Released: 2002, Spitfire Records
So it’s time for a new Dio album is it? Fuckin’ A it is! The elven belter is back and he’s brought his best album in ages with him. Yeah, KILLING THE DRAGON is that damn good. It’s no LAST IN LINE, but it’s easily his best since DREAM EVIL, way back in ’87.
There have also been some changes since we heard from Dio last. Exit DREAM EVIL guitarist Craig Goldy (dammit!) and enter new, even more decorated, guitarist, Doug Aldrich. The only news better than that would be to have had Goldy stay on as well. Another interesting development is the addition of bassist Jimmy Bain and Aldrich in the co-writing credits. I don’t how much impact they really had, but damn if Dio’s band doesn’t have more fire in it than it has in years.
One noticeable difference over MAGICA is that there are actually fast songs on the album. MAGICA was mostly slow to mid-paced, but there are two bonafide speedsters on this disc, “Along Comes a Spider” and “Better in the Dark”. The title track and “Push” also move along at a nice gallop. It’s also no coincidence that these are some of the best tunes on the disc.
In fact, I’d argue that the first six songs on the album are the best we’ve heard from Dio in a long time. Though the album tends to lose some of its luster at the end with weaker tracks like “Cold Feet” and “Throw Away Children”, the rest more than makes up for it. Simply put, Bain’s bass lines are as great as they were in the mid-80’s, Aldrich’s riffs are as tough and fluid as they’ve ever been, Simon Wright pounds the drums like he always has, and Ronnie James? He sounds as spectacular as ever.
If there’s one complaint to be made it’s that Dio’s writing and album pacing are still highly predictable, but when the formula gives you results like this, who’s going to mind? If you’re a fan of Dio’s 80’s output, but he lost you during the last decade, run out and pick up KILLING THE DRAGON. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.