Review Summary: Dio's only concept album ends up being an excellent album, through and through.
Given the late Ronnie James Dio's fondness for fantastical lyrical content and bombast, it's a bit of a surprise that Magica
was the first concept album he put out. By the time of Magica
's release in 2000, Dio had fallen into a bit of a slump; Strange Highways
and Angry Machines
eschewed his usual musical focus in favor of a darker, more reality-inclined aesthetic, each one released to diminishing returns.
is a return back to his favored aesthetic, by and large, and it ends up coming across as his most inspired and cohesive solo effort since Dream Evil
. The underlying story is pretty standard fantasy fare, about a planet besieged by the forces of darkness and the attempts of a hero, Eriel, and his son, Challis, to turn back the tides of malfeasance. It's nothing earthshattering or groundbreaking (Operation: Mindcrime
, it is not), but what matters more is the execution. And, frankly, the album is executed excellently.
The interlude segments that tend to run wild in concept albums are relegated to the start and the end of the album, but the songs don't need them to flow well. As a body of work, it's delightfully cohesive and varied, and none of the songs feel out of place or shoehorned in. The construction is pretty seamless, which is a pro for a concept album. Also, remarkably, none of the songs are "bad"; there are album highlights, like "Lord of the Last Day" (easily the best song on the album, with a sinister sound, doom-y feel, and sublime main riff), "Fever Dreams" (which has a faster, slicker tempo), and "Losing My Insanity" (with folk-y elements that don't wreck the song), but everything is good
. Even the ballad of the album, "As Long as It's Not About Love", is good, which is always welcome. The album closes with an 18-minute telling of the story that runs through the album, and it's well-done, making what is typical-ish fantasy fare really come to life.
Musically, the band is in top form. The guitar work is excellent from Craig Goldy (with memorable riffs and delightful solos), and the rhythm section of Simon Wright and Jimmy Bain make the sound nice and full. Of course, the main draw of Dio is arguably the main man's voice, and it's in fine form here; Dio's powerful voice soars effortlessly and expressively, and it sounds stronger and more impactful than it had in previous albums. The music is also aided by a clean production that doesn't veer too loud or too murky, which gives the songs room to develop.
is a very good album, and it stands as one of the highlights of Dio's latest works. Given how good this album ended up being, it's a pity that we'll never see Magica II
(Dio was beginning work on the albums at the time of his passing). If you're a fan of well-executed metal albums or of the "classic" Dio albums (like Holy Diver
), I strongly recommend giving this album a go.