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Dio: Angry Machines (remastered & expanded)

The nineties were a challenging time for almost any established heavy rock and metal band and from the evidence served up by their 1994 album Strange Highways and its follow up some two years later, Angry Machines, not even rock royalty were immune. With a catalogue of work taking in pivotal spells with both Rainbow and Black Sabbath, that singer Ronnie James Dio was then able to forge an equally impressive and relevant solo career was possibly his greatest achievement. However, following the less the enthusiastically received Dio/Sabbath reunion, by the time of Angry Machines those heady days seemed long ago. Hence, ever so slightly wounded, Dio had reinvented themselves by bringing back original drummer Vinyl Appice, recruiting ex-Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson and introducing then unknown guitarist Tracy G into the mix. On Strange Highways keyboard player Scott Warren had only been awarded guest status but by the time this album hit the shelves he was a fully fledged member.

If …Highways had seen Dio head back to their singer’s more doom laden period with the mighty Sabbath, so this effort took things a step further. Angry Machines isn’t a grunge album as some have suggested but it certainly seems to have been an angst ridden response to it. Churning and grinding proceedings into life “Institutional Man” is angular and barking in a way that this band never had been before but the unrelenting nature was shattered by the more to-type “Don’t Tell The Kids”. However, it was a brief respite before “Black” and “Hunter Of The Heart” weighed down heavy in their thunderous nature. Dio had been this uncompromising before but arguably they had never been so single mindedly angst ridden. The man himself was in stunning voice and clearly revelled in the more aggressive approach alongside the roaming bass work from Pilson and contemporary guitar howl of Tracy G.

“Double Monday” does a stunning job of broadening this new attack’s outlook, with an acoustic breakdown and numerous different percussive textures from Appice. However when the main man himself added his clean voice during this section, only then did you miss the more light and shade attack he’d always previously employed. That said, the closing ballad “This Is Your Life”, while still hardly joyous or uplifting, remains one of Dio’s last great vocals and that it is placed on one of his least favoured albums is the only reason it never quite gets the respect it deserves. However, with its relentlessly slow piano led pace, even this cut was another dark step along the way on a deep and intense album. Few will see this as either Ronnie James Dio’s finest moment or the strongest offering from his solo band and yet now, some 24 years down the line it stands up much better than it’s often been given credit for.

One of four reissues taking in the final quartet of albums Dio released, this expanded version offers a second disc of live material recorded on the 1997 tour for this album, by which time Larry Dennison had taken up bass responsibilities, although Pilson did play some dates. Not one full show, the pieced together live material only offers up two songs from the then latest album, with “Double Monday” and “Hunter Of The Heart” translating to the live arena well. From there it’s the expected achievements from Ronnie James Dio’s glittering career that are run through, with Sabbath’s “The Mob Rules” and “Heaven And Hell” hammered home alongside Rainbow’s “Man On The Silver Mountain”. Add in Dio classics like “Straight Through The Heart”, “Holy Diver”, “The Last In Line” and “We Rock” and it’s a great ‘set-list’ and one that guitarist Tracy G - much maligned by Dio fans though he always was - handles with aplomb.

Angry Machines may not be everyone’s go to Dio album but presented here with an excellent disc of live material (which adds an extra half star to the overall score), it demands to be given a well deserved reappraisal.

Track Listing
Disc 1
1. Institutional Man
2. Don’t Tell The Kids
3. Black
4. Hunter Of The Heart
5. Stay Out Of My Mind
6. Big Sister
7. Double Monday
8. Golden Rules
9. Dying In America
10. This Is Your Life

Disc 2 - Recorded live on Angry Machines Tour 1997
1. Jesus, Mary, & The Holy Ghost / Straight Through the Heart
2. Don’t Talk to Strangers
3. Double Monday
4. Hunter of the Heart
5. Holy Diver
6. Heaven and Hell
7. Long Live Rock and Roll
8. Man on the Silver Mountain
9. Rainbow in the Dark
10. The Last in Line
11. The Mob Rules
12. We Rock

Added: April 15th 2020
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Ronnie James Dio online
Hits: 1613
Language: english

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