The Last In Line


Warner Brothers Records, 1984

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


There is an old saying that I've used anytime a band changes its formula after achieving great success with their previous album: you don't mess with success.

In the case of Ronnie James Dio, you couldn't blame him for wanting to keep things sounding the way they did for his first solo effort, Holy Diver. Killer songwriting, total shred-a-thon on the guitar courtesy of Vivian Campbell and the instantly-recognizable wail of Dio's vocals made this album a must-own when I was in high school.

Fast-forward one year to 1984 and the release of The Last In Line. Granted, all of the pieces of the puzzle are still there. So why is this one a slight step down from my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Holy Diver? Could it be that the maxim I stated at the start of this review could occasionally be wrong?

The way The Last In Line is laid out bears striking similarity to Holy Diver - which is probably the biggest mistake that Dio made. Think about it: "We Rock" is similar in tempo to "Stand Up And Shout," numbers that are meant to get the adrenalin pumping. Both title tracks are plodders that have moments made to get the bloodlust going. "Breathless" and "Gypsy" are middle-of-the-road tempoed numbers to bring things to an even keel... and so on, and so on.

At times, it seems like the two albums are carbon copies of each other. Yet there are some major differences as well. "One Night In The City" and "Egypt (The Chains Are On)" are both efforts to show a more cerebral side to Dio's songwriting - and while he accomplishes this lyrically, musically things grind to a halt, thanks in part to the metronome-drumming of Vinny Appice.

But there is a lot to smile about on The Last In Line. The title track is just as legendary as anything Dio has written in his career, and remains a track that can raise fists and bang heads even to this day. Likewise, "Mystery" dares to approach a more radio-friendly format without sacrificing any of its metal morals - and could well be Dio's hidden treasure of his career. "We Rock" remains a crowd-pleaser, and is guaranteed to raise your heart rate.

Unlike Holy Diver, the weaker numbers have more of a gravitational pull on The Last In Line. "I Speed At Night" is an absolute waste, while "Eat Your Heart Out" and "Evil Eyes" just fail to do anything special for this album.

Oh, it's not that The Last In Line is a bad album - hell, if this had been the first album, I'd be in a room with other critics, creaming over how innovative Dio was. But instead of continuing to forge ahead, The Last In Line shows Dio choosing to stand in the path he'd already made - and, in a sense, maybe that wasn't the best choice to make.

Rating: B-

User Rating: A-



© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Brothers Records, and is used for informational purposes only.