I may be in the minority here, as initial reactions to this album have been mixed at best. But after some post-millennium experimentation, it seems as if Ronnie James Dio has finally at least made a partial return to his classic sound on Master of the Moon. No more convoluted concept albums (2000's Magica) and no more half-decent discs (2002's Killing the Dragon).
Master of the Moon is a solid yet extremely dark album from front to back. Credit, at least in part, guitarist Craig Goldy, who has once again joined the Dio fold, which also now includes Rudy Sarzo on bass, Simon Wright on drums and Scott Warren on keyboards. As longtime collaborators, Goldy and the singer play off of (and complement) each other well, and the result is an album of 10 songs that sound distinctly Dio. (To be fair, Goldy did write a few songs on Killing the Dragon but was ably replaced by Doug Aldrich during the recording sessions, and ex-Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson laid down tracks for Master of the Moon before Sarzo signed on.)
Ronnie James still sounds lethal, even if his leather lungs aren't quite as spiffy as they used to be. Master of the Moon is a dynamic showcase for Dio, circa 2004 via 1987, as it's packed with AC/DC riffs ("The End of the World"), hubris ("I Am"), mysticism (the title track) and evil ("One More For the Road"). In two atypical moves, Dio even touches on romance — albeit the dark side of romance — on "Death by Love," and he makes a political statement on "The Man Who Would Be King," comparing England's King Richard I to U.S. President George W. Bush. "Like the crusaders in the Middle Ages, Bush tries to force his philosophy on other peoples," Dio was quoted as saying on the web site of his new label, SPV. "I don't see the song as a political challenge, but as a request for the American government to rethink their policy on Iraq." After more than 30 years in the biz, it's refreshing that Ronnie James Dio believes heavy metal still matters, and that music has the potential to make a difference.
1) One More For the Road (3:17)
2) Master of the Moon (4:19)
3) The End of the World (4:39)
4) Shivers (4:15)
5) The Man Who Would Be King (4:58)
6) The Eyes (6:27)
7) Living the Lie (4:25)
8) I Am (5:00)
9) Death By Love (4:21)
10) In Dreams (4:26)
Total Time: 46:11