dehumanizer" and I wouldn't be suprised if the bulk of these songs were in fact, written for that album.
However, with this new emphasis on heaviness, it does sacrifice some of the catchy melodies that were prominant in Dio's earlier albums. So, you have a heavier album, but not quite as catchy as, say, "Holy Diver".
But does this make this album bad? Why, no. It doesn't. As a matter of fact, i would easily put this up there with as one of Dio's best albums, along with "Holy Diver" and "Last In Line". Now, on to the music.
Highlights include the haunting "Jesus, Mary And The Holy Ghost","Hollywood Black", with it's grinding feel and again, the anger is very alive in this song. The title track is bar none the ultimate highlight of the album for me. It starts off, light, dreamy and very ballad-like, then suddenly, turns into a dark, dirty, ugly, slow and heavy rocker with some of Ronnie's angriest vocals ever. This song also has some nice bass lines from ex-Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson and some great riffage by Tracy G. Easily one of Dio's finest moments.
"One Foot In The Grave" could have easily been a Black Sabbath song, with a very Sabbath-like melody and lumbering feelthroughout the song. Good stuff.
And "Give Her The Gun" is a song that swings back and forth from gentle ballad to crushing rocker a few times throughout the song, but this is another one of my favorites off the album.
"Strange Highways" is essential listening for any fan of Ronnie James Dio,but again, be warned, this is not the usual Dio album. It's got a heavier, more crushing,angry and sludgy sound than his other albums, but it shouldn't disappoint any of his fans, as this is one of his finest moments.