We are finally down to the last album in the first five Dio album review series, Lock Up the Wolves (1990). The album saw a dramatic change in the line-up including Rowan Robertson on guitar, Jens Johansson on keyboards, Teddy Cook on bass, and Simon Wright (the name sounds familiar) on drums. If you haven’t read my review for the band’s previous album, Dream Evil (1987), feel free to check it out! Without further ado, let’s get on with the music!
I barely understood a word Ronnie James Dio was singing on “Wild One.” Though I loved the heavy and heart-pounding drums, the track was too fast-paced and it sounded like Dio was out of breath. Have you ever seen those films where the guy is walking in slow motion away from an exploding house on fire? That’s what “Born on the Sun” sounds like; it’s Dio’s long journey to hell, but also towards freedom. “Hey Angel” is a killer track with an aggressive guitar riff, pounding drums, and Dio’s vocals are demonic and powerful. Like it’s a bit frightening hearing him call the listener his angel.
There’s nothing special about “Between Two Hearts,” and if anything, it’s just a filler. The acoustic guitar during the first minute, and the four minute and 30 second mark did not help one bit. It was a slow-paced track with a weak chorus (“Between two hearts / The kind of love with a reputation”). “Night Music” has a good beat, but I think the verses are better than the chorus lyrically. On the bright side, it had a great guitar solo.
I hate songs with long intros so “Lock Up the Wolves” irritated me quite a bit. The first minute sounds like a clock ticking, then almost another minute goes by when Dio finally starts singing with the simple pounding of the drums, and the guitar adding some edge. It’s another slow-paced track that kicks butt when Dio is singing, but the instrumental sections bugged the heck out of me. For goodness sakes, why the heck is the track eight and a half minutes?
“Evil on Queen Street” is another filler, but I’ll admit that some of the slower tracks have more emphasis on the bass, which I like. First of all, who names a song called “Walk on Water”? That’s a strange title. But I liked that it was straight to the point, no long instrumentals; it was fast-paced, but at least I was able to make out some of Dio’s lyrics. I wasn’t sure whether or not to take a religious approach with “Walk on Water,” especially with the lyrics: “Somebody said we’ll make him strong / He can give us all the answers / Tell us right and show us wrong.” Ok, maybe not.
“Twisted” is another killer track with heavy drums, flavorful guitar playing, and I loved the lyrics (“He was the fortunate one / He could have pulled the trigger / But he couldn’t get the gun”). “Why Are They Watching Me” is a tricky one because I love Dio’s screams and angry vocal performance, the loud and pounding drums, the riff kind of gave me Judas Priest’s “Come and Get It” vibes, but I’m not a fan of the lyrics. I mean I almost couldn’t take Dio seriously when he was singing this: “He was ready to push and shove / Ready to fight for love / But I’ve seen it before / And it can make you crazy / The eyes are what you see.”
The album closed with “My Eyes,” and I thought it was going to be a snoozer because of the title and the acoustic guitar intro, but it wasn’t a bad way to close the album. It had the mellow moments, but it also had those aggressive moments. Before we had “rock ‘n’ roll will never die,” now we have “rock ‘n’ roll lies never end.”
Overall, Lock Up the Wolves is a fantastic record in my book. Some of the lyrics were questionable, but as background music, it’s pretty bada** with the heart-pounding drums, aggressive guitar riffs, the thumping bass lines, and Dio’s angry vocals. To be honest, I got sick of Dio’s voice doing these reviews, but I can’t deny the power in his voice and the impact he left in rock history. I forgot Wright was the drummer for Dio at some point; I’ve mentioned in my AC/DC reviews that I’m a fan of his pounding drum style, so that explains why I enjoyed the drum parts for Lock Up the Wolves. It was a great record to close off this series, so I’d give this album 4 out of 5 stars.
Let me know in the comments below what your favorite song is from Dio’s Lock Up the Wolves!
Take care and see ya real soon!