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Ronnie James Dio's solo career post-Sabbath has been an interesting ride thus far, as I have followed it avidly since 1994. The Last in Line is exactly what everyone claims it to be, a zenith in the early 80s style of traditional metal (with some slight hints of prog. rock, paving the way for Queensryche). Be that as it may, I would like to state for the record that this album, nor it's predecessor should be made to overshadow the brilliance that came after them in "Sacred Heart" and "Dream Evil", both of which are often passed up as mediocre by the metal masses.
Ronnie's voice is in it's prime on this album, and his range is fully exploited amidst the barrage of guitar riffs and drum beats. Vivian Campbell is still pumping out some great guitar solos as was the case on Holy Diver. Vinnie Appice is still battle the others in the band for the center of attention with his complex beats and unending flurry of fills. And good old Jimmy Bain does what unfortunately Dio (as well as Judas Priest) suffer from, a Bass player that is content to fade into the wall of sound and do basically nothing of interest with his instrument.
The production on this album is decent considering the time and the technology available, though when comparing it with Magica and Killing the Dragon, obviously it showcases the flaws of analog recording equipment, despite the advent of digitally remastering. The vocals are the primary focus point, giving way only during the points in the song where there are none. Now let's see how the individual songs break down.
1. We Rock (10/10) - Up tempo and up-lifting lyrics are what jump out at the listener on this anthem. Dio has always had a tradition of glorifying both his fans as a group (as is the case here), and also paying tribute to the individual abstraction of the ideal man. This is something that is mostly found in the power metal genre nowadays, and this song is probably one of the reasons for it.
2. The Last in Line (10/10) - Probably Dio's greatest song by all standards. A grand epic packed into a little over 5 minutes of play time, consisting of a rather nostalgic intro meshed with loud line of unforgetable electric guitar riffs. The lyrics are at times a bit cryptic, and as with most of Ronnie's lyrics, require alot of scrutiny in order to be understood. Basically this song does more to glorify his fans but in a more poetic way. On a final note, this guitar solo was the greatest one ever put out by Vivian Campbell.
3. Breathless (9/10) - Mid-tempo rocker with a bit of a different theme. Ronnie also occasionally likes to tell stories about how people often react upon hearing his music, and that is how I've interpretted these lyrics, thought the official meaning of them is probably different. The guitar riffs are heavily Deep Purple influenced, owing to Ronnie's time with Ritchie Blackmore in Rainbow.
4. I Speed at Night (9/10) - Another high speed thrill ride, this one showcasing a brilliant collective effort by every member of the group. The lyrics are a bit overdone though, as was the case with most bands in the 80s who glorified the excesses of the culture.
5. One Night in the City (10/10) - An impressive and inventive set of guitar riffs dominate this one, along with a few interesting accompanying keyboard lines. This time Ronnie seems to be telling his own version of Romeo and Juliet, and he does a fair job at it, though naturally he doesn't quite shack up to William Shakespeare.
6. Evil Eyes (9/10) - The 3rd up tempo song on this album, and also one that is very easy to sing along with. The guitar lines are good, the solo is intricant, but I was left wanting more. This is probably due to the fact that it doesn't have a whole lot of changes in it.
7. Mystery (8/10) - This is probably the weakest song on the album, mostly because it's too mellow, and I mean that in way of subject matter more so than musicality. The lyrics are interesting, but the chorus is a little bit too catchy and comes off as comical at times.
8. Eat your heart out (9/10) - It's all about the guitar in this one, so don't even both with the lyrics, just tune them out. One thing that Ronnie has proven he was not good at is rivaling Motley Crue or Guns n' Roses in the break-up song department. Leave that to the bands who want to get chicks writing songs.
9. Egypt "The Chains are On" (10/10) - Instant classic in the epic format. Long drawn out storyline with some rather impressive lyrical devices being exploited. Neat sounding eastern riff that is a little bit reminiscent of "Gates of Babylon". Some rather interesting changes in both sound and structure, in addition to a brilliant guitar solo. Great closer.
In Conclusion, this is an album of classic metal greatness, well worthy of the attention of any fan of speed, power, progressive or traditional metal. I highly recommend it, as it recieves constant play on my stereo.