Last In Line
II (Frontiers Music)
Since heavy metal icon Ronnie James Dio died in May 2010, there’s been a bit of an unbecoming tussle that one would have to imagine Dio himself would frown at. Hologram tours, and bitter words in the press between the two sets of Dio alumni that are out on the road performing his music — it’s all really fucking ugly.
Both bands claim to have to the better pedigree. There’s the Dio Disciples, which includes former Dio men Craig Goldy, Simon Wright and Scott Warren, plus former Judas Priest singer Tim “Ripper” Owens, among others. Goldy, Wright and Warren were all members of the final Dio band. And then there’s Last in Line, which includes Vivian Campbell (also of Def Leppard) and Vinny Appice in the ranks, and previously included the also tragically deceased Jimmy Bain. Those three men played on seminal Dio albums Holy Diver and, of course, Last in Line, hence their own claims of authenticity.
The words between those two bands in the press have been bitter. Meanwhile, most Dio fans are sitting back and thinking, “Shut the fuck up with the insults, and just play the songs.” Because the truth is, there’s plenty of room for both bands. Neither of them can fill the gap that Ronnie James Dio left in this world, but they can both effectively pay tribute. ’Nuff said.
Where Last in Line do have the upper hand is in their original material. Their debut album, Heavy Crown, was a fine slab of melodic hard rock, and this new effort is arguably even better.
From the atmospheric, spine-tingling intro and the epic blast of first song “Black Out the Sun,” through the heavy metal anthem that is “Gods and Tyrants,” II is an album that clearly takes its cues from the great man who began it all. Ronnie James Dio was the master of blending operatic majesty with the overt, glorious ludicrousness of heavy metal, Dungeons & Dragons imagery and all.
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Last in Line have done a great job of bringing all of that into the now. Special mention must go to vocalist Andrew Freeman (Lynch Mob, Offspring), who might not be the powerhouse of legend that Dio was, but he does a magnificent job here. Campbell, meanwhile, is in typically fine form, apparently having a great time with his shreds.
II is a way better album than it has any right to be under the circumstances. That it is excellent is further reason to quit the bickering.