With an appearance on South Park under his belt, Dave Grohl wearing his T-shirt onstage, and “Holy Diver” the only experiment that didn’t suck Satan’s penis on Pat Boone’s 1997 lounge-metal CD, Ronnie James Dio could almost be mistaken for hip. So if you’re a troll lurking under a bridge, a goblin molesting a fairy princess, or just an everyday demonspawn picking your nose, it’s your lucky day—Dio hath returned. And they’ve returned with what they do best: ye olde style chugging riffs, lung-busting vocals, bloodstained swords to the scrotum, and an uncompromising embrace of all things headbanger.
The new Magica is a concept album, replete with orchestrated opening theme and an 18-minute narrative reading from Ronnie. Said story concerns a quest for power in a medieval, magic kingdom—good vs. evil, three-toed elves, the usual. The chords to “Fever Dreams,” the most melodious track, cascade forth like boiling water over a castle wall. Ronnie’s full-throttled yelps suggest he’s somewhere down beneath it.
Onetime Rainbow and Black Sabbath vocalist and full-time mystic pixie Dio also has a few guest vocal spots on the new album by fellow thud-veterans Deep Purple. For In Concert, a bunch of oboes and violas team up with a band whose combined age just about takes ’em back beyond the invention of the harpsichord.
Despite no one paying attention, the late ’90s were good creatively for Deep Purple—albums Purpendicular and Abandon were full of well-written songs. Their new double-disc live set with the London Symphony is not as pop-savvy as Metallica’s orchestral collaboration, the worth of the classical half being directly proportional to your patience for this type of merger. But as with Dio, the attention to detail, exemplary musicianship, and lyrical flights of fancy forge into a work no two-headed minotaur could easily ignore.
Dio play Irving Plaza April 29.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 25, 2000