Today marks the 10th anniversary for one of the saddest days of my life. It was the Saturday on what we Canadians refer to as the May 2-4. Officially the Victoria Day long weekend. I was at the lake, hanging out with family, having a few cold beers and then I heard the news. Ronnie James Dio had died. My favourite metal singer of all time. I loved his stuff from that very first time I heard time I heard him in 1981. My family asked what was wrong, but they didn’t get it. No one I know takes their music as seriously as I do. I flashed back to 1977 and remembered hearing the screams and wailing from my aunts when they heard Elvis had died. I never understood how so many people could be brought to tears over one person. Now I got it. Dio was my Elvis. Just as John Lennon was someone else’s Buddy Holly. I lamented over which album to review as a tribute. I figured the last album he ever recorded would have to do. Hopefully I do his legacy justice.
This 2 LP set is wonderfully done. The sound is amazing. There is a sweet poster of the band members that I was tempted to hang in my house, but the collector in me would not allow it (not to mention Mrs. B). The album artwork is exquisite. The thorny, serpent headed devil is holding a man on a crucifix that has multiple nails sticking from his body. Is this Jesus? We don’t see his face. In the background there is also the shadowy image of another man on the cross. Perhaps that is Jesus. The cd version sold at Walmart has different artwork, probably to appease the religious types. Side 4 of this album features a beautiful etching with a bearded flying devil symbol (Jesus?) in the centre, (as opposed to the female winged angels on the 1980 album Heaven And Hell) and beams of light emanating out, not unlike the sun. There is also the numbers 25 and 41. I had to look this one up. It represents the Bible verse Matthew 25:41. There are numerous versions of this, but basically he tells those to his left that are cursed to go to hell, quite literally. Now for the music.
Atom and Evil – A cool play on words. I’m assuming these lads were not invited as respected guests to any homes in the Bible Belt. Slower chugging than we were used to on Mob Rules. Unique Iommi playing here too. I almost get a very tiny Kirk Hammett-like sound. There is more diverse guitar work ahead. In fact, this album may be the most diverse in Tony’s entire catalogue.
Fear – Dio’s voice has a really cool sound on this one. For a brief second I even heard the tiniest Layne Staley growl when he sings “.. go awayyy..” I think of The Rooster. Dio and Layne Staley. Sign me up.
Bible Black – Haunting and acoustic guitars sound unique. I think this is a trend. Ok, 4 verses in and we get that good old crescendo from quiet to bombastically loud that the first 2 Dio fronted albums had. This one could have fit nicely on either one of those albums and no one would have complained. It has some of the best elements of both Sign Of The Southern Cross, and Last In Line. In other words, it’s pretty damn awesome.
While the silver disc junkies get to continue listening, I have to get up and flip over the record.
Double The Pain – Geezer’s bass is the star for me here. The guitar solo is pretty cool as well. I prefer when Dio sings alone rather than when the other members join in. A minor setback, that doesn’t really take much away from the overall goodness of the song.
Rock And Roll Angel – My head starts to bang. Not like a Thrash song, but at a slower pace that is much more akin to my old man status. Of note is the wicked guitar riffs laid down here. Going from Jeff Beckish to Stoner doom to Flamenco. There is so much uniqueness to Tony’s guitar work on this album. He changes tone and style numerous times, even within the same song.
The Turn Of The Screw – A song about getting shafted by “the man”. I wonder if it was their way of indirectly talking about the music industry.
Eating The Cannibals – I hate to tell the lads, but if you’re eating the cannibals, you are a cannibal. The guitar solo is ace, and the drumming is pretty damn great. I read that Vinny was brought on and told exactly what to play and how to play it for this album. I doubt it though, but if that was the case, this song was not a paint by numbers drum performance.
Time to put on the 2nd slab of black goodness.
Follow The Tears – Haunting funeral organs, heaaaavy guitar riffs and horror movie like sounds begin this one off. The heavy guitar remains mixed with Dio’s wonderful voice. I could have seen this song done with either Dio or Ozzy. I wish Sabbath had done this one in concert. Ozzy could have pulled it off.
Neverwhere – Has a sort of Turn Up The Night meets Neon Knights sound to it. A bit slower than both, and Dio’s voice is a tad deeper, but if it sounds like those songs I’m good with it.
Breaking Into Heaven – It’s almost as if Dio knew his fate. His last song recorded on his last album would be about breaking into heaven. If there really is such a place they need him up there. One can only stand so much church music. he shouldn’t have to break in. Hopefully the joy he bestowed on people such as myself for all those years gets him a special pass.
This album is, for all intents and purposes a Black Sabbath album. The Osbourne’s having some control over the band name, and the original line-up that was close to re-forming may have caused the name change, but it was Black Sabbath. Pretty much the same line up as Mob Rules and Dehumanizer (Mike Exeter in place of Geoff Nichols here on keys), so how could it not be great. If you don’t know this band, or of this album try it out. If, in 2009 this was not an album for you, try it out in 2020. I think it might surprise you. It certainly did for me.
I really enjoyed listening to this one today. My first time on vinyl. I had been saving this lp especially for today. I’m not actually sad today at all. My May 2-4 is complete garbage due to the world situation but Dio made my weekend this time around. 10 years later, it all changes, but somehow stays the same. I miss you Ronnie. Every day. But your amazing voice and the wonderful bands you were a part of help get me through.