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Judas Priest – British Steel [Album Review]

1980 - British Steel

Judas Priest – British Steel [Remastered]
2001, Columbia Records/Legacy Recordings
Original Release: 1980, Columbia Records

Buy the album

1. “Rapid Fire”
2. “Metal Gods”
3. “Breaking the Law”
4. “Grinder”
5. “United”
6. “You Don’t Have to Be Old to Be Wise”
7. “Living After Midnight”
8. “The Rage” 4:44
9. “Steeler” 4:30
Bonus Tracks:
10. “Red, White & Blue”
11. “Grinder”

Band:
Rob Halford – Vocals
K.K. Downing – Guitar
Glenn Tipton – Guitar
Ian Hill – Bass
Dave Holland – Drums

Producer: Tom Allom

There’s a lot of classic albums that I own but for some reason I never got around to reviewing. British Steel is one of those albums though I could’ve sworn I reviewed it before. But what can I say about this classic release that hasn’t already been said millions of times? While still being heavy metal, British Steel saw Judas Priest entering the 1980’s with a less-technical, more commercial sound. “Breaking the Law” and “Living After Midnight” are two of the ultimate metal anthems and both enjoyed mainstream success while “United” was another anthem with a huge chorus.

That’s not to say there aren’t some other interesting tracks either. “Rapid Fire” is one of my favorite Priest songs and is an amazing choice to open the album (though it was the second track on the original 1980 issue). “Grinder” and “Steeler” are typical Priest-style metal and I mean that in a good way. Then there’s the very interesting “The Rage” with stands out for its portions that have a reggae vibe, almost sound like something The Police would do before morphing into a plodding metal number.

The 2001 remastered edition comes with two bonus tracks. A live version of “Grinder” from the Long Beach Arena in 1984 and a studio track called “Red, White & Blue” which was meant to be on the purposed double album Twin Turbos project (which was stripped down to one album and called Turbo). One thing that bothers me about these 2001 edition bonus tracks is that their placement seems kinda random. “Red, White & Blue” sounds very polished and very out of place with the rest of the tracks but it’s still cool that it saw the light of day.

While I could go the rest of my life without ever hearing “Living After Midnight” and “Breaking the Law” again, the album is a classic from top to bottom and began the commercial rise of Judas Priest. Shame on any fan of classic metal that doesn’t own this one.

Various Artists – Live and Heavy [Review]

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Various Artists – Live and Heavy
1981, NEMS Records

1. Deep Purple – “Smoke on the Water”
2. Nazareth – “Razamanaz”
3. Motorhead – “White Line Fever”
4. Def Leppard – “Rocks Off”
5. Rainbow – “All Night Long”
6. Status Quo – “Roll Over Lay Down”
7. Whitesnake – “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City”
8. UFO – “Lights Out in London”
9. Gillan – “Unchain Your Brain”
10. Black Sabbath – “Paranoid”

What a brutal album cover that totally screams “heavy metal”. I picked this one up on vinyl in great condition for only $1 at a local flea market annex shop called Fort Walton Beach Vintage Records. Live and Heavy is a compilation put out by the British label NEMS that, unsurprisingly, features live tracks by UK rock bands. Had this been released a year or two later, I’m sure it would’ve been full of NWOBHM bands but instead we get bands that are more closely associated with ’70s hard rock and heavy metal.

This compilation has a killer line-up: Gillan-era Deep Purple, Rainbow, Whitesnake, UFO (“Lights Out” is titled “Lights Out in London” on this release), Ozzy-era Black Sabbath, Motorhead… some of the very best heavy rock bands England has to offer. Even Def Leppard makes an appearance. Pretty good deal for such a new and young band (at the time) to get a track compiled with a number of other legendary bands.

Had this been a compilation of studio tracks, I probably would’ve passed. I’m not big on live album but for a collection of live cuts from these specific bands, I figured it was worth a buck.

The inner sleeve lists the various dates and venues these tracks were recorded. Always good to have that info. I was afraid this was going to be a super low-budget compilation that wouldn’t even bother.

This is a good pick-up for fans of hard rock from the 1970s and early 1980s.

Highlights: “Smoke on the Water”, “All Night Long”, “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City”, “Lights Out in London”

Metal Excess Awards: The Best of 2014 List

Okay, I’m calling it. I tried to listen to as many releases from 2014 as I could by the end of January 2015 in order to make my best of list. There’s still a number of albums I want to listen to that were released last year, but I’m pretty confident in the list I’ve come up with. If you want more details on the albums, click on the link!

Top 15 Albums of 2014
1. Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls
2. Steel Panther – All You Can Eat
3. Allen/Lande – The Great Divide
4. Riot V – Unleash the Fire
5. Wolf – Devil Seed
6. Ace Frehley – Space Invader
7. Michael Sweet – I’m Not Your Suicide
8. Edguy – Space Police: Defenders of the Crown
9. AC/DC – Rock or Bust
10. Crazy Lixx – Crazy Lixx
11. Bloodbound – Stormborn
12. Loudlion – Die Tough
13. Winger – Better Days Comin’
14. Mike Tramp – Museum
15. Fozzy – Do You Wanna Start a War

Best Live Albums
1. Scorpions – MTV Unplugged
2. Whitesnake – Live in ’84: Back to the Bone
3. Dio – Live in London: Hammersmith Apollo 1993

Best EPs
1. Buckcherry – Fuck
2. Buckcherry – The Covers: Volume I
3. Skid Row – Rise of the Damnation Army: United World Rebellion, Chapter Two

Best Compilation/Cover Album
Various Artists – Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life

Most Anticipated Releases of 2015
(Bands confirmed or rumored to be releasing new music.)
Alice Cooper
Anthrax
Black Sabbath
Bon Jovi
Def Leppard
Guns N’ Roses
Megadeth
Metallica
Motley Crue
Scorpions – Return to Forever
Stryper
Venom – From the Very Depths
W.A.S.P. – Golgotha
Whitesnake

AC/DC – Rock or Bust [Review]

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AC/DC – Rock or Bust
2014, Columbia Records
Buy the album

1. “Rock or Bust”
2. “Play Ball”
3. “Rock the Blues Away”
4. “Miss Adventure”
5. “Dogs of War”
6. “Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder”
7. “Hard Times”
8. “Baptism by Fire”
9. “Rock the House”
10. “Sweet Candy”
11. “Emission Control”

Band:
Brian Johnson – Lead Vocals
Angus Young – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Stevie Young – Guitar
Cliff Williams – Bass, Backing Vocals
Phil Rudd – Drums

Producer: Brendan O’Brien

Wow. Despite the major success of Black Ice, which proved the world that AC/DC was still commercial force to be reckoned with and just as popular as ever, the band has had some tough times lately. Firstly, it was announced in September 2014 that founding member & rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young had permanently left the band and retired from music as he is battling dementia in addition to recovering from lung and heart operations he’s had in recent times. It was initially reported in the spring that he was taking a break from the band, but in the fall it was made official that he has retired.

Despite this, the band decided to continue on. I really assumed that if one of the Young brothers ever had to leave the band for whatever reason, then the band would retire. I kind of admire Angus for wanting to continue on. Apparently, all of the songs for Rock or Bust were already written by Angus & Malcolm by the time it was first announced Malcolm was taking a break. I figured this would at least delay recording but their nephew Steve Young stepped in to play rhythm guitar on the album and he is now Malcolm’s official replacement. Steve is no stranger to the band; he filled in for Malcolm on tour in 1988 while Malcolm was dealing with alcohol issues.

But it if that wasn’t enough, just before the release of this album, longtime drummer Phil Rudd’s house was raided in November 2014 and he was charged with “attempting to procure a murder, threatening to kill, possession of methamphetamine and possession of cannabis”. The attempt to procure a murder charged was dropped but as of this writing he is still facing the other charges. It is not known at this time whether he is still a member of the band but recent band photos have not included Phil Rudd. Angus seems willing to give Phil a chance to deal with the charges but has stated someone will be drumming for them when they go on tour in the spring of 2015.

This is the first “new release” of a vinyl album I’ve ever bought. While I have a decent size CD collection, these days I mostly listen to music digitally. When I saw that this album wasn’t up on Spotify and that it was $10-13 for either the digital album or the CD, I figured I might as well pay another $10 for the vinyl/CD bundle. I ended up buying this at Barnes & Noble of all places. I think all vinyl releases should include a CD copy. So now I have a vinyl copy, a CD copy and a copy burned to my computer/iPod. The vinyl cover is 3D lenticular artwork and features the AC/DC logo breaking through. The packaging is well done. One sleeve for the CD and booklet featuring photos, one sleeve for the record. It all has an old school look to it. They even used the old Columbia Records logo.

So how does the music fare? Well, it’s AC/DC. If you like AC/DC, you’ll like this album. We already know they have a formula and they’re going to stick with it. I’ve spun Rock or Bust a number of times already (it’s easy to do when the album is only 34 minutes long) and I definitely like it. I don’t think it’s as good as Black Ice, but “Rock or Bust”, “Play Ball” and “Miss Adventure” are very good tunes with the first two definitely having that classic AC/DC feel to them. “Rock the Blues Away” is another good one that I can see going over well in concert. With further comparison to Black Ice, I think Brian Johnson’s voice actually sounds better on this album.

While the album may not go down as an all-time classic in the band’s catalog, it’s certainly a “good” album that beats out stuff like Stiff Upper Lip and the band’s output from ’83-’88. If Rock or Bust is to be the last album the band ever records in the studio (I’m assuming there will be a live album to chronicle the Rock or Bust world tour), then it’s a strong note to go out on.

And, hey, selling 500,000 copies and going gold in the U.S. within two months of being released is good note to go out on as well. Not bad for a rock band in their fifth decade, especially considering the state of the music industry.

Highlights: “Rock or Bust”, “Play Ball”, “Rock the Blues Away”, “Miss Adventure”

Ranking the Judas Priest Discography

UltimateClassicRock.com recently published a list ranking Judas Priest’s studio albums from worst to best. Lists are always fun and good for debate. It got me to thinking about how I’d rank the band’s discography. It goes something like this…

17. Rocka Rolla – Yes, the band’s debut album is their worst, IMO. #SorryNotSorry That said, I don’t think it’s bad but I don’t think it’s very memorable. It’s really only notable because it was the band’s debut album; they were still finding themselves.

16. Jugulator – Most fans who can stand the Ripper era prefer this one, but I don’t.

15. Nostradamus – Said it before and I’ll say it again, this album is a bloated in every fashion possible. Trim it down to one disc and you’d have something decent, but as a double album it’s a bore and chore to sit through.

14. Point of Entry – An okay album with one excellent song (“Desert Plains”) that was nowhere near a follow-up worthy to British Steel.

13. Demolition – This is the Ripper-fronted album that has a greater number of songs that I enjoy. I have a soft spot for it because I bought when it was first released; it was my first “new” Priest album.

12. Turbo – A lot of people dislike this one but it’s a guilty pleasure to me and features a few great tracks.

11. Ram It Down – A harder-edged version of Turbo, it too falls under the category of being a guilty pleasure.

10. Angel of Retribution – Another album I have a soft spot for since it was Halford’s return to the group. I was very excited for this one. It was a good but not great reunion album.

9. Redeemer of Souls – Given that this album was only released a few months ago, it’s hard to truly determine where it stands in the Priest catalog. I feel like it is definitely a top 10 album for the band. It’s certainly the best album the band has made since 1990’s Painkiller.

8. Sad Wings of Destiny  – While the band’s debut didn’t offer up much of interest, their sophomore effort saw the band heading down a heavy metal road that would eventually end with them being crowned as Metal Gods.

7. Defenders of the Faith – Released between the classic Screaming for Vengeance and the controversial Turbo, this one delivered a few classics in its own right.

6. Sin After Sin – The very first Priest album I ever bought.

5. Stained Class – This one is a near tie with the next album…

4. Hell Bent for Leather – …except this one wins out thanks to tracks like “Hell Bent for Leather”, “Before the Dawn” and “The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Prong Crown)”.

3. British Steel – I know there’s a strong case to be made for this being the band’s best releases, but there still some filler on this one.

2. Screaming for Vengeance – The band’s commercial breakthrough. I could go without ever hearing “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” for the rest of my life, but I’ll never get tired of “Riding on the Wind”, “Bloodstone”, “(Take These) Chains”, “Electric Eye” or “Screaming for Vengeance”.

1. Painkiller – This one, thought well-reviewed, still does not get enough love as far as I’m concerned. It’s the heaviest, fastest album the band ever did. A lot of people point to this album as having simple comic book lyrics, but who cares? Every track is an atmospheric heavy metal classic. It’s just too bad it was released in 1990 just as heavy metal was starting to slip a bit in popularity.

Dio – Live in London: Hammersmith Apollo 1993 [Review]

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Dio – Live in London: Hammersmith Apollo 1993
2014, Eagle Rock Records

Disc 1:
1. Stand Up And Shout
2. Strange Highways
3. Don’t Talk To Strangers
4. Evilution
5. Pain
6. The Mob Rules
7. Children Of The Sea
8. Holy Diver
9. Heaven And Hell
10. Man On The Silver Mountain
11. Drum Solo
12. Heaven And Hell (reprise)

Disc 2:
1. Jesus Mary & The Holy Ghost
2. Hollywood Black
3. The Last In Line
4. Rainbow In The Dark
5. We Rock
6. Here’s To You

Band:
Ronnie James Dio – Lead Vocals
Tracy G – Guitar
Jeff Pilsen – Bass, Backing Vocals
Vinny Appice – Drums
Scott Warren – Keyboards

Live in London was recorded on December 12, 1993 and is the Dio band’s third live release that’s been pulled from the archives since the passing of Ronnie James Dio in 2010. The set list isn’t all that dissimilar from what the Dio band has always played: a mix of their own material plus cuts from Ronnie’s run in Black Sabbath with the occasional Rainbow tune thrown in.

For this album, the band was touring for the release of Strange Highways and the set features no less than six songs from that album. It’s an album I own not but something I was ever too impressed with. The songs really don’t sound too different from the darker and angrier music Ronnie made with Black Sabbath on 1992’s Dehumanizer, just less memorable. In this live setting, I can appreciate the “Strange Highways” track much more. It wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Dehumanizer or even Heaven & Hell’s The Devil You Know.

This was also the era when the controversial Tracy G played guitar in the band. Honestly, I’m not sure why people say he wasn’t a good fit. He looked like your typical metal-head and is obviously a gifted guitarist. I think maybe he caught all of the negativity just because he was the guitarist for two albums (Strange Highways and its follow-up Angry Machines) that were musically and lyrically darker affairs from what Dio usually put out. All you have to do is check out his guitar solo on “Pain” and you’ll know this guy was worthy of following in the footsteps of

Here’s where I would put out that even in 1993, Ronnie James sounds just as powerful as ever, except you can say that for every year he was on the planet up until he started getting ill! The guy was truly the most gifted rock/metal vocalist of all time. Never lost a step no matter the year, no matter the song. Amazing to think he never had to warm-up either. Simply legendary.

If you’ve kept up with the last two Dio live releases, this isn’t essential listening but fans of Strange Highways will probably want to hear songs from that album performed live (or even buy the DVD or Blu-ray of this concert).

Highlights: “Stand Up and Shout”, “Strange Highways”, “Don’t Talk to Strangers”, “The Mob Rules”, “Heaven and Hell”, “Man on the Silver Mountain”, “The Last In Line”, “We Rock”, “Here’s to You”

Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls [Review]

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Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls [Deluxe Edition]
2014, Epic Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com

CD 1:
1. “Dragonaut” 4:26
2. “Redeemer of Souls” 3:58
3. “Halls of Valhalla” 6:04
4. “Sword of Damocles” 4:54
5. “March of the Damned” 3:55
6. “Down in Flames” 3:56
7. “Hell & Back” 4:46
8. “Cold Blooded” 5:25
9. “Metalizer” 4:37
10. “Crossfire” 3:51
11. “Secrets of the Dead” 5:41
12. “Battle Cry” 5:18
13. “Beginning of the End” 5:07

CD 2:
1. “Snakebite” 3:14
2. “Tears of Blood” 4:19
3. “Creatures” 4:25
4. “Bring It On” 3:18
5. “Never Forget” 6:25

Since the release of the somewhat controversial Nostradamus six years ago, we’ve seen Judas Priest go on a “farewell” tour and also lose founding member K.K. Downing (he didn’t die, he retired) under still not quite clear circumstances. Well, I, for one never believed Judas Priest was going to call it quits. Does anyone really, ever? Though I wasn’t happy that K.K. was leaving, I was hoping that the addition of 31-year old guitarist Richie Faulkner might rejuvenate the band much the same way Scott Travis did when he came on on as drummer in 1990.

Nostradamus isn’t a terrible album and it was a brave thing to do, but it was still a misstep and the band seemed to have lost themselves. Now, it’s possible that if Downing had stayed on then perhaps the band would’ve delivered an album similar to Redeemer of Souls, but who knows? All I know is that Richie gets a co-writing credit on all of the tracks alongside Rob Halford and Glenn Tipton. I’m glad he was allowed to jump right into the deep-end and contribute immediately, unlike how some “replacements” are treated. Tim “Ripper” Owens’ term in this very band comes to mind in regards to being creatively silenced or at least limited!

Whether it’s the fact that the band has new blood or whether it was a conscious effort to deliver a much more tradition Priest album, the band nailed it with Redeemer of Souls. This really is a culmination of many eras of the band and despite the fact that the deluxe edition has a total of 15 tracks, this album is lean ‘n’ mean. It’s a refreshing back-to-basics approach after the overblown and overproduced Nostradamus.

The deluxe edition includes a second disc that includes five great tracks and it is well worth picking up this version. “Snakebite”, “Creatures” and “Never Forget” should’ve been on Disc 1, but I could see how “Snakebite” wouldn’t fit. It’s a bit of a loose testosterone-fueled rocker; like a heavier Whitesnake.

Overall, Rob still sounds great and the new twin axe attack of Tipton/Faulkner is a powerful and worthy guitar duo to pick up where Tipton left off with KK Downing. I figured the album would be good, but not this good. Easily the best album the band has released since 1990’s Painkiller.

Highlights: “Dragonaut”, “Redeemer of Souls”, “Hell & Back”, “Cold Blooded”, “Metalizer”, “Crossfire”, “Secrets of the Dead”, “Beginning of the End”, “Snakebite”, “Creatures”, “Never Forget”

The Decline of the Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years [Album Review]

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The Decline of the Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
2011, Capitol Records
Originally Released: 1988, Capitol Records
Buy the album at Amazon

1. “Under My Wheels” – Alice Cooper w/ Guns N’ Roses
2. “Bathroom Wall” – Faster Pussycat
3. “Cradle to the Grave” – Motörhead
4. “You Can Run But You Can’t Hide” – Armored Saint
5. “Born to Be Wild” – Lizzy Borden
6. “In My Darkest Hour” – Megadeth
7. “Prophecy” – Queensrÿche
8. “The Brave” – Metal Church
9. “Foaming at the Mouth” – Rigor Mortis
10. “Colleen” – Seduce

Any metal-head worth their weight in steel is well aware of this documentary that was released in 1988. It’s a truly fascinating look at life as rocker in the 1980s. For better or worse, warts and all, it absolutely captures a time and a vibe & scene that can never truly be replicated no matter how “retro” a band may act.

As it stands, the soundtrack to The Decline of the Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years is a solid compilation. Sure, bands like Seduce and Rigor Mortis didn’t stand the test of time but when it comes to the ’80s metal scene, you can’t really argue against the inclusion of bands like Motorhead, Lizzy Borden, Megadeth, Alice Cooper, Guns N’ Roses, Metal Church or even Faster Pussycat. It was all metal one way or another.

The documentary itself was actually what turned me on to Megadeth as they performed “In My Darkest Hour” in the film and it certainly made an impression on me.

The lack of Ozzy Osbourne, Aerosmith, Poison, KISS or W.A.S.P. is a bit odd given how their stature and appearances in the documentary but the soundtrack isn’t meant to be all encompassing. If it was, we’d be putting up with having to listen to the likes of London, Tuff and Odin, too. A few tracks either start or end with audio clips from the film.

We could argue for hours over who truly deserves to be included on a compilation of ’80s metal but this soundtrack is just a taste of what that era had to offer and is meant to tie in most closely with bands featured in the documentary. Keep that in mind and what you’ve got is a good collection of ’80s rock & metal that will fit right in with your retro denim vest.

Highlights: “Under My Wheels”, “Bathroom Wall”, “Born to Be Wild”, “In My Darkest Hour”, “Prophecy”

Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls [Single Review]

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Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls [single]
2014, Epic Records
Buy the single at Amazon.com

1. “Redeemer of Souls”

Band:
Rob Halford – Vocals
Glenn Tipton – Guitar
Richie Faulkner – Guitar
Ian Hill – Bass
Scott Travis – Drums

Well, we’re finally getting new Priest music some 6 years after their last release of original music. So far, all we’ve gotten to hear is the album’s title track “Redeemer of Souls” (the album itself is due to be released July 15, 2014 in America) but I thought it was worth talking a bit about. It’s important to note that KK Downing is no longer in the band and while his absence is disappointing and not how I would prefer things to be, I think this track is indication that Richie Faulkner is a fine stand-in to work alongside Glenn Tipton.

For anyone afraid of what the band might release after having done Nostradamus, have no fear. “Redeemer of Souls” is very good metal track and Rob’s voice is in fine condition, better than I expected. In fact, he’s sounding better than he has in years. I wasn’t blown away by the song when I first heard it. My honest reaction was that it was a slightly generic slab of power metal. As I keep listening to it, I’m starting to like it more and more. It does not sound like Judas Priest throughout but you can still hear parts and go, “yes, that’s classic Priest”. I guess if you had to compare this song to an era from the band’s past you could go with Defenders of the Faith?

Most feedback I’m seeing online ranges from “it’s okay” to “it’s good”. I think the song is better than anything from Nostradamus and I also think it compares to some of the best from Angel of Retribution. I’ve seen people say they hope the rest of the album is better than “Redeemer of Souls”, well if that’s going to be the case, I think Priest is going to deliver one heck of an album!

 

Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life [Review]

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 Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life
2014, Rhino Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com

1. Neon Knights – Anthrax
2. The Last In Line – Tenacious D
3. The Mob Rules – Adrenaline Mob
4. Rainbow In The Dark – Corey Taylor, Roy Mayorga, Satchel, Christian Martucci, Jason Christopher
5. Straight Through The Heart – Halestorm
6. Starstruck – Motörhead with Biff Byford
7. The Temple Of The King – Scorpions
8. Egypt (The Chains Are On) – Doro
9. Holy Diver – Killswitch Engage
10. Catch The Rainbow – Glenn Hughes, Simon Wright, Craig Goldy, Rudy Sarzo, Scott Warren
11. I – Oni Logan, Jimmy Bain, Rowan Robertson, Brian Tichy
12. Man On The Silver Mountain – Rob Halford, Vinny Appice, Doug Aldrich, Jeff Pilson, Scott Warren
13. Ronnie Rising Medley (A Light In The Black / Tarot Woman / Stargazer / Kill The King) – Metallica
14. This Is Your Life – Dio
Bonus Track:
15. Buried Alive – Jasta

Well, there certainly hasn’t been an absence of Dio-related releases since Ronnie’s passing. In the 4 years that Ronnie has been gone there have been two compilations, two live releases (a third is due shortly) and at least three tribute albums by my count. Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life is the third tribute album that I am aware of. The first two tributes were Jorn’s Dio (which Wendy Dio gave her blessing for) and Joey DeMaio’s Magic (which Wendy did not approve of), though I’m sure there’s probably more out there.

As far as star power and  talent goes, you won’t find a better Dio tribute: Anthrax, Halestorm, Metallica, Scorpions, Rob Halford, Motorhead, Biff Byford, Vinny Appice, Doro, Doug Aldrich… the list goes on and on.

Most these songs are played fairly straight and faithfully but it’s still interesting to hear Dio covered by other well-known artists and the songs cover his years in Rainbow, Black Sabbath and the Dio band. The majority of these tracks range from good to excellent. Even Tenacious D (who I normally can’t stand) do a decent job.

There are a few tracks I do have an issue with though. For one, Killswitch Engage’s “Holy Diver”. I don’t like metalcore and never needed to hear a metalcore version complete with unnecessary pinch harmonics that would make Zakk Wylde proud. I give them credit for trying to make the song their own, but it doesn’t make it a good cover.

Then there’s the cover of Black Sabbath’s “I”. There’s a good line-up of musicians on the track and Oni Logan is a good singer but he lacks the power to really put that song over the top like Dio did. He doesn’t sound bad, but I don’t think he’s the right fit for a song like this, if that makes any sense.

Then there’s “Man on the Silver Mountain”. Again, great musicians here. It’s Rob Halford backed by a collection of former Dio band members. Doug Aldrich’s presence is felt throughout the song and while he was in Dio before he joined Whitesnake, the song is given a slight makeover and comes across like a modern Whitesnake song. Halford sounds fine, but again, he doesn’t have the proper voice to be covering songs sung by Ronnie James Dio. Or songs sung by Ronnie James Dio that have been given a Whitesnake makeover. I’m liking this take on the song musically, I just think Halford’s vocals are out of place.

Glenn Hughes turns in a fantastic soulful performance on “Catch the Rainbow”. He is also backed by a collection of former Dio players. Motorhead & Biff Byford do a great job on “Starstruck” and I initially thought that was the Glenn Hughes track when I first heard it. “The Temple of the King” by Scorpions is wonderful as well. It’s a faithful cover of the original but it’s very cool to hear Klaus Meine on vocals.

The track that is garnering the most attention, obviously, is the Metallica track. I’m glad they are on this project because there’s no doubt they have brought eyes to this album that might not have given it a look otherwise. They do a good job covering four of Rainbow’s best songs.

The physical CD closes the album with the ballad “This Is Your Life” which is pulled from Dio’s 1996 album Angry Machines. The song is given extra weight considering the circumstances. Jasta’s “Buried Alive” is a digital album exclusive bonus track and is actually pretty good. Once again, Japan gets more material than North America because Stryper’s cover of “Heaven and Hell” and the Dio Disciples’ take on “Stand Up and Shout” appear on pressings over there. Seriously, what’s up with Japan always getting bonus tracks that never see the light of the day in the United States? I’ve never heard anyone actually address why that happens so often!

A few minor quibbles, but this isn’t a better Dio tribute album out and there probably never will be. Must have for Dio fans!

Highlights: “Rainbow In the Dark”, “Straight Through the Heart”, “Starstruck”, “The Temple of the King”, “Egypt (The Chains Are On)”, “Catch the Rainbow”, “Ronnie Rising Medley”, “This Is Your Life”

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