It’s only three and a bit years since label BMG reissued the final four studio albums from Ronnie James Dio‘s solo ouvre; Then, the albums came replete with various contemporaneous live recordings to at least give the casual observer a reason to pick them up again. Here the quartet are neatly boxed together again into a set, but sadly this time around it’s just coloured vinyl and the inclusion of a seven inch single, Electra, which comes as a companion to the Magica album, originally released in 2000.
Here at Sentinel Daily we’ve long been of the opinion that the band’s 2002 effort, Killing The Dragon, is the best of the four of these albums, rounded out by 1996’s Angry Machines and Master of the Moon from 2004, so we’re reprinting our review of that album from it’s 2020 reissue again here for your enjoyment…
When Dio’s ninth studio album, Killing The Dragon, emerged in 2002 it was rightly welcomed as something of a return to form; the first album to feature former Lion/Burning Rain six stringer Doug Aldrich and again featuring returned original bassist Jimmy Bain, it’s arrival on a metal scene largely ruled by numbskulls of the order of Linkin Park and Disturbed went largely unnoticed by the wallet-chained masses until the patronage of puissant Hollywood face Jack Black for the video for single Push led to a mini-renaissance in Dio-the-band’s fortunes.
It’s a shame that Black got the credit for this, since in reality the album actually was the strongest thing Ronnie James Dio had released for a long while – certainly since 1990’s Lock Up The Wolves. Aldrich also received a lot of credit for this state of affairs, though his contribution to songwriting was limited; the best songs on the album, Push, the epic Rock & Roll and the Hear n’Aid follow up that never was, Throw Away Children, were all co-written by departed guitarist Craig Goldy, although there’s no denying that Aldrich’s slick lead work lit up every song – his wah-wahed outro solo on Scream being particularly impressive.
Better in the Dark reprised Dio and Bain’s tenure in Rainbow, rattling along on a superb riff and benefitting from a masterful delivery from our diminutive hero. However the album was defined by the stentorian one-two punch of Rock & Roll and Push that occurred midway through the record; both are classic Dio, the former utilising a Sabbath/Zeppelin martial beat designed to level the sort of arenas that the band had stopped playing years previously, the latter a straightahead slice of the sort of melodic metal Dio had perfected on albums like Holy Diver and The Last in Line. This was a real and tantalising hint that Dio – the band and the man- were on the verge of reanimating their legends, entering a new phase of metallic fecundity that might indeed herald a new golden age for classic metal.
The latter thing actually happened, of course, though not sadly with Dio at it’s helm. Aldrich left for greener pastures in Whitesnake, prompting Dio to recall Goldy for what turned out to be his final album, 2004’s ultimately disappointing Master of the Moon. Dio passed away in 2010 after a fruitful return to Black Sabbath under the Heaven and Hell Banner, never to return to solo projects and leaving Killing The Dragon as the last truly great piece of solo work in his canon.
BMG will now re-release the album in tandem with Dio’s other later albums Angry Machines, Magica and Master of the Moon in box set form on a variety of coloured vinyls on September 22nd.