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The Best of Dio's 80's Material - 74%

Superchard, October 8th, 2018

Although I am not very fond of Dio's eponymous works, I will say that Dream Evil is the strongest of Dio's stagnant 80's material right out the gate. Replacing the ridiculously overrated Vivian Campbell with an only slightly more interesting guitarist by the name of Craig Goldy of Giuffria, a synth-pop group of all things. Most Dio fans will likely agree the despite where his career's roots are coming from he fits like a glove, and to be perfectly honest, the untrained ear might not be able to distinguish much of a difference between his and Campbell's respective styles. Goldy does stick to those simple and lavish guitar riffs much the same way, but as I've said before I think this is a stylistic choice that Ronnie himself wanted as to not overcomplicate his material and keep it tangible and easy to swallow for the average radio listener, Dream Evil starts to see the band loosen up ever so slightly, and to their credit it is fair to say they responded to some of the negative criticism that Sacred Heart received for being a shallow pop-rock record.

Still though, with the greatest amount of personality exhibited here being the acoustic blues riffing intro to "Overlove" and the mad man keyboard solo to "All the Fools Sailed Away", we're really splitting hairs here as it's not long before "I Could Have Been a Dreamer" and the following tracks closing out the album brings us back to where we started on the first couple of albums. That's what this album does better than anything, it brings us the best of both worlds from Holy Diver and The Last in Line and doesn't even acknowledge its predecessor's existence. All the while Claude Schnell's input here is much more involved than ever before and has really helped shape the album and give it an extra layer that the debut album never had. His input gives "Faces in the Window" a more eerie feel to it, while adding additional texture to the chorus of "I Could Have Been a Dreamer" and even harmonizing with Ronnie on "When a Woman Cries" with this whining drone, and not to mention a short, stunted arpeggio during the second half of the chorus.

"Sunset Superman" has always been my least favorite off the album due to its awkward, half-assed chorus. Hearing Dio shout "sunset superman" three times In a row doesn't quite cut it for a chorus in my opinion. That goes doubly so for the end of the song which repeats the chorus ad nauseam until the fade out carries this awkward stomper away. I believe he could've done better here as the instrumentation during the chorus is simple, yet monolithic. This would've been the time to revert to what worked so well on slower Black Sabbath classics like "Heaven and Hell", but Ronnie simply fails to see the potential for what he could have done here in my earnest opinion. I do like how Goldy and bassist Jimmy Bain part ways in the verse on the song. It's telling of how the band is in sync with one another to compose tangible songs that delineate in small ways that make Dream Evil less tiresome than prior material. Despite Ronnie's lazy vocal performance here, I think he more than makes up for it on stronger tracks the album has to offer like "All the Fools Sailed Away", "Night People" and the album's title track.

I do think that Dream Evil could've benefitted from a more varied palette, though. While most everything here is solid stuff, it's more or less a collection of songs that are either faster paced rockers or mid-tempo pop tunes with "When a Woman Cries" and "All the Fools Sailed Away" being the only real variety we get in terms of holistic songwriting. In terms of the slower paced pop material, I find "I Could Have Been a Dreamer" inoffensive compared to the awful predecessors such as "Mystery" that led up to this on albums prior. "Naked in the Rain", however is a much stronger track with some of Ronnie's best lyrical work of his career:

Two faces
On fire
No traces
Something has swallowed the night
You know that nothing can make it all right

Like candy
Emotion
Too much and sugar can turn to sand
You scream but nobody touches your hand

Two children
Guns loaded
Take aim and blow all the dreams away
Too late for anything better to say

Holy shit! That could've been a controversial song back in 1987. This was the decade when Ozzy Osbourne and Rob Halford were under fire for encouraging devil worship and promoting suicide through their music, with Halford actually being dragged to court over the song "Better By You, Better Than Me". The fact that Dio seems to be singing about blowing a couple of kids heads off is some of the most powerful words I've heard him utter when he's usually singing about subject matter that has more to do with the mythical and fantastical. This was a bold new direction for Dio long before albums like Dehumanizer and Strange Highways were even a forethought.

This is unfortunately the only album from the 80's that I can totally get behind in terms of Dio's solo material. Most fans will go with either Holy Diver or The Last in Line. I have to respectfully disagree as Dream Evil smokes them both combined and haunts them in their dreams. Dio gets into some darker, and sometimes even more grimly realistic themes here that make the album something of a novelty in its own right as it has the harsh grimness to it of some of his 90's material while still having the pop metal 80's sound overall. Not a bad album if you fancy yourself some linear Dio and don't want to listen to something too appallingly generic.

Superchard gets super hard for:
All the Fools Sailed Away
Naked in the Rain
Faces in the Window
Dream Evil