Released By: Frontiers Records
Release Date: February 19th 2016
Vivian Campbell – Guitars
Vinny Appice – Drums
Jimmy Bain – Bass
Andrew Freeman – Vocals
01. Devil In Me
04. Burn This House Down
05. I Am Revolution
06. Blame It On Me
07. Already Dead
08. Curse The Day
09. Orange Glow
10. Heavy Crown
11. The Sickness
I must admit when I heard a couple of years back that Vivian Campbell was getting the classic Dio line up of himself, Jimmy Bain, Vinny Appice and Claude Schnell back together for a series of shows. I was more than a little skeptical. The thoughts of another vocalist muscling in on the songs that Ronnie James Dio made unique with his arresting, mystical and powerful voice did not sit well at all. The man assigned with the task, Andrew Freeman (Hurricane, Lynch Mob) immediately put any doubts I had firmly to bed upon viewing footage of those shows.
While their voices are worlds apart, their forte in delivering punch drunk vocals is uncanny. So when news broke that a collection of new material was being baked, this project all of a sudden looked like a genius idea. Former Dokken, Lynch Mob and current Foreigner bassist Jeff Pilson was drafted in as producer. A long-time friend of Campbell, his appointment in the role ignited fires of inspiration in all four members. Opting for a more guitar-laden sound, the services of keyboardist Claude Schnell were no longer required.
Opening track, and lead off single, Devil In Me wasn’t quite the thunderous opening I was expecting. A bit of a slow cooker for an introductory track, it still weighs in with enough muscle and attitude to let you know you’re in for something very special. And for those not yet familiar with Andrew Freeman’s talent, this tune gives you the perfect introduction, he completely eats it up. Legendary drummer, Vinny Appice proves there’s life in the old wrists yet with a damn nifty opening to Martyr. A veteran of classic metal albums like Black Sabbath’s Mob Rules and of course, Dio’s Holy Diver and Last In Line, he batters his way through this relentless track like a possessed tribesman.
Starmaker more than tips its hat to classic Dio, so much so, I could only picture Ronnie singing it. From start to finish, it’s a magical nostalgic trip back to the golden era of one of metals finest bands. One listen to the chorus and you’ll be on-board. Burn This House Down serves up a tasty mix of modern and classic metal. That’s mainly due to the versatility in Freeman’s pipes, but there’s no denying the chorus is unashamedly 80’s metal. A standout track it ain’t, but it well dodges the filler category.
I Am Revolution picks up where Martyr left off, but with a little bit more stodge in its veins. Campbell gives a bruising master class that must have had his Gibson pleading for mercy. Appice and Bain prove that they are still the powerhouse rhythm section they always were, as this fearsome rocker bares its teeth throughout and takes absolutely no prisoners. Blame It On Me takes the album to a dark place with some serious haunting vibes. Probably best to put this one on repeat for a bit, it’s not one you’ll warm to straight off. But after a while, you will feel it take a welcome grip on you.
Already Dead and Curse The Day sees Last In Line move away a bit from the Dio connection. There’s still a couple of telling traits dotted about, but these tracks give you an impression of a band determined to stand on their own two feet, both musically and lyrically. That continues into the sinister grooves of Orange Glow, led by a punchy little Campbell riff, it glides along with an eerie rhythm and menacing vocals. The chorus sees Freeman’s larynx putting in a robust shift on the highly charged and rightly addictive chorus.
Title track and without question, the finest moment on the album Heavy Crown just exudes class throughout. Kicking off with some moody and sluggish tones, it gradually imposes itself with gritty power. Pilson has captured all four men in inspired form here, a more restrained Freeman still sounds a world-beater, Appice and Bain just do what they do and Campbell keeps it beautifully simple and throws in a couple of Lizzy licks. An epic belter.
Closing track, The Sickness is just the cherry on the cake. After the brilliantly constructed intro Campbell belts out some textbook riffage that unshackles a fervent rock song doused in pure hard rock tradition.
This album is coming along at a time when rock is enjoying something of a renaissance. Crowd attendances are up and the attendees are getting younger. In addition, Heavy Crown will redirect the fledgling rocker to the origins of Last In Line, making sure that music of this ilk will maintain an eternal pulse.
Written by: Brian Boyle