Released by: Frontiers Music s.r.l.
Release Date: 22nd February 2019
Genre: Heavy Metal, Hard Rock
Andrew Freeman – Vocals
Vinny Apice – Drums
Phil Soussan – Bass
Vivian Campbell – Guitars
- Black Out The Sun
- Gods And Tyrants
- Year Of The Gun
- Give Up The Ghost
- The Unknown
- Sword From The Stone
- Love And War
- False Flag
- The Light
Originally meant to be nothing more than a reunion jam of former DIO bandmates back in 2011, Vivian Campbell, Vinny Appice, and Jimmy Bain realised they still felt the magic after 27 years and so Last In Line was born. Adding the vocal prowess of Andrew Freeman, the band endeavoured to create music that kept the spirit of DIO alive, but also formed an evolution on the legacy they helped create with the indomitable RJD. In 2016 they released Heavy Crown, their debut album, and haven’t looked back since. Sadly Jimmy Bain passed away ahead of the release, and Phil Soussan, known for his work with Ozzy, was brought in to support the tour that followed. In 2017, the band started work on the follow-up album, II. Discussing the album, Campbell explained, “The musical style of II is different from Heavy Crown, but it wasn’t something we planned to do,” adding, “Phil is a more intricate player than Jimmy was and that, together with the natural growth and development of the band led us to the songs on the album.”
Soussan adds, “It was refreshing to be able to write songs in such an organic fashion – by jamming and developing ideas as a group, without bringing in preconceived songs – something I haven’t done for ages. The result was a true collaboration, a concept that is so rare these days! Vinny has a unique style of drumming that, beyond keeping beats, inspires riffs and arrangements and Vivian has a way of playing that has a conviction to every note. He is able to turn every riff into a signature. Andrew was creative and unrestricted, focusing his contemporary influences into vocal stylings and hooks that are outside the classic rock clichés. He is very much a perfectionist. Beyond trying to remain true to Jimmy’s playing and to the heritage of the relationship between Viv and Vinny, everyone was completely open to exploring any possible idea. I am honestly prouder of our efforts on this album than anything in which I have been involved in for a very long time. With ‘II’ I would like to think that we have stretched out from ‘Heavy Crown’ to test some uncharted waters…. the evolution of Last in Line!”
Reflecting on the difference between the two albums, I feel it’s safe to say that with II, Last In Line now feels like a fully formed band, rather than the idea of a band. Campbell agrees, stating, “Yes. Yes. So we… and secondly, it feels like we find our sound. Those songs on there… the songs to me, for the most part sound more developed.” Explaining further, “You’re listening and you think, okay, this is a rock song… You got your verse, you got your chorus, your bridge, whatever… But then they go off on these tangents, a few of them… and they take these mad left turns and go on these little musical excursions, but yet comeback. And at the same time, it doesn’t seem out a place for them to be doing that.” Finally adding, “So I think that that’s part of the sound that we have found and developed with Last in Line. That we can do this because Vinnie is that interesting of a drummer where he doesn’t like stuff to be for concert to concert. He likes to do a three or five or seven or nine. He likes to make it weird. And we used to get… like even going back to the DIO days we used to… Ronnie was a bit like that to, would always try to throw it a little bit, make it a little bit unexpected, you know.”
Appice feels that, “I always sound like me. Viv and I have been playing together for years and have the same feel and pulse and attitude. Now with Phil on bass, he allows a more melodic approach on the bass parts making the songs even more interesting. He fits in perfectly being from the same musical family and time as me and Viv. Mr. Freeman sings from his soul and completes the band’s sound with his melodies and amazing range,” adding, “The songwriting process was the same as DIO’s ‘Holy Diver’. First, we have fun writing together. We get in a room and jam on riffs and chords until we hit on something good, then continue to build it into a song. Andy puts his magic on it and it all works out very well.”
Opening with an ‘Intro’ track, it hints at the darkness of the album, with a lot of low register cutting through your core as the sound envelopes you. I can’t help but feeling that it could have worked better if it was simply part of ’Black Out The Sun’. That sudden cut before the transition into it broke part of its spell for me. ‘Black Out The Sun’ is a fine example of a good classic rocker, with Campbell adding, “The opening track is dark and heavy track with serious intent… which is something Vinnie excels in! He is the master of tempos and it’s a godsend to be in a band with him. Whatever kind of song you play him, he will know the exact perfect beat for it. He doesn’t need a metronome; he’s faultlessly immaculate with time-keeping.” Further adding, “He also has the experience to know where that golden sweet spot is to make a song to have more impact. He makes us play at the top of our game – even better than we think we can, going on tangents and leaving the rest of us hanging on in there, which keeps things interesting!”
‘Landslide’ sets a discordant tone with the opening riff before building into a dark and progressive track. One of the stand-out tracks on the album, the instrumentation is truly superb, with Campbell explaining, “it’s a bit more layered. And there’s a bit more guitar and a few more vocal parts here and there and things going off like I say fills bass parts or… I keep going back to Geezer Butler when I think of how he played in Sabbath I guess… just more musical and a in a lot of ways just basic and fundamental.” Discussing the track, Freeman added, “’Landslide’ was the first song we wrote for this record. It was really easy to write as all of the parts fell into place quickly. The title ‘Landslide’ is a metaphor relating to the day to day struggles that we all go through as people. Trying to keep on course when dealing with adversity, manipulation through media and leadership. It’s meant to inspire strength and resolve.”
For a song with a name like ‘Gods and Tyrants’, it is a positively bouncy track, with great riffs, progressive elements, and moody vibes. ‘Year of the Gun’ is another stand-out track on the album. This radio-ready hard-rocker is exploding with energy and really showcases the band’s sound. ‘Give Up The Ghost’ is a gritty strutter of a song, driven along by Apice’s stomp beat. ‘The Unknown’ is a bit of an unusual track, featuring minor-key arrangements, dark themes, and enough metaphor to be classed as prog rock. It’s an interesting mix to say the least. ‘Sword From The Stone’ combines a powerful beat with its stilted bridge, crunchy riffs, and rising chorus. ‘Electrified’ is another example of how tight this band have become over the past few years, with its aggressive, classic metal vibe and on point musicality. ‘Love And War’ is a classic blues-rocker with a metal edge to it. ‘False Flag’ opens with a bass heavy intro which leads into a dark and droning vocal that builds into an anthemic war cry about the state of the world, with Campbell adding, “I won’t speak for Andy he wrote all the lyrics, but yes, it is a dark record lyrically. But Andy like I said, I won’t speak for him but I’ll give my opinion. And as a lyricist… I mean, Andy would tend to gravitate towards that and I think it suits his personality more. He’s more conscious of what’s wrong in the world, as opposed to what’s right in the world. He’s not going to go on about sunshine and rainbows.” Explaining further, “Even if they’re there, that’s just not Andrews outlook on things but it is a very, very dark time in which we live. So I think its Andrews’s time as a lyricist to reflect that and this is a great opportunity and platform for him to do it. And I really think he has done it.” And last, but most certainly not least, the final track on the album ‘The Light’ starts off like a dream ballad and suddenly rips through the speakers and reveals itself as one of the hardest tracks on the album, bringing II to an explosive crescendo.
All in all, II is a good album. Dark, but an excellent progression from their debut. It’s less formulaic and fully formed. Produced by the band, and Jeff Pilson, who produced the debut album, II deserves to be in every hard rocker or metal head’s album collection. It has a unique sound that hints at the bands origins, but is fresh and relevant by today’s standards.
While you’re here, why not check out our recent interview with Vivian Campbell, where he discusses II and his life in rock n’ roll.
Written by: Erik De’Viking
My Global Mind – Reviewer / Music Journalist
Erik De’Viking is a London based freelance music journalist. His musical interests include blues, rock, and metal in all its forms, and he is constantly on the lookout for new bands and genres to discover and later preach about to the masses.
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