Growing up, Dio was one of my favorite bands. I savored each release, memorizing the powerful songs, relishing the strong vocals of Ronnie James Dio, savoring and trying to understand the cryptic, mystical lyrics. That was about ten years ago. To my delight I came across his newest release Magica, a mythical journey to the land of Otherworld. After adding more industrial elements to his music over the past decade, Dio is back with his classic sound, this in part to the returning guitarist Craig Goldy and bassist Jimmy Bain. But it's not Holy Diver Part 2 as the music is quite fresh with some new sounds and ideas not found on past Dio albums.
The first half of the CD is definitely where the stronger songs lie. "Lord of the Last Day" is full of the dark, gothic pounding of The Last in Line while "Fever Dreams", with its syncopated, distorted guitar riff is easily as good as any of the rock classics Dio has produced over the years. Heavy rockers such as "Turn To Stone" and "Eriel" could have come off the Dream Evil album. In fact, overall this album compares quiet favorably to Dream Evil, except without the incredible keyboards of Claude Schnell. The songs are a bit poorer on the second half but a definite highlight is "Losing My Insanity" which begins with a celebratory celtic pennywhistle that segues into a powerful Goldy guitar riff. Again and again while listening to the CD I am reminded of how good Goldy is. This amazing guitarist should be better known than he is.
What keeps this album from being great is the very thing that holds it together. Being a concept album, there are sections of alien dialogue between some of the songs, aliens that sound like the cheesy computer on War Games. And in addition to the entire story being contained in the CD book, the last track is eighteen minutes of Ronnie James lifelessly reading this story against an equally lifeless backdrop of New Age keyboard sounds. While such unfortunate production decisions do mar the final product, they cannot hide the fact that this album ranks right up their with the "classic" Dio albums of the 80s.
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, April 2000.