Inferno: Last In Live


Mayhem Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


A confession: It's been a long, long time since I have listened to any of Ronnie James Dio's solo work.

When I was about ten years younger, I was banging my head to albums like Holy Diver and The Last In Line just like the rest of my buddies in school. But for some reason, I just lost interest in Dio, especially after Sacred Heart and Dream Evil failed to impress me.

But I've recently become interested in Dio's work again, for two reasons. First, loyal reader Trent Nakagawa responded to my five-year search for a copy of AC/DC's "Jailbreak" video - and was nice enough to throw on other videos from MTV's "Headbanger's Ball," including "The Last In Line". Second, I got a chance to listen to Dio's first full-length live solo album, Inferno: Last In Live, and was amazed at how good he still sounds.

The star players in Dio's band are long gone (save for drummer Vinny Appice), and guitarist Tracy G and bassist Larry Dennison might not have the flash that some former members of the band showed, but Dio has assembled a crew of musicians, a lineup which debuted on Dio's last album my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Angry Machines, that holds its own quite well. And Dio himself has lost little - if any - of his vocal abilities, never mind the fact it's been almost 20 years since he took over for Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath.

Recorded in New York City, Chicago and Schaumburg (a Chicago suburb I know quite well), you can tell that Dio isn't playing to Madison Square Garden. But the truth is that the club atmosphere seems to work better on this album - it's more personal, and Dio even seems to be more at ease with it, judging from his on-stage rapport with the audience.

Many of the hits are here, and for the most part, they sound pretty close to the way you remember their studio counterparts sounded. "Don't Talk To Strangers" is a wonderful surprise on this set, a track that I remember well from the local metal show on a brokered station. Dio covers most of the area of his career that people have followed religiously (oops...), from Black Sabbath ("Heaven And Hell," "The Mob Rules"), Rainbow ("Mistreated (Catch The Rainbow)", "Man On The Silver Mountain") and most facets of his solo career ("We Rock", "Holy Diver" "Double Monday").

What is surprising to me is that even the newer songs sound like they're vintage Dio, meaning whatever stylistic changes he was making around the time of Dream Evil he discarded - smart move. And while the performances aren't as flashy as one would expect some to be (Tracy G's guitar solos are rather subdued), the resulting sound is a bit more natural. You can then understand why Dio never went away during metal's decline.

Clocking in at about 80 minutes over two discs, Inferno: Last In Live tends to be a quick listen - I was surprised to have the album finish just as I was really getting into it. But then again, maybe it's better that Dio didn't overstate his case on this one.

If you loved Dio's early solo work or you just got into him recently thanks to Angry Machines, then Inferno: Last In Live is a must-own for you, and is one of the better live albums I've heard in over 15 years of collecting music. After listening to this, you know I'll be searching the Pierce Archives for my well-worn copies of Dio's earlier works.

Rating: A-

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Mayhem Records, and is used for informational purposes only.