When Last In Line formed in the middle of the last decade, the need for a band brought up in the image and featuring colleagues of, Ronnie James Dio, was felt to be very real; It was not long, after all, since the great man’s passing and a great many, both musicians and fans, keenly felt a gap left by his passing that needed filling.

As the years have gone by that need has understandably lessened; ergo you might think the need for a band like Last In Line has lessened too. For the band to survive as far as album number three a stylistic shift would be necessitated, and it’s gratifying to see that happening on the band’s third album, Jericho, which sees the band delivering their most self-assured and indeed satisfying release to date.

It’s not entirely a matter of turning the back on the past- Closing Track House Party at the End of the World still has a pulse-quickening whiff of We Rock about it’s superb, energetic riffola – but for the most part on Jericho you get the sense that this is a band now completely ready to stake it’s claim on it’s own, and nobody else’s terms. The past’s ache has been soothed – and the future waits with opens ears.

Key to this stride forward is the performance of Andrew Freeman; the vocalist gives his most convincing performance yet on Jericho under the LIL banner – maybe even his best ever. I’ve always felt the slightly faceless nature of his vocals to be something of a boon for Last In Line, steering the band away from tribute territory and, strangely enough giving them their own identity because of that very facelessness. However the man lets rip with rare poise and verve throughout this new album, in the process putting himself at the centre of everything that’s good about Jericho. His performances on standout cuts Ghost Town and the Thin Lizzyish Story Of My Life are nothing short of World Class, but the man stamps his authority with effortless ease on every other track too.

Vivian Campbell isn’t far behind in the performance stakes, but you probably knew that already; some of his soloing here is absolutely superb, and the variety of riffs he brings to bear keeps the whole album moving forward and sounding fresh and invigorated. And like Freeman, bassist Phil Soussan really comes into his own here. Afforded space in the mix by producer Chris Collier, he brings a real bottom heavy swing to proceedings, strutting across Ghost Town and especially Bastard Son with a cocksure assurance that’s very easy on the ears. And of course his partnership with the inimitable Vinny Appice is now solidly established as the band’s bedrock. Appice is the master of the swift change up, and to hear him going through the gears as he ramps up the intensity on Ghost Town will bring a nostalgic glint to the eye if, like me, you grew up with the man’s percussive virtuosity back in the day.

All in all, this surpasses my expectations of what this band might be capable of; Jericho is an incredibly strong album, delivered by a band that is ready to take on the mantle many thought might be beyond it’s grasp. And that’s an exciting thing to be able to report.

Jericho will release on March 31st.