In 2005, Rock Hard magazine ranked Dio’s The Last in Line at number 372 in their book of The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time, and that only makes me think that I want to hang out with the people who bring us Rock Hard magazine. If those folks know 371 albums better than this one, they are certainly cool to hang around.
I have never created such a list, so I don’t know how many albums I think are better than this one; still, if I did, I can’t imagine I’d find 371 albums I think are better.
When it comes to 80s metal, this is one of my favorites. This is 80s metal too; it’s not pop metal or hair metal, but just metal. This is one of my fall back albums. When I can’t think of anything to listen to, this is one of the albums I know I can put on and it’ll do fine for me. When measured by the belief that an album is only as strong as its weakest track(s) gauge, this one performs quite well, as there just isn’t a weak track among its nine.
What’s more, while this is a metal album, the track listing is more diverse than what one might expect. While not outright speed metal, tracks like “We Rock,” which is the album’s opening number and second single, “Evil Eyes,” and “I Speed at Night” certainly work with up-tempo themes. “One Night in the City” and “Egypt (The Chains are On)” hearken back to the ominous tones of early Sabbath. The title track, “Breathless,” and “Eat Your Heart Out” are just textbook hard rock with bits of bombast thrown in for good measure. Then you have the album’s first single, “Mystery,” which is the one that makes new listeners realize that this is the same band that did “Rainbow in the Dark.” Despite the listenability of this track, Vinny Appice’s drums and Vivian Campbell’s guitar solo, if nothing else, are there to ensure that this song won’t be mistaken for pop metal.
Concerning the lineup for this album, you have Ronnie, who had one of the best voices in all of rock and roll, in any genre. Next is Vivian Campbell on guitar. A lot of people know Vivian for his work with Def Leppard (He’s been a member of that band since ’92), but prior to that he did this Dio classic and the follow-up, Sacred Heart. The chops he took on to Def Leppard albums and stages is easily apparent here. Keyboardist Claude Schnell was on the first album of his four-album stint with Dio, and while I thought some of his work was unnecessary, the keyboard layer really helps to place the album in its era. Bassist Jimmy Bain, who was just one of the many musicians to graduate from working with Richie Blackmore in Rainbow, served as an in the pocket mate for the man whom, aside from the front-man of course, was the real treasure of this line-up, that being drummer Vinny Appice.
My brother-in-law is a drummer. He used to stay with us when he came home for the holidays, and he and I would stay up late into the nights drinking and sharing music. Of all the music I played for him, and you’ll have no problems believing that it was a lot, Dio is his favorite, and it is so largely because of the work of Vinny Appice. There’s good reason for that.
Vinny is all over this album, and when it comes to creating a solid structure to the band and adding inventive yet unobtrusive flourishes I can only think of Rush’s Neal Peart as a peer.
This album was in my top ten 80s rock albums previous to those drunken Christmas Eve listening sessions with Tom, and Vinny’s greatness has never been lost on me, but hearing a rock drummer’s take on the album really changed my ears concerning these songs. No doubt, Ronnie Dio was the star of every song he ever recorded, but this has forever become a drum album for me.
So, if you listen to this album, whether for the first time or not, pay close attention to the drums, and I think it’ll be an even more enjoyable experience than it would be otherwise.
- We Rock (Third favorite)
- The Last in Line (My favorite track)
- I Speed at Night
- One Night in the City (Second favorite)
- Evil Eyes
- Eat Your Heart Out
- Egypt (The Chains Are On)