Friday Full-Length: Dio, The Last in Line

Dio, The Last in Line (1984)

What’s the most amazing part of The Last in Line? I don’t know. How about the fact that it hit just a year after Dio debuted with Holy Diver in 1983? How about the fact that side A has the title-track and side B closes with “Egypt (The Chains are On)” — two blueprints for what we think of today as epic metal? How about the whole goddamn thing? It’s all pretty amazing.

You have to figure Ronnie James Dio knew he had something special in the band behind him at this point. After releasing and touring on Holy Diver, to go back into the studio with guitarist Vivian Campbell (the two would later have a vicious falling out), bassist Jimmy Bain (who as I understand it had a vicious drug problem), drummer Vinny Appice (who, perhaps viciously, was never Bill Ward) and keyboardist Claude Schnell (who had a vicious mustache) and come out with these results, it boggles the mind. Aside from being not at all how the industry works today — they’d tour Holy Diver for at least 18 months if not two full years to pay label debt, and it wouldn’t be on Warner Bros. — just to have those two albums back-to-back as your debut and sophomore outings. Granted, by then Dio had already been in ElfRainbow and Black Sabbath, and he came to the band bearing his name with a bit of clout behind him, but still, wow. The power of this material, the rawness of “I Speed at Night,” the unabashed commercial play of “Mystery” and the irony-free grandeur of the aforementioned epics. It’s not a moment that could ever come again, and while there are many carrying on the legacy of this approach, I’ll gladly put The Last in Line up against anything that came after it in the last 30 years, including by Dio.

To that end, we all know how it worked out. This version of the Dio band had one more record in it — 1985’s Sacred Heart — and by the time they got around to 1987’s Dream Evil, it was Craig Goldy on guitar, Vivian Campbell to join Def Leppard several years later. Sacred Heart was a worthy third in the trilogy, but metal was changing by ’87, the ascent of MTV and glam well underway, and after 1990’s Lock up the WolvesDio would be back in Black Sabbath for 1992’s Dehumanizer before releasing Strange Highways in 1993 and arguably hitting his nadir with the Dio band in 1996’s Angry Machines. I’d argue that 2000’s Magica and the subsequent and final two Dio studio albums, 2002’s Killing the Dragon and 2004’s Master of the Moon, represented a strong return to form — particularly the last two after the concept record — but no question that part of the appeal was the “return” aspect, Dio and company playing both to his strengths as a singer and the expectations of an audience looking for the classic style. Still, it worked.

Not to bring down the room, but Dio‘s death in 2010 cut short both his reunion with Black Sabbath in Heaven and Hell and the chance for any further Dio studio output. There have been a couple live records, collections, and this year a tribute CD was released with I don’t even know who and does it even really matter on it, but as the legacy continues to be mined — and no doubt it will for a long while to come — the earliest Dio albums remain untouchable and unflinching in the face of passing years, carved in marble as much as they are cast in steel.

Yeah, I know I closed out with Rainbow like three weeks ago. What, it’s too much Dio? No such thing.

On Monday, I’ll have my top 30 of 2014 posted. Unless I run into some gotta-post-it-this-second news, which happened twice this week, it will likely be my only post of the day. After that, Tuesday maybe, depending on time, a countdown of the 10 best debuts of the year, and somewhere before 2015 hits, a list of the best EPs and singles. Time to get all this stuff out there. The music industry essentially takes off for the next two weeks, but I’m sure there will be fest updates and things of that sort to post on as well. Still, I want to use the time to wrap up the year and give this stuff the attention it deserves, because 2014 had a few genuine landmarks.

Also on Tuesday, look out for the year-end podcast. I know it’ll be at least three hours long. I might go four if I’m feeling inspired and have the time between travel and all that, but either way, it’ll include a lot of stuff on my best of list and probably more than that, but it will all kick ass, so stay tuned. I’ve got a terrible-in-terms-of-how-much-time-it’s-going-to-take-but-probably-the-way-to-go idea for what to do New Years Week as well, but more on that later.

Oh, and somewhere in there, I’m gonna try to review Slomatics too. Ha.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend as we move to and through the darkest days of the year. Please check out the radio stream and feel free to share all about your seasonal affective disorder with the forum. We’re all here for each other.

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One Response to “Friday Full-Length: Dio, The Last in Line

  1. Devan says:

    You are fantastic thanks for all you do, spreading the heavy gospel!
    This album slays, and too much Dio is a Beautiful thing!

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