Dio – Strange Highways – Review


Strange Highways (Reprise)
by Paul Lee

He keeps the unwavering banner of heavy metal flying high for the whole rock ‘n’ roll world to see. He’s been around for a while with his distinctively melodic growl and he won’t let us forget him. He is Ronnie James Dio and he’s not a guy to slip into the latest musical or fashionable trend. With his new album on Reprise entitled Strange Highways, Dio pounds away with the distinctive power metal that RJD forged with Black Sabbath and the earlier Dio line-ups.

Strange Highways is a meaty, alloy filled album without a single hit-single or pretty song. No confusion here about what music is feeding your head; Dio is no-bullshit power metal, much like the classic musical force of the early ’80s. Mighty power chords, screaming leads, thundering drums, and Dio’s characteristic roar saturate this album with lots of energy. He knows he’s not creating any futuristic or unexplored territory here, but Dio does what he does best (and his voice is perfect for the role).
Strange Highways has the classic sorts of metallic grooves, the chugging rhythms and squealing harmonics. Dio also knows how to toss some melodic intros and interludes into the mix to keep the balance with harmony. Some may call the music cliched but it’s no more so than the blues that great musicians like Robert Cray continue to play. This is thundering stuff here that the metallic faithful will love and the alternative folks will likely detest.

Filled with songs about religion, hell, and general dark and sundry topics, Strange Highways shakes the foundations of any building as a good metal album should. “Jesus, Mary & the Holy Ghost” begins the Earth-splitting pace that never seems to relent. With Jeff Pilson’s (of Dokken fame) battering bass starts up “Evilution” and Vinnie Appice (of Dio and Sabbath) bludgeons his drums as the unwieldly pace hammers on. There isn’t a weak tune here as the testosterone-induced tunes flow. Traci G. (of WWIII) keeps the ax grinding and reminds me of former Dio guitarist, Vivian Campbell, in chunkiness and wailing and yes, the man can shred.

If you are a metal zealot and aren’t afraid to admit to it, procure a copy of Dio’s newest thundering creation. Don’t expect any extreme diversity, this is a straight forward power extravaganza of the true metallic sort. This may well be Dio’s heaviest to date (and he didn’t even resort to doing thrash) and could possibly be the equal of Holy Diver and Last in Line. Even if you dig grunge and modern punk but were once a metal kid (I being the guilty sort), you might just be able to sink some fangs into Strange Highways.