Ronnie James Dio – This is Your Life
Okay, I'm going to get the following off my chest straight away.
This is a stonking album which highlights the huge variation in RJD’s work through the years.
It is for a good cause – The Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund
Ronnie James Dio was an iconic figure in the world of metal. I had the pleasure of seeing him live several times, most notably on the Holy Diver and The Last in Line tours in the 1980s as well as with Butler, Iommi and Appice in Heaven & Hell and he never disappointed. However, and I await the backlash here, for a proportion of his career he produced some absolute guff and several of the latter versions of Dio struggled to sell out smallish venues like the 02 Academy in Bristol. The constant adulation in death of a man who was shunned by much of the metal community whilst alive disturbs me. There. I said it.
Now onto the album.
As I said, this is a storming album with covers of classics from RJD’s time with Rainbow, Sabbath and Dio featuring a veritable smorgasbord of the metal world’s highest profile stars. This, combined with several combinations of former Dio members makes it an album which you cannot fail to sing along to whilst raising your horns in salute.
Anthrax kick proceedings off with one of Sabbath Mark II’s finest tracks, the power house of Neon Nights. Joey Belladonna does a fine job in matching RJD’s vocal range, and to be fair is one of only a handful of singers around who could do so today. After their butchering of Rush’s Anthem, Anthrax have redeemed themselves here. The Last In Line is next, skilfully delivered by that most metal of duos, Tenacious D who inject their own humour and quality on a Dio classic. This is one of the highlights of the album. The same cannot be said of the Ronnie Rising Medley which pops up later from Metallica. This does absolutely nothing apart from butcher four Rainbow classics. Why they couldn't have just picked one, such as their thrash version of Kill The King, is beyond me.
Further proof, if any was needed, that Sabbath remained a force to be reckoned with after Ozzy is demonstrated in the title track from the second album with RJD, the barnstorming The Mob Rules, with the almighty riff ably delivered by the Adrenaline Mob. Back to the Dio era for Rainbow In The Dark with a stunning vocal performance from Corey Taylor, ably supported by Stone Sour colleague Ray Mayorga and Satchel from Steel Panther amongst others. This is excellent stuff. The same cannot be said of Halestorm’s cover of Straight Through The Heart, which is formulaic, lethargic and adds nothing to the original. Startstruck, one of Ritchie Blackmore’s finest is ably covered by Motorhead and the powerhouse vocals of Biff Byford, with the Saxon frontman reminding you that he still has a fine set of pipes. A delicate and delicious version of Rainbow’s The Temple of the King by Scorpions. Klaus Meine adding his unique vocal delivery to by another of the Blackmore and Dio era compositions. The Germanic theme continues with the first lady of metal, the lovely Doro delivering a striking cover of Egypt (The Chains are On) in her own style before the much praised KSE version of Holy Diver blasts into view. A couple of decent collaborations follow with members of Dio’s band combining with Glenn Hughes on Catch The Rainbow followed by I with original Dio bassist Jimmy Bain combining with Lynch Mob’s Oni Logan and Rowan Robertson. What strikes you here is that no-one can match the Iron Man, Tony Iommi, for pure unadulterated evil riffage. Talking of metal gods, the unmistakable vocals of THE METAL GOD Rob Halford, combined with even more the talent of Vinnie Appice and former Whitesnake and Dio guitarist Doug Aldrich amongst others give another Rainbow classic, Man On The Silver Mountain the Southern treatment. Halford’s vocals aren't what they used to be and he plays it clever here, maintaining a much lower level of pitch than he is renowned for. It works. The album closes with two contrasting tracks. Firstly This Is Your Life, a haunting piece which originally appeared on Angry Machines in 1996. Dio in full flow demonstrating his quality accompanied by Scott Warren on piano. My version finishes with a really powerful cover of Buried Alive from Dehumaniser by Hatebreed’s Jamie Jasta’s solo band Jasta.
Despite my irritations, overall this is an astoundingly good album, which highlights just how many top class songs RJD touched with his magic over the years, particularly with Blackmore, Iommi and Butler alongside him. It’s “Bloody good”, as the great man often said. 9/10
Massacre – Back from the Beyond
American legends Massacre return after two decades with a massive slab of in your face Death Metal and boy does this melt your face off from the start. Being an old fart of many years in age, I can vaguely remember the name of Massacre from the mid 80s when thrash began to mutate into the Death genre. I admit I wouldn't have been able to have named any of their stuff. However, this is a band steeped in tradition with original guitarist Rick Rozz playing on the Death album Leprosy. Members of various incarnations of Massacre have appeared with Obituary, Kreator and Whiplash in addition to Death.
The latest line up emerged in 2011 and Back From The Beyond is result, a cheeky play on words given that their debut album way back in 1987 was named From Beyond. The album opens with the atmospheric intro The Ancient Ones before Massacre launch head long into opener As We Wait To Die. As a statement of intent it’s pretty powerful stuff. Massive bone crunching riffs, thunderous drumming in the Lombardo/Adler camp and the guttural growl of Ed Webb absolutely spot on. However, unlike much of the Death metal camp, Webb’s delivery is such that you can actually distinguish much of what he is growling about. He has more than a touch of Randy Blythe in his style which in my book can only be a good thing.
Ascension of the Deceased follows and again is full force aggression. However, there is a massive groove running through all of their tracks, most noticeably on Succumb to Rapture which really has a huge Lamb of God feel about it. Whilst there is an element of the formulaic about Massacre, I have to say that this album absolutely bloody rules. Every track powers along with Shield of the Son having a Testament tinge. Brutal break downs hammer at you from every angle and every time you manage to get back to your feet another slab of brutality slams you down on your back again. Webb’s vocals impress throughout with the powerhouse back line of founder and bassist Terry Butler and Mike Mazzonetto’s drumming pummelling at every opportunity. Rozz’s guitar work is superb, slicing solos at every opportunity. Things speed right up Slayer style on The Evil Within and before you know it album closer and possibly best track Honour the Fallen ensures that you are left totally breathless but strangely desiring of more. If you like a bit of heavily groove laden death metal combined with a dash of Slayer and bay area thrash, then make sure you get a slice of this album at the earliest opportunity. If you can get to Radfest on 3 May in Builth Wells you’ll have the opportunity to see these guys destroy. I’m gutted I’m gigging elsewhere that night. Totally recommended. 9/10
Lacuna Coil – Broken Crown Halo
The seventh long player from Italian outfit Lacuna Coil is a bit tasty for fans of the band. However, if you aren't, then this isn't going to change your opinion one iota. Following on from their 2012 release Dark Adrenaline which I thought was decent enough, Broken Crown Halo opens with the usual power and pomp that you’ve come to expect from Lacuna Coil in the shape of Nothing Stands In Our Way. Stomping guitars laced with subtle keys and the delicious voice of Cristina Scabbia ably supported by the gruff vocals of Andrea Ferro. The tempo picks up for second track Zombies which allows Ferro to open up a bit; unfortunately Scabbia’s vocals are better and they really help to propel the song along. This is the last album to feature Cristiano "Pizza" Migliore and Cristiano 'CriZ' Mozzati, both long time members who had been with the band since 1998. It’s a fitting enough epitaph for both of them, with Mozzati’s drums given a solid level in the mix and Migliore’s guitar complementing other axeman Marco "Maus" Biazzi.
For me the appeal of Lacuna Coil (yes, there is something apart from Scabbia) is the songwriting of main composer, bassist and keyboard player Marco Coti Zelati, which combines catchy melodic elements with some much heavier passages. This is especially noticeable on tracks such as Victims, where the slower quieter tempo allows Scabbia’s softer vocals to contrast with a heavier delivery to support Ferro’s growling. Die & Rise is another fine example of Lacuna Coil at their best; hooks galore and a thumping beat driving the song along. Ferro takes the lead on this one and it works; Scabbia taking a back seat but adding harmonies to the chorus. Perhaps the biggest compliment I can make is that as soon as you hear this album you know that it is Lacuna Coil. Obviously the distinctive vocals of the Scabbia/Ferro combination are the main clue but I also think the band have developed a distinctive sound. As well as the melodic metal they also do a good bit of power ballad style as demonstrated in the album closer One Cold Day. This is another solid album from a fine band who are always good live. Whether it will push them any further forward is debatable, but I for one always enjoy their output and Broken Crown Halo is no exception. 8/10