DIO - Master Of The Moon (2004) Apr 8, 2012 1:21:22 GMT -5
Post by Erik Rupp on Apr 8, 2012 1:21:22 GMT -5
As we're coming up on not only the 2nd anniversary of the untimely passing of Ronnie James Dio, but also what would have been his 70th birthday it seemed fitting to continue our DIO album review series.
Unknown to all of Ronnie's fans at the time, 2004's Master Of The Moon would end up as the final album from the DIO band. Ronnie would go on, of course, to rejoin Black Sabbath (under the Heaven & Hell name) and they would put out three new songs for a Best Of package, and then a full new album in 2009.
But Master Of The Moon would turn out to be the last DIO album, and that's unfortunate - for a couple reasons.
One, it's unfortunate in that DIO (both the man and the band) still had a lot left in the tank, so to speak. Several songs on Master Of The Moon were better than average DIO songs. But, two, it's also unfortunate in that this album as a whole isn't DIO's best work. There were better albums from the DIO band - beyond the phenomenal debut, Holy Diver, and it's nearly equally phenomenal follow up, The Last In Line. Even so, Master Of The Moon still held up well as a strong DIO album at the time of it's release, and it may hold up even better now.
Coming off the artistic success of Killing The Dragon (a return to classic DIO form) as well as Killing The Dragon's relative commercial success (it sold better than it's two predecessors), Master Of The Moon had a lot to live up to.
At times it lived up to it's predecessor with ease. At other times it got bogged down in slower tempos for middling songs that just didn't quite achieve the greatness that DIO's best material reached.
Fortunately, more often than not the album is above average, and rarely is it ever below average. The band itself was definitely well above average. First, on again off again DIO guitarist Craig Goldy was back in the band. Goldy and Ronnie always seemed to have good chemistry, going all the way back to 1983 when Dio produced a demo tape for Goldy's band at the time, Rough Cutt. Joining them was former DIO and Dokken bass player Jeff Pilson, and long time members Simon Wright on drums and Scott Warren on keyboards. The band was tight and exceptionally powerful, but also showed a lot of feeling and they had great chemistry together.
As far as the individual songs go the first song sets the mood the right way. "One More For The Road," is an uptempo track very much showing Goldy's songwriting style from a riff standpoint - it's early Rainbow meets Mob Rules era Sabbath musically. Vocally, Ronnie sounds great. As usual he came up with some outstanding vocal melodies and was able to deliver them like no one else has before or since. There's a reason why the man is so revered and why his death hit so many people so hard. His voice was a treasure that Metal fans took for granted for years. This song was the perfect opener for the album.
And then we get to the title track, which starts off with a slow tempo and a middling riff - not real heavy, but not a dark, moody ballad, either. When Ronnie starts singing it further confuses the issue. Is this a ballad or a Rock song? By the time the band kicks back in full force it makes no difference - this is a solid if unspectacular song. It's moody, fairly dark, and fairly melodic. This might have been better served as the third track on the album (following another more straightforward Rock/Metal song), but it's still a decent song.
Needing an uptempo track to pick up the pace DIO returns with a mid tempo track, "The End Of The World," which sounds a bit like something off of Lock Up The Wolves (not a carbon copy of any one song, but one in a style that would have fit that album absolutely perfectly). Most importantly, it is a good song. Not a great song, or even a very good song. Just a good, solid song that works well within the context of the album as a whole.
From there the tempo picks up a bit (not a lot, but enough to come as a contrast) on, "Shivers." "Shivers," achieves something that only the opening cut hinted at previously on the album - true greatness. Ronnie's lyrics are clever (the last couple of lines makes the whole song work lyrically) and the vocal melodies for those lyrics are even better. This is classic Dio (the man). But as great as Ronnie's work is on the album the music is even better. A fairly simple chugging riff with a nice sampled guitar played by Scott Warren as a counter melody works brilliantly. There isn't a note that doesn't sound absolutely perfect. This is as good as just about anything that came from the DIO band.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of, "The Man Who Would Be King," which sounds a little overblown and melodramatic in it's near balladic presentation. The song drags. There's nothing truly bad about it, but it is clearly below average for DIO. This is one of those songs that likely falls victim to the, "Skip," button on CD or MP3 players.
Ronnie seemed to have a fascination with slower tempos later in his career. It all stared on the Lock Up The Wolves album, and continued on every album after that (although Killing The Dragon had a greater number of uptempo and upper mid tempo songs than any DIO album after Dream Evil). "The Eyes," is slower. Calling it a mid tempo track is probably an exaggeration. BUT it works. Where, "The Man Who Would Be King," failed to be interesting, "The Eyes," succeeds. It's better both musically and vocally. It carries both melody and power, and it is still a song that has the ability to induce leg or foot movement (or even some head bobbing). Very, very good stuff for sure.
And then we're back to the races. No, this one isn't, "Stand Up And Shout," part II in terms of speed, but, "Living The Lie," IS a great uptempo song with some really cool riffs and great vocal melodies. This is another one of those tracks where everything works, and it would sound good on almost any DIO album. Listening to this you'd forget that it was written and recorded in 2004. It sounds like vintage DIO. It's a classic.
"I Am," impressed by a lot of this album. This song may not be one of the best songs on the album, but it isn't one of the 2 or 3 weak(ish) tracks, either. It's another solid, fairly well crafted and very well performed song on a solid DIO album. There's a definite Dream Evil (album) vibe to this song - not surprising with Goldy back in the fold.
A great example of the talent of Ronnie James Dio is on display on, "Death By Love," which is a middling track by DIO standards, but still better than what a lot of other bands put out at their best. In other words, this is a really good song, but nothing special by the standards of DIO's best work (if that makes sense). I'd say that, "Death By Love," is a little better than average for DIO. But since the average for DIO is higher/better than most other Hard Rock and Metal bands that's a good thing. This is probably the fourth best song on a ten song album. And even after a decade I never get tired of this one.
There's a slight King's X vibe to the album's final song, "In Dreams," which makes it a bit of a standout in terms of style. This is one of those songs that has aged remarkably well. It sounds even better in 2012 than it did in 2004. It is yet another slow-ish mid tempo song, but musically it's interesting enough and well written enough to avoid that, "Skip," button. The band, which sounds great throughout the album, sounds particularly good here. It's a great way to end the album.
Unfortunately, that album would be the last from Ronnie and company. They did record one more song as Ronnie was preparing for another DIO album just prior to the diagnosis that he had stomach cancer, but that would be it for DIO, the band.
While Master Of The Moon isn't as good as DIO's best albums, it is very, very good and has a handful of great or near-great songs on it. It left fans wanting more.