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Dio

The Very Beast of Dio Vol. 2

Niji Entertainment Group

Ronnie James Dio might not be the first metal rocker, but he's one of the best. You know his songs are important; the majestic guitar riffs telegraph importance, while his lyrics are all about God and demons and rocking out to the sweet, sweet music of groupies doing interesting things to him and his band mates. You know of his work with Black Sabbath and Dio, and maybe if you're old enough, Rainbow, but this disc focuses on his post-1996 projects. That's some late work with Sabbath, the second half of his work with eponymous Dio, as well as Heaven & Hell. He does get around.

With RJD, you're either all in or all out. That is, it's hard to "sort of" like him, or pick and choose cuts. But I'll attempt to pick some favorites here: "Killing the Dragon" opens with a Halloween Chiller Theatre sound, and then drops into the familiar gallop of hard rock drumming and Ozzy quality scare lyrics. A similar anthemic sound comes from "Push." Dio's voice is clear and agile, and while he can't hit the high notes Noddy Holder or Ian Gilliam could, he's got the vocal bottom to accompany the bass on any of these cuts. "Along Comes a Spider" is another outstanding composition; this one leans a bit more toward Alice Cooper but keeps the hoof beats of bass and drum as Dio sings of loneliness and desperation. Bonus tracks include the rare "Electra." The press release says it's rare, but of course you can find anything on the 'net these days. This one is just studio clean and it's another rocking story song: hard rock and metal are surprisingly good at telling ballads.

I spent some time thinking about with it means to have a "Best of -- Volume 2" (excuse me: "Beast" of... rockers love puns). After all, shouldn't it be "Almost as Good as -- Volume 2?" or "Almost as Good as"? I'm going to go somewhere quiet and consider that; right now my eardrums hurt.

Ronnie James Dio: ronniejamesdio.com