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The Evil Dreams of a Wicked Metal Genius - 90%

bayern, July 28th, 2017

The album reviewed here got such a wide circulation around the Bulgarian radio channels in 1987 that at some stage there wasn’t a single metal head in the country who didn’t have it in a safe place in his/her collection. Dio’s “The Last in Line” vinyl was readily available in the record shops before that, further adding to the guy’s enormous popularity on the other side of the Iron Curtain. For some reason Dio, Black Sabbath, and Scorpions were not banned during the 80’s so their albums were easy to find in the studios while Twisted Sister, W.A.S.P., Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden, to give a few examples, were featured prominently on the very top of those “banned bands” lists. Ridiculous, truly ridiculous stuff, but what could you do; such were the times…

It’s quite ironic, in a sad way though, that it was the Epitome of Metal (R.I.P.) who tested the poppy, radio-friendly waters with “Sacred Heart”, helping Motley Crue, whose “Theatre of Pain” was released just a few months earlier, in the establishing of the cheesy side of metal. Not a very dignified moment from the man’s discography, but all was forgiven as it sold very well, the audience picked on those new melodic sounds way too fast, and didn’t exactly stain the man’s career.

Once the album reviewed here came out, everyone sighed with enormous relief as apparently the previous opus was just an isolated experiment as “Night People” shows too well, a bouncy boisterous opener with an open speedy swagger regardless of the tangible keyboard presence. The title-track is the staple for the band hit with a big commercial potential, nothing overtly cheesy here; and “Sunset Superman” is the next in line exhibition of less bridled energy, a glorious rousing anthem that sees our small, vociferous superman shaking off the cheese completely, serving one of the finest ballads of the 80’s right after, “All the Fools Sailed Away”, a poignant composition, one of the guy(s)’ highest achievements. “Naked in the Rain” is a heavy brooder recalling the man’s days with Black Sabbath in an introspective epic manner; and “Overlove” is the exact opposite to it, a brisk fast-paced cut with lashing riffs and breezy screamy leads. “I Could Have Been a Dreamer” is a sure reminder of the poppy aesthetics of the preceding album, a relaxed “dreamy” (definitely not evil) piece bordering on the semi-ballad, totally cancelled by the excellent “Faces in the Window”, another prime heavy metal anthem with a nice memorable chorus and dynamic semi-galloping tendencies. Back to the previous saga’s mellower overtones with the closing “When a Woman Cries”, this time a full-fledged semi-ballad, but a good enough epitaph to this enjoyable, diverse roller-coaster.

Dio tried to balance things to an extent here since the last effort was at least a positive commercial step, but at the same time he didn’t want to delineate his core fanbase, and the result was this compelling “evil dream”, a sure-handed entry into the 1987 heavy metal catalogue beside Warlock’s “Triumph & Agony”, Black Sabbath’s “Eternal Idol”, Helloween’s “The Keeper of the Seven Keys I”, and Udo’s “Animal House”. For one thing, Dio was the main contender to the Big Five (Scorpions, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Accept), and he managed to preserve both his integrity and the high quality of his music all the way to the end of the decade, including on the slightly divisive “Lock Up the Wolves”. The Voice of Metal seldom put a foot wrong although some consider his ill-fated return to Sabbath territory in 1992 for “Dehumanizer” one having in mind the acrimonious circumstances under which he had to leave again although the former comrades joined efforts once more under the Heaven & Hell moniker many years later. Even on the more experimental efforts (remember “Angry Machines”) during the 90’s he left his trademark stamp, and who knows how many more interesting works he was going to provide for the fans if it wasn’t for his untimely passing. The music world was robbed off one of its greatest artists, off one of the most important “evil” dreamers in metal history… rest in peace, and… Up the horns!