Popoff, Martin-Dream Evil: Dio In The 80’s (Book Review)

Spread the metal:

Reviewed:  June 2022
Published:  PowerChord Press, 2022
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: JP

Metal people die every day. The truth is that most of the time, most of us never notice. As of time of writing in 2022, as of June 1st over 136 Hard rock and Heavy Metal people/musicians have died this year. Most of us will not notice or care about the vast majority of those deaths. It is the unfortunate reality. However, when some of our most beloved iconic musical heroes pass away their career lingers in the musical collective memory and such is the case of Dio.  He died over 12 years ago and we still have a flurry of Dio related material hitting the market. In the past year or so we have had his autobiography, (Part 1), a full-length documentary, a Dio comic book, countless re-issues and now a now a Dio biography.

Popoff has likely one of the most legitimate claims to write a book about Dio as he did an earlier version back in 2006, one of the first, if not the very first book about Dio. DREAM EVIL: DIO IN THE 80’S is published on his own PowerChord Press and keeps the high-standard alive for his multi-title publishing portfolio. This runs a generous 250 pages or so and has quite a few photos, black and white scattered across the pages and two sets of full-colour on glossy plates. There were quite a few photos of singles that I had never seen before, because I wasn’t a vinyl-single type of guy. It is all sourced and a nice discography is included.

After a brief pre-Dio band history, Martin takes us on a journey across those four well-regarded albums, a stellar ride across the rainbow with master Dio weaving his magic into yet a third completely successful band. Fully loaded and upgraded from the 2006 book we get even more interviews and anecdotes drawn from his many personal interviews with the principal guys. What I appreciated is that Martin added maybe a bit more of his opinion about the four releases because, this is a deep dive. Most folks swear by the first two pillars, a few hold-outs claim SACRED HEART is the pinnacle and more than a smattering of folks cite DREAM EVIL as the best of the bunch. Martin goes to bat for DREAM EVIL which I appreciated seeing as almost 35 years later that one tends to get more rotation in my playlist.

Another aspect of the narrative I appreciated is that, despite the (deserved) hero worship I alluded to in the first paragraph, Popoff demonstrates that Dio was tough to work for. Beyond the well-publicized rift between the Dio camp and Vivian Campbell (it’s always about money) other members say Dio was flawed, like all of us and the spirit of ‘the band’ faded away. Promises were made, kept or not kept, or promises misunderstood, everyone on board in the early days for the hope of a better future until, the future wasn’t so bright after five years of hard work and heavy touring with slightly diminishing returns……but what an epic five-year run it was.

This is a very minor quibble but I might have included LOCK UP THE WOLVES in this early era of Dio. It could go either way. On one hand it was recorded in the 80’s (released early 1990) and was the last album in his record deal with Warner Brothers. It also fits musically and stylistically into the first era, moreso than the next two 90’s albums. On the other hand, the first four albums were Dio ‘the band’ (even if Dio was the leader) it was still a band. On the LOCK UP THE WOLVES album/tour cycle Dio cleaned shop and hired young(er) guys and it really became a true solo project with a revolving door ever after. I’m splitting hairs. As a timeframe the 80’s works nicely but DREAM EVIL feels a bit compact at only four albums to discuss but Popoff really fleshes it out with singles, tours, trivia, and some nice work on the the INTERMISSION EP.

I think the public taste and demand for Dio will ensure that not only will we see the other half of Dio’s official autobiography, we can hope that Mr. Popoff will complete the saga of Dio from 1990 to the end of the rainbow.