Dio - Lock Up the Wolves
Reprise Records
Classic Heavy Metal with a touch of Blues
11 songs (61'04")
Release year: 1990
Dio, Reprise Records
Reviewed by Alex
Archive review

Two albums in 1990 can qualify as Major Events. Yes, there were Black Sabbath’s Tyr, Dickinson’s solo debut, King Diamond’s The Eye, not too memorable Deep Purple’s Slaves and Masters, U.D.O. running out of steam with Faceless World and Accept who dared to go without Udo on Eat the Heat. None left a huge a mark on Metal (if you can qualify Deep Purple as such). The Major Events were Megadeth’s finest hour with Rust in Peace and Judas Priest’s phoenix-like rebirth and flameout with Painkiller. The question is, then, where does Dio with Lock Up the Wolves fit in the context of 1990?

Being good is difficult. Being exceptional is impossible. With his first four albums – godly Holy Diver, Last in Line, Sacred Heart and Dream Evil – Ronnie James Dio created four monoliths. To follow those standards would be impossible for any metal artist. Three-year break and total lineup revamping followed after 1987’s Dream Evil. In 1990 Lock Up the Wolves saw the light of day.

It could be that Dio ran into a proverbial wall with Lock Up the Wolves, or he simply felt like experimenting somewhat, but this album made a dual impression on me back then. It still does. You can almost drive the wedge down the middle between where Dio adheres to what he has learned in “Heaven and Hell” school (and used so well before) and “blues metal”. It is funny to see how some songs attribute songwriting credits to Bain and Campbell, both no longer in the band. Could it be those songs were “leftovers” from previous years? Could young guitar prodigy Rowan Robertson, who co-authored many of the songs, made an influence? The answer will never be given.

The album starts with three slabs of Dio-cooked classic heavy metal. Wild One is a rolling thunder traditional Dio opener with a chorus that sticks to you like Clingwrap. Usually, the title track followed, but Born on the Sun, a cross between Straight through the Heart and Rock’n’Roll Children comes roaring away. And it is a good thing it does, as title track did not meet my expectations. More on that below. Drums are highlighted on Born on the Sun, as well as on the rest of Lock Up the Wolves. Part of this is famous Simon Wright (AC/DC) who does an excellent job, part is a “heavy” bottom end loaded production. Closing polyphonic chorus on Born on the Sun is a nice touch. Hey Angel is a more straightforward two-riff song, but Between Two Hearts is a “heavy” Dio, churning up the emotions. The things hit the snag for me with Night Music, but the slow, meandering title track, and more so the following Evil on Queen Street epitomize Dio’s plunging into the waters of blues. Or, could it be Rowan’s idea again? Walk on Water brings the “normal” Dio back only for the three closing tracks to tread closely to the blues territory one more time. The way I am keeping score it is 6-5 blues-traditional classic metal. Dio’s voice is in fine shape on all songs, regardless of the “direction”. World reknowned keyboardist Jens Johansson (Malmsteen’s Rising Force, and later Stratovarius) makes absolutely no impact on the album. If you didn’t read the booklet, you wouldn’t know he was in the band except for the couple of spots.

As I am writing this I am beginning to realize that I am too negative. Hey, blues ain’t a bad thing. It is just Lock Up the Wolves is a slower, more introspective and meandering, less fiery than any of the previous four opuses. You have to “work” while listening to this album, while all albums before it came at you as a tsunami wave. I listen to this album once in a while, but not as often as the others. Lock Up the Wolves along with Angry Machines are the only Dio albums that rank below 90 in my book.

It could be coincidence, or it could be prophetic juncture, but Dio needed a battery recharge after Lock Up the Wolves. No wonder a brief Black Sabbath reunion (Dehumanizer) followed. The Elf came back, and he is here to stay.

Killing Songs :
Wild One, Born on the Sun, Between Two Hearts, Walk on Water
Alex quoted 81 / 100
Jeff quoted 75 / 100
Shane quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Dio that we have reviewed:
Dio - Sacred Heart reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Dio - The Last In Line reviewed by Goat and quoted CLASSIC
Dio - Dream Evil reviewed by Thomas and quoted 93 / 100
Dio - Holy Diver Live reviewed by Jeff and quoted no quote
Dio - Master of the Moon reviewed by Jeff and quoted 78 / 100
To see all 10 reviews click here
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