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Killing the Dragon
June 2002
Released: 2002, Spitfire Records
Rating: 4.2/5
Reviewer: CrashTest

Disagree with me if you like, but Spitfire Records is shaping up to be one of the better small labels in the business. With artists like Dio, Testament, Yngwie Malmsteen, Black Label Society and Dragonlord on the roster, they have put together a nice mix of metal legends and impressive side projects. Considering the strength of the most recent albums from Testament and Malmsteen, you’ve got to wonder whether the label has encouraged these guys to return to what made them great. If so, I’m all for that. Now if only some of that mojo would rub off on Danzig.

I had no idea what to expect from KILLING THE DRAGON when I picked it up at the local shop. While MAGICA was a step in the right direction, it wasn’t quite as big a step as most would have liked. I hadn’t heard any buzz about the new album and I made a conscious decision not to download any songs in advance. That approach paid off big time, as I spent half the CD trying to pick my chin up off the floor the first time I spun it. Yes my friends, this return to form was totally unexpected, but much appreciated. The bottom line is this … KILLING THE DRAGON is the album Dio should have made instead of SACRED HEART, the only album in the 80s catalogue that I have never been able to identify with.

Of course, there are drawbacks to making such a bold return to roots after such a long time. There will be cynics who claim that KTD is a stale rehash or a last-ditch attempt to save a career, but such remarks will fall on deaf ears. As far as this metalhead is concerned, KTD is just what the doctor ordered. The stronger tracks on the album are the title track, “Scream”, “Better in the Dark”, “Before the Fall” and the instant classic “Push”. I can’t get that damned song out of my head, it is indeed the crown jewel of the album. While the sound and lyrical themes ring familiar, there are enough subtle changes to keep things fresh and exciting. Ronnie James Dio still has command of his stellar voice. The musicians backing him are solid, the guitar play of Doug Aldrich being crisp and worthy enough to stand along side past Dio axe slingers. Just a solid album and one that has me once again excited for what the future holds for Dio.

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