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Energized by the tremendous success of the brilliant debut Holy Diver, the band released a marvelous sophomore effort that kept the style and virtues of its predecessor (e.g., the fast drumming of Vinny Appice and the fierce, demonic guitar playing of Vivian Campbell), as well as the brilliant and complex metaphoric compositions done by the creative mastermind and virtuous songwriter Ronnie James Dio. Unfortunately, the band neglected to refresh the formula that took the previous album to an impressing success, and as a result the album shows a slight burnout in the same. Maybe the constant use of the words "rainbow" and "stone" in the lyrics is not a big issue as those words had been remaining as a trademark of Dio's compositions since a long time ago, but the musicians started to play some weird notes and songs like "Mystery" (a weird attempt to make a new version of "Rainbow in the Dark").
Nonetheless, the album is still one of the best heavy metal releases, and it is a well done effort. There are still solid numbers and epic pieces that became even symbolic among the listeners of this music. In general terms, the album meets the heaviness of Black Sabbath (from Dio years) and some melodic arrangements from Rainbow songs like "Do You Close Your Eyes?" and "Gates of Babylon". Once again, Dio opens the album with an explosive song that seems to be a tribute to rock 'n' roll, that is "We Rock". Its catchy chorus and intense, harsh riffs evoke in the listener a desire of shouting and rocking together with the crowd like in "Stand Up and Shout" in a slower pace, though.
Similarly to the preceding album, the second track is the title-song and the most epic cut in the album. The difference however, is that it is progressive and a little bit slower than "Holy Diver", like if it was built in the blueprint of "Heaven and Hell". But the epicness does not stop here. There are other more intense numbers like "One Night In the City" and "Egypt (The Chains are On)", which were filled with an atmosphere that recall a day walking on the streets in the Ancient Egypt era. Regarding "Mystery", let's just leave things at that. It is better to skip any comment on this song and at some point the song itself.
Despite the fact of the album showing a burnout in the ideas of the band, it remains as an excellent release filled with epic and mind-blowing songs. Its superior production work makes this album an astonishing and heavy piece of thunderous heavy metal, but a painful truth is that it will remain in the shadows of its predecessor regardless how earlier the former obtained the platinum certification. Widely recommended for those who loved the debut album and/or are interested in the genesis of power metal.
**Note: This is a review of the 2012 Deluxe Edition**
After a huge success with “Holy Diver”, Ronnie James Dio and his newly formed solo band had to find a way to match that success and that came into the form of “The Last in Line”. While a strong album in its own right, this album is just a step below the legendary debut. “The Last in Line”, along with the aforementioned “Holy Diver”, and “Sacred Heart” have recently been released as deluxe editions with improvements in sound and loaded with extra content. “The Last in Line” comes with some live b-sides as well as a concert from the Pinkpop Festival in 1984.
“The Last in Line” mainly draws upon the formula from the debut. “We Rock” could be seen as a brother to “Stand Up and Shout” with its empowering lyrics and up-tempo joys. “Eat Your Heart Out” is the child of “Straight to the Heart” and “Egypt (The Chains Are On)” invokes a familiar atmosphere and ends the album on a brooding note like “Shame to the Night” did. Last, but certainly not the least, there is the epic title track slotted as song two.
The main problem with these comparisons is that the “Holy Diver” tracks are superior. That’s not to diminish the merits of these songs because “We Rock” is a sterling opener is a top Dio track and I actually find the song “The Last in Line” better than “Holy Diver.” The lyrics in the chorus are some of the greatest examples of Dio’s writing ability and his use of metaphors is truly impressive.
“Mystery” is the most commercial song and one of the singles off this album. The song remains one of my favorite DIO songs because of the enchanting keyboards provided by Claude Schnell and has one of Dio’s best lyrics with “Is the wise man always right? No, he can play the fool.” The accompanying music video is also worth a look too. Dio gets to fight with a sword again and he makes awesome gestures with his hands.
Rounding out the territory is “I Speed at Night” complete with attitude and some resounding guitar work from Vivian Campbell. Thanks to the improvements in the sound, the jumping notes of Jimmy Bain can be clearly heard as well. “Breathless” stays on the mid-tempo, but floats in the generic realm and “One Night in the City” has a cool riff to keep attention while Dio tells a story about a couple young kids.
The extras piled onto this deluxe edition are live b-sides of “Eat Your Heart Out”, “Don’t Talk to Strangers”, “Holy Diver”, and “Rainbow in the Dark.” All are solid listens that don’t deviate much from the studio versions and it is nice to have a live version of a song that is not talked too much about in “Eat Your Heart Out.”
However, the meat of the extra content is the concert from the Pinkpop Festival. It is an excellent set list, but unfortunately this concert seems to be a bootleg and there is this buzzing, static noise that permeates the sound. It is a big distraction, but if the ambitious listener can look past that then there is a load to latch on to. Dio’s stage banter is in full effect and not cut out and there is a rousing version of “Heaven and Hell” that is over 13 minutes long. The band is in tight form and it is easy to surmise that they are enjoying themselves. A live version “One Night in the City” is on here and that song is not heard much on the live stage and it’s never a bad thing hearing “Man on the Silver Mountain.”
As with all the other deluxe editions, there are extensive linear notes on the development of the album as well as some neat photos of artwork and the band. The sound upgrade along with the bonuses should provide enough nourishment for a DIO fanatic, and while the sound of the extra concert is disappointing, this is still an entertaining deluxe edition. I suggest you don’t be the last in line for a purchase.
Elf...Rainbow....Black Sabbath....now Dio. "Holy Diver" proved Ronnie James Dio could now succeed without the Rainbow or Black Sabbath banner. In fact, it was the best album of his career. With his own band, Dio basically combined the epic, medieval imagery of Rainbow with the heavy doom of Sabbath to forge his "own" sound. Could he follow it up with something on par with the standard he set for himself? A bad second album is often the death knoll for a "new" band.
Well, the answer is a resounding "yes". There was no "sophomore slump" for Dio on his second outing under his own name. Dio fans seem to rate "Holy Diver" over "The Last In Line" as the best Dio album but I consider them nearly equal when it comes to the LPs as a whole. The only real difference is "Last" has a few B+ grade tracks ("Breathless", "Eat Your Heart Out") while "Diver" was straight A's.
"The Last In Line" is in many ways a clone of "Holy Diver". The line up is the same (Dio, Campbell, Bain, Appice), only with the addition of keyboardist Claude Schnell, who brings a different, if somewhat dated, synth to several tracks. It was Dio's first step towards the pop metal (not to be confused with 'hair metal') of it's followup "Sacred Heart". Just like "Holy Diver's" leading number "Stand Up And Shout", the first cut on "Line" is "We Rock", another fast fist-pumping headbanger. It even eclipses "Shout" in sheer force. That's no easy task. It's one of those universal anthems Dio writes to connect with the audience. In concert he used this to it's max. The "we" is everybody. WE all rock. It's our lifestyle. It's our identity. (One could contrast that to Queen's "We Will Rock You", which is more about the band Queen rocking you. Campbell has some of the fastest fingers in the business as evidenced by the ferocious, breakneck guitar hook, let alone his requisite solo. This cut became a staple of Dio's live gigs for the rest of his life).
The title track is definitely one of his absolute best tracks. It opens with a slow melodic intro but the hammer comes slamming down.. Dio roars in full chest voice followed by the lumbering bass & guitar riffs. The greatness of Dio's voice was his Freddie Mercury-like ability to hit his high register in full chest voice instead of going nasal, shrieking or slipping into falsetto.
One of many standouts is "One Night In The City", a midtempo number that briefly tells the tale of a "dark child" named Johnny and a "princess" named Sally. The lyrics are typically cryptic but it seems to "recommend" living for the moment or perhaps getting lost in the moment. This was 1984. It didn't sound so daft back then. It's the midpaced, doomy numbers like this or "Shame On The Night" from the preceding LP that really brought out the "horns" in Dio.
Just like "Holy Diver" the imagery is pure Final Fantasy or D&D fiction. Still, "Line" doesn't feel quite as cohesive as "Diver" thanks to a decent but out-of-place "breakup song" ("Eat Your Heart Out") and the lyrics of the aforementioned "One Night In The City". Even the radio-friendly "Rainbow In The Dark"-clone "Mystery" doesn't fit seamlessly like "Dark" did on "Holy Diver".
Now, in retrospect, some would say this is a positive as songs about rainbows, dragons, witches, demons and what have you made Dio a self-parody in time in the minds of some. Dio was hip to the joke as his retro-2002 album "Killing The Dragon" was a conscious throwback. His lyrics and use of medieval imagery to talk about the struggle of life issues was still fresh at the time. Over the years he's been asked several times why he continued to write in that style. To paraphrase, Ronnie usually said "I like to give people some fantasy instead of just writing songs about love stinks or the world is going to sh**".
While Dio was often a fine lyricist the more important thing about this and the preceding LP is the musicianship. Hungry, aggressive playing by a group like themselves and each other (for awhile). Tight, clean production but hard, heavy with the two elements that separates one band from another. Not to lesson the important of a bassist and drummer to the band but, in metal, there's two things that stand out most and make it or break it with the average non-musician record buyer: A great vocalist (Ronnie James Dio) and a hot metal guitarist (Vivian Campbell). The Dio band had two of the highest caliber. Nevertheless, in order for the album itself to rise to the level of greatness, it has to have the songs.
It's been 28 years since this album was released and it has aged extremely well. Just this week I purchased a 24-Karat Gold remaster while earlier in the year European markets were treated with a Deluxe Edition of "The Last In Line", which included a bonus disc containing live B-Sides to the singles "Mystery" & "We Rock" plus a set of Live At The Pink Pop Festival recorded in 1984.
Many consider Sacred Heart to be a step down from The Last in Line but I conclude the opposite. The Last in Line while having better standouts than Sacred Heart doesn’t have as good of an overall cohesive structure. Like Sacred Heart The Last in Line is more speed metal based than Dio’s debut album Holy Diver. The Last in line is less repetitive considering more focus on changing riffs than chorus based songs.
The songs range from mid-tempo traditional/power metal songs to the more speed metal numbers like We Rock. The choruses are strong as usual but like on Sacred Heart most of the songs are more lead and riff based than on Holy Diver. The Last in Line is a bit heavier than Dio’s debut and on ever future release the albums would continue to get heavier. This time around The Last in Line epic number is the awesome Egypt (The Chains Are On) being easily one of Dio’s most melodic and greatest songwriting accomplishments of his long career.
Ronnie James Dio’s voice shines the most on the title track and Egypt (The Chains Are On). His performances on the rest of the songs are average for him but nothing special. Vivian Campbell guitar work is the highlight of the album and really shows his abilities to draw you in on his leads and solos. Jimmy Bain hasn’t changed since Holy Diver his bass guitar is still audible and his performance is solid. Vinny Appice’s drum work is more solid here than on Holy Diver unfortunately he doesn’t really bring much attention to himself. A new member is present in Claude Schnell he shows that he is much better at providing keyboard atmosphere than Dio was.
The Last in Line unfortunately has its fair share of weaknesses as well. A few filler songs are present which really brings down the albums effectiveness. While the album standouts are pretty good they aren’t as entertaining as on Holy Diver. Finally Dio’s lyrics are easily some of his corniest yet and make many of the songs funnier than they are entertaining.
The Last in line isn’t as good as Holy Diver but is certainly a solid follow up. Best songs are We Rock, I Speed at Night, Evil Eyes, and the album standout Egypt (The Chains Are On). I recommend this album to Ronnie James Dio aficionados and any fan of classic power metal.
-10 points filler songs are present bringing the score down a lot
-5 points weaker standouts and overall weaker album than Dio’s debut
-5 points some of Dio’s corniest lyrics of his career
Why Dio's solo band is so praised by the metal community, remains a mystery to me. Sure, I like this album and Holy Diver as well, but I can't understand why are those records hailed as absolute masterpieces of heavy metal. I really can't. Anyways, The Last in Line is a solid record, containing 9 typical heavy metal tunes. In fact, all the elements that made heavy metal what it is are present here: the stunning vocals, the astounding guitar solos, the heavy riffs and the catchy drum lines (plus the inaudible bass, but oh well...).
Ronnie Dio is, obviously, the man of the album. His extraordinary vocal approach absolutely dominates this record. From the screams of We Rock to the over-the-top chorus of Egypt (“the chains are ooooooooooooooooooooooon”), The Last in Line proves that he was here to stay. In fact, he was absolutely reaching his peak by 1984, with a successful solo debut already released and with his past works with Sabbath and Rainbow still in the mind of many people.
The true pearl of this album is the title track, which is not only the best song of the album, but the BEST song ever sung by Dio (yes, I'm looking at you Heaven and Hell). It begins calmly but then becomes heavier and heavier, until Dio screams and the song turns into a bone-crushing, mid-paced number. The chorus is extremely well written and catchy and everytime I listen to the song I think that it is longer than what it really is; in fact, it carries a fantastic epic atmosphere that grabs you and doesn't let you go. Egypt (the Chains are On) is another epic song, but not as good as the title track. Nevertheless, the beginning is quite interesting, with some Egyptian influenced guitar lines and the solos are quite nice.
This brings me to another important element of the record: the guitar work. Where would heavy metal be without a good guitar riff? That's right and this record has plenty of them, courtesy of the awesome Vivian Campbell. We Rock is an example of his technical proficiency. While not as good as the explosive Holy Diver opener, Stand up and Shout, this track can be considered an early speed metal take, a song authentically made for the crowd interaction (yes, the live version of this song is even better than the studio version, so go get it!). I Speed at Night is probably even faster than We Rock and is an authentic forgotten classic, with that anthemic chorus (“I just come seeking pleasure, I hate the light, I SPEED AT NIGHT... AT NIIIIIIGHT”) and the powerful, fierce drum work, courtesy of the ex-Black Sabbath drummer Vinnie Appice.
About all the other songs, there are not too many highlights here... Breathless is a typical Dio song, an average number. The same thing with Evil Eyes. Eat Your Heart Out is very forgettable, probably the worst tune of the bunch. However, there's something all the songs of this piece share: the catchiness. Every chorus will remain in your head for weeks which is a good thing, obviously, since it provides a certain durability to the whole listening experience.
Concluding, the vocals and the guitar work, allied with the overall catchiness, are the most important elements of this album. Absolutely worth getting, especially if you are a fan of Dio's past work. However, if you are seeking for an introduction to his efforts, try Holy Diver: it is much more consistent and, in overall, has better songs. Nevertheless, worth getting.
Best Moments of the CD:
-the explosive beginning of We Rock.
-the ending of The Last in Line,
-the ending of I Speed at Night.
-the first section of Egypt, with those fantastic oriental melodies.
Ronnie James Dio is perhaps the greatest voice in metal, and by 1984 he seemed unstoppable. After three early metal classics with Rainbow (namely Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, Rising, Long Live Rock 'n' Roll plus On Stage), a pair of what have to be considered Sabbath's top efforts in Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules (plus the magnificent Live Evil), and then one of metal's most incredible debuts with his solo band's Holy Diver, Ronnie could do no wrong. Well, we thought so anyway.
The Last in Line is by no means a bad record, it's just a step down from the truly magical string of releases I rattled off above. Actually, this is a very interesting album because it invokes an imaginary version of 80's metal that didn't really exist outside of this. This is basically THE generic metal record that people think of from this period, with tons of guitar squeals, air drummable fills, and fleet-fingered guitar runs, all fronted by a manlier-than-manly voiced bellower who splits his time between magic, sex, cars, and magic. Unfortunately as entertaining as that is sometimes, it doesn't make a particularly consistent or high-quality listen.
Still, this album comes out of the gates as strong as any I've come across, implying that this Ronnie-come-lately(sorry) has subscribed to the Bob Rock school of ordering songs. Simply put, the absolute cream of the crop is thrown out early, providing a start that makes you think that the little (very, very little) rocker who could is gonna continue that unparalleled streak. "We Rock" is probably the best speed metal in the Dio catalogue, and an able follow up to the pedigree of triumphs like "A Light in the Black", "Kill the King", "Neon Knights", and "The Mob Rules". For 1984 this is actually pretty technically complex, probably one of Viv Campbell's best all around performances on that wonderful solo and tricky riff, with Appice and Bain rock solid underneath. It's your typical RJD lyric, but it approaches the point where his woeful poetry actually becomes profound and powerful (see "Heaven and Hell" or "Long Live Rock 'n' Roll"), although the brainless chorus chokes off that possibility. I mean, people have been calling themselves the bearers of the majesty of ROCK'N'ROLL (oooh yeeeah!) for ages, and the shtick has worn thin. Gotta hand it to Dio though for assembling a pretty brainy piece of music underneath the st00pidity, and if it's Ronnie singing I'll probably buy it.
Although I rag on this album now and then, there is no denying the power of the title track. "The Last in Line" is not only the best song on this album, it's also better than anything on the godly Holy Diver record, and it's also better than anything he would write afterwards. THIS is a quality example of Dio's impassioned parables reaching for the stars and pulling them down to earth to power some of the finest metal known to man. That intro is pure class, Ronnie proving that he is a versatile singer and going all mellow with less of the self-conscious drama that he occasionally seemed to force in Sabbath. But you know it won't last long, and the build up to that glorious golden explosion is practically unequalled in rock music. Really.
The up tempo riff is a fine piece of metal, circling the vocal melodies, advancing and retreating before it rises up to do battle with Ronnie over that impassioned chorus. This is also a great example of when Dio uses keyboards in a non-ridiculous fashion, plunging along under that formidable riff rather than dripping sugar over it (no offence "Rainbow in the Dark"). The solo is less refined than most of the others here, but the raw edge and obvious chops help to push it up to a level with the rest of this masterwork. Still, the important thing is Ronnie here, and he is at his absolute scenery-chewing peak.
"Breathless" is another speedy rocker, not quite "We Rock" but pretty good. The riff chunks impressively but generically, and the lyrics are just sort of there. Really Ronnie, these rhymes just sound forced. "Cause you're Breathless, ready to burn/Breathless, the circle still turns/Breathless, willing to learn/You're Breathless". The circle still turns? What the hell is that supposed to mean? Well, at least he doesn't talk about rainbows. Oh wait, he does. However, I love that intro which features some experimentation with samples, something Ronnie usually avoided. All in all, fun but sorta meh.
I do really like "I Speed at Night" though. It's short (3:32) and extremely punchy, a very eventful roller coaster with another snarly Ronnie performance. The lyrics again make no sense to anyone but Ronnie, but one of the finest vocal moments comes towards the end of the song when Ronnie grits out "You've got some stair to heaven, you may be right/I only know in my world, I hate the light!" Hell yeah, that is metal to the rotten core right there.
We take an interlude from the speed metal with "One Night in the City", which proves once again that Ronnie is no William Shakespeare, particularly on this fumbled attempt to retell the story of Romeo and Juliet. Still, I applaud the fact that this sounds different, and this is a compelling argument in favour of the decision to hire a keyboardist rather than have Ronnie try to do it himself. On my first few spins I found it to sugary, but now I like the epic flavour and hard driving riffery that makes itself felt underneath the keys. I mentioned the silly narrative, but Ronnie rescues it with his usual serious delivery that undermines the camp value, particularly on the great break in the middle with the twinkly keys.
"Evil Eyes" is yet more widdly speed metal, and contributes to the problem of songs sounding too much alike. This is a bit too heavy on the guitar squeals (did Tracy G sneak into the studio?!), and the chorus doesn't have a great hook. There isn't much to say about it. Oh, and he talks about rainbows some more.
Gah. The biggest misfire on the record, and the most blatant sell-out attempt in Ronnie's career thus far, though emphatically not the last. This basically attempts to rewrite "Rainbow in the Dark", but fails to capture either the whimsy of that iconic keyboard line nor the dark majesty of the riff. This song is pathetic in every way, and it isn't even catchy. The chorus is idiotic, the lyrics are poor, and Ronnie just seems to lack conviction. Amazingly, nothing about rainbows.
"Eat Your Heart Out" is just hilarious. This is quintessential 80's cheese rock. I couldn't stop laughing at the chorus, and the lyrics are so ambiguous that you can't help but see why he never got critical respect. These are literally the worst sexual euphemisms I have ever heard. "Locked away in your velvet jail"? Come on Ronnie! Isn't Wendy ashamed of you? The solo is fine, but that riff is so unapologetically shlocky that it makes you wonder what everyone was thinking back then. Piss poor metal for the paralytically pissed.
Finally we get to the album's, *ahem*, "serious epic" (Translation: Ronnie's latest "Stargazer" rewrite). Trouble is he seems to have forgotten that people loved that song because, uh, stuff happened. "Egypt" is saddled with a painfully dull riff, a majestically dissatisfying up tempo section, a gloriously meh solo, and a distinctly naff keyboard line. The song plods worse than "The Sign of the Southern Cross", and Vinnie is noticeably restrained on the drums. He REALLY needs to push this along with some cool fills, but he doesn't and the song just bogs. Also, the non-standard chorus doesn't work. It is an interesting idea for a song though, aliens influencing Egypt, but Dio fails to carry it off with any inspiration at all. Oh, and he talks about rainbows.
All in all, this album is very good in sections, mediocre in others, and is really worthwhile only for the first two tracks which are available on every Dio "Best Of", making this release for completist fans only.
Stand-Outs: "The Last in Line", "We Rock", "One Night in the City"
After an excellent debut, Dio roared back with this slab of Heavy Metal goodness. There are a lot of similarities to Holy Diver on Last In Line but there are some subtle differences too. The end result is almost equally as impressive though, and Last In Line stands as one of the highlights of Dio’s career.
The first thing I noticed when listening to this release was the fact that the songs in general were faster. Holy Diver was largely a mid-paced CD, done very well mind you, but only “Stand Up And Shout” could be considered fast. Last In Line proves that Dio can write faster Heavy Metal tracks such as “We Rock”, “I Speed At Night”, and “Evil Eyes”, and succeed at them. Of course, the mid-paced song writing of Dio is in full effect on Last In Line as well. Basically, the title track is this CD’s version of Holy Diver, being very similar in overall arrangement and atmosphere. Though the Holy Diver title track might be a stronger song than the Last In Line title track, it still stands as a highlight of the CD with its memorable chorus and progressive build up. “Mystery” is also this CD’s version of “Rainbow In The Dark”. It has the same kind of keyboard melody driving the song and while not bad, “Rainbow In The Dark” is superior.
The riffs by Vivian Campbell are very well done again, this time taking on more of an 80’s Metal approach than the rock influenced guitar riffs we heard on Holy Diver. The result can best be heard on “We Rock” and “Eat Your Heart Out” which both have excellent pure 80’s riffs; you just don’t hear stuff like this anymore. Meanwhile, Campbell’s leads are competently executed, though they’re not as instantly memorable as they were on Holy Diver, however, “Egypt (The Chains Are On)” has one of Campbell’s better leads. Likewise, the drumming is more dynamic, however, the bass doesn’t seem as prominent, which is unforunate. As if there was any doubt, Dio’s vocals are amazing as always. He sings with a lot of emotion and instantly makes every song have a memorable chorus, which is always important for this type of Metal. Also, while Holy Diver had a couple of songs that featured keyboards, Last In Line seems to use them more often as mentioned by another reviewer. They are really only up front in “Mystery”, though, but can be heard in the background on most other tracks as they usually add just a touch of melody or atmosphere.
Last In Line is very close to being as good as Holy Diver. It has some of my favorite songs from Dio but when you go on a song per song basis Holy Diver has more classics, however, the song writing is more varied on Last In Line, as the band mixes fast, mid-paced, and progressive tracks more diversely this time around. Anyway you look at it though this is a classic 80’s Heavy Metal release: it has soaring vocals, excellent choruses, solid riffs, and explosive leads. Can’t ask for much more than that.
Song Highlights: We Rock, Last In Line, Speed At Night, Eat Your Heart Out, One Night In The City, Egypt (The Chains Are On)