|Review: Dio - Strange Highways|
Label: Warner Bros. Records
Year released: 1994
Genre: Heavy Metal
Review online: May 17, 2010
Reviewed by: Hermer Arroyo
Rated 4.12/5 (82.4%) (25 Votes)
This was Dio's sixth album and his first after the 90's Black Sabbath reunion. In the four years between Lock Up the Wolves and this one, Ronnie had gone through a lot of changes. Mainly the songwriting itself and the fact that this record once again was made with an entirely new lineup. However, those changes are a welcome addition to an artist that was in need of another direction.
I want to address the songwriting first. There is more material here (quantity-wise) than on anything that he did in the 80's. Most of it is different as well, for example, the lack of a truly fast song by his standards. I don't know if it this is because of Dehumanizer but there is no "We Rock", "Wild One" or "Stand Up and Shout" to be found, although "Here's to You" comes close. Every single track is at a mid pace, however that is not necessarily a bad thing since he balances that with the heaviness on the songs. The album contains some hidden gems that should have been played live more often like "Give Her the Gun", "Blood from a Stone" and the epic title track. Needless to say, this is classic Dio all the way, just because it is different it should not be a reason not to get this album.
Next there is the lineup, as I stated before, an entirely new one. The rhythm section was composed of well known musicians: Jeff Pilson and Vinnie Appice. Both of them do the job and occasionally take center stage, however we all know that music-wise the guitar always takes the spotlight. Here, Dio turned to an unknown in Tracy G and again he found a very good player. I don't know why people have so much problem with his ability. While I didn't love his interpretations of the classics, that is not what I am reviewing here. On this album, he is solid and I found nothing to complain in this aspect. Dio's voice is in top shape as usual but on this album, he uses some vocal effects (especially in the opener), and strangely it doesn't bother me as much as it should.
In the end I feel that Strange Highways is Dio's most underrated album and while I don't consider this to be his best, it definitely belongs in his discography. Contrary to most of his works, this record won't appeal to everyone, it needs time to fully appreciate it. Not a straightforward work by any means and in my opinion a bit of a step back from Lock Up the Wolves. Having said that, the album is much better than many other bands released during the mid 90's.
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