Most of you probably know Dio because he was the front man for Black Sabbath from 1979 to 1982 and then again from 1991 to 1993. But in fact, Ronnie James Dio was an active musician far beofre. In 1972, while in a band called Elf, Roger Glover and Ian Paice of Deep Purple offered to produce one of their albums. Because of this, later, Ritchie Blackmore formed the band Rainbow with Dio in 1975, which would last until 1978. Then a year later, he was recruited by Black Sabbath. Now, fastforward to 1990. By this time, Dio had already released four albums and one EP with his solo career band called simply Dio. This album, Lock up the Wolves, is his fifth and was released May 15, 1990.
Ronnie James Dio: Vocals
Rowan Robertson: Guitars
Jens Johansson: Keyboards
Simon Wright: Drums
Teddy Cook: Bass
This album posseses an unusual sound. the riffs, for the most part, are pretty basic heavy metal riffs but that have a very epic and noble sound, similarly to riffs found in power metal. Yet, there is only one guitarist and although he does do some nice lead work, its nothing like the lead work in power metal. Moreover, its visible that the main focus of this band is Dio's powwerful voice and intersting lyrics. In other words, there are no instrumental songs, no long instrumental sections, and no long guitar or any instrument solos. That being said, I do believe it works quite well. For those of you who have never heard Dio sing, he has a very melodic voice and can sing relativly high. Higher than Ozzy Osbourne, but not higher than Rob Halford or Bruce Dickenson. His melodic voice along with the epic guitar riffs and just present enough drums make a grand combination. A combination unique. The only probelm is the unaudible bass. But hey, lots of albums have that problem.
As I mentioned earlier, Dio's lyrics are quite interesting and eclectic.On this album, they range from love, to wild youths, to rocking out, to life experiences. But most of his lyrics are more poetic and abstract. For example "There's a crack in the rainbow, there's a hole in the sky. You belived in something, now its just a lie", or, "Smile at the animals, they should be the one's in the cages". Never is there really a song where you would say "Hmm... the lyrics are kinda cheesy". Its strong, probably meaningful, and defenetly poetic lyrics all around. Probably one of the best metal Lyricists.
The guitarist, Rowan Robertson, started playing guitar when he was five years old. Being eighteen years of age when this album came out, he had been playing for 13 years. Therfore, his technique is exquisit. You can really hear it in the solo's and fills. In addition, he co-wrote every song on this album. His style of playing complements Dio's style very well. Unfortunetly I don't think his performance on this album showcases his real talent due to the focus on Dio himslef. I hope that after he left Dio (whenever that was) he started a solo career or joined another respectable band because one can tell he is one solid metal guitar player.
Although only audible on some tracks there is a keyboard player by the name of Jens Johansson. According to the inner sleave of the CD he was rated in the top 5 keyboard polls at the time. If so, he defently doesnt show his musical prowess because as I said he is only audible for brief moments and what he plays doesn't seem too brilliant. Just a few chords or reinforcing a melody here and there. He did co-writte a few songs though.
The rythme section is quite weak in my opinion. The bass is turned very low in the mix so Im assuming he never does any good fills or plays any interesting lines. Just pure root riding. The drumer, Simon Wright was a former member of AC/DC according to the inner sleave. Strangely I think it shows in his playing. He plays fairly simple beats with an occasional cool fill. Just like AC/DC. I think Dio should have chosen a more metal oriented drumer. Double pedal beats and more powerful playing would of made the feel to some songs more in your face and heavy.
The songs all have that Dio, epic sound. Yet, fortunately they don't all sound rigorously identical. There are upbeat somgs like Wild one, Night Music, Walk on water and Twisted; More serious and emotional songs like Between Two Hearts, and My Eyes. Also there are darker, more mysterious tracks such as Evil on Queen Street and Lock up the Wolves. All in all every track is pretty strong in one way or another. Every song and I meen EVERY song is very melodic and catchy. This is in no way noise.
Standout tracks: Wild one, Born on the Sun, Night Music, Lock up the Wolves, My Eyes.
Bottom line: Strong album with nice, catchy melodies, pretty heavy riffs, good vocals, and exellent lyrics. 4/5