[Review] Dio: The Last in Line (1984)

Every bit as good as their first album and, also, the last classic Dio album, but oh how brightly they burned.

Kronomyth 2.0: Murray Christmas.

The fashionable thing to do in metal circles, I gather, is to debate whether Holy Diver or The Last in Line is the better Dio album. Because, apparently, I’m not the only person on the planet interested in arguing the pros and cons of nothing. In my humble yet overly exposed opinion, Dio’s second album is a copy by design, and copies are rarely valued as highly as the original. Had they been reversed in order, The Last in Line would be universally hailed as the better album. I don’t know where I find the time to think about these things, but feel free to do something better with your own time.

The Last in Line is also notable for the addition of keyboardist Claude Schnell to the group. I’m only kidding. I don’t think most people even realized there was a keyboard player on the album until they read the liner notes. You’ll be too dazzled by Vivian Campbell’s seemingly endless array of amazing guitar solos, the pummeling rhythms of Vinny Appice and Jimmy Bain and the inextinguishable energy of Ronnie James Dio to notice Schnell most of the time. Probably no accident there, since a keyboard player in a heavy metal band isn’t exactly kosher.

Just like last time, this album is bookended by a readymade concert opener, We Rock, and an epic closer, Egypt (The Chains Are On). Dio apparently drew from the same source of inspiration (Egypt) when explaining the cover concept to illustrator Barry Jackson, which again prominently features the demon known as, I kid you not, Murray. And, just like Holy Diver, Dio seems to have no trouble serving up one melodic metal masterpiece after another. The Last in Line is a favorite of mine because it starts out mellow and, just when the think the band is going soft, drops a massive slab of metal on you and leaves it there for the next thirty minutes.

From beginning to end, The Last In Line is high-octane metal. Sometimes, it’s surprisingly melodic (Mystery), and sometimes it’s surprisingly heavy (I Speed at Night). It’s the duality of Dio, that balance of dark and light, hope and despair, melody and metal, that makes them unique in the pantheon of metal gods. That said, the album does shift slightly to the dark side, particularly on the demonic ending to One Night in the City.

With Black Sabbath, Rainbow and Deep Purple on the decline, Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest and Dio were now the most colorful characters in heavy metal. That would change in a few years, but not before these battle-hardened masters of metal cleared a path for the new generation of metal bands to follow. Today, both Holy Diver and The Last in Line are rightly regarded as shining stars in the twilight of metal’s original golden age.

Original elpee version

A1. We Rock (Ronnie James Dio) (4:35)
A2. The Last in Line (Ronnie James Dio/Jimmy Bain/Vivian Campbell) (5:48)
A3. Breathless (Ronnie James Dio/Vivian Campbell) (4:09)
A4. I Speed at Night (Ronnie James Dio/Vinny Appice/Jimmy Bain/Vivian Campbell) (3:26)
A5. One Night in the City (Ronnie James Dio/Vinny Appice/Jimmy Bain/Vivian Campbell) (5:14)
B1. Evil Eyes (Ronnie James Dio) (3:38)
B2. Mystery (Ronnie James Dio/Jimmy Bain) (3:55)
B3. Eat Your Heart Out (Ronnie James Dio/Vinny Appice/Jimmy Bain/Vivian Campbell) (4:02)
B4. Egypt (The Chains Are On) (Ronnie James Dio/Vinny Appice/Jimmy Bain/Vivian Campbell) (7:02)

Bonus disc two reissue track listing
B1. Eat Your Heart Out (live)
B2. Don’t Talk to Strangers (live)
B3. Holy Diver (live)
B4. Rainbow in the Dark (live)
Live at the Pinkpop Festival 1984
B5. One Night in the City
B6. We Rock
B7. Holy Diver
B8. Stargazer
B9. Heaven and Hell
B10. Rainbow in the Dark
B11. Man on the Silver Mountain
B12. Don’t Talk to Strangers

The Players

Ronnie James Dio (vocals, keyboards), Vinny Appice (drums), Jimmy Bain (bass), Vivian Campbell (guitar), Claude Schnell (keyboards). Produced by Ronnie James Dio; engineered by Angelo Arcuri.

The Pictures

Illustration by Barry Jackson. Photographs by Neil Zlozower, Gene Kirkland.

The Product

Released on elpee and cassette on July 2, 1984 in the US (Warner Bros. 25100-1/4), the UK (Vertigo, VERL/VERLC 16), Bulgaria (Balkanton, BTA 12408), Canada (Warner Bros., 92 51001), Japan (Vertigo, 25PP-131), Mexico (Vertigo, LPR 23042), the Netherlands (Vertigo, 822 366-1), South Korea (Vertigo, CP 212), Uruguay (Vertigo, 822.366-1) and Venezuela (Vertigo, 20060/LP/C 20060) with picture innersleeve; reached #4 on the UK charts and #23 on the US charts (RIAA-certified platinum record).

  1. Re-issued on compact disc in 1984 in the US (Warner Bros., 9 25100-2) [made in West Germany].
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in Germany (Vertigo, 822 366-2).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc in 1987 in the US (Warner Bros., 25100-2).
  4. Re-issued on cassette in Russia (Rock Gallery, RG 0495).
  5. Re-issued on compact disc on October 20, 1995 in Japan (Vertigo, PHCR-4125).
  6. Re-released on remastered blue vinyl elpee in the US (Rhino, RCV1 25100).
  7. Re-released on remastered super high material compact disc on January 14, 2012 in Japan (Vertigo, UICY-20253).
  8. Re-released on expanded, remastered 2CD in 2012 in Europe (Universal, 2776098) with 12 bonus tracks.
  9. Re-released on remastered 24k gold compact disc in 2012 in the US (Audio Fidelity, AFZ 146).
  10. Re-packaged with Holy Diver, Sacred Heart, Dream Evil and Lock Up the Wolves on 5CD set in 2017 in Europe (Spectrum, 00600753785164).
  11. Re-released on expanded SHM 2CD on December 23, 2020 in Japan (Universal, UICY-79356/7) with 12 bonus tracks.
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