The Last in Line
Released July 2, 1984
Many will say that Holy Diver was THE definitive DIO album, so it’s pointless reviewing that classic. However The Last in Line following up That classic (in 1984) was always going to be difficult. Not a problem from a man who had such a pedigree under his belt. I can’t think of any artist who has been involved in so many defining albums as the legendary Ronnie James DIO. This album stands alongside Holy Diver with ease.
The songs are all well written and executed To perfection. “We Rock” is not quite the opener as “Stand up and Shout” was, but then “Egypt” (the chains are on is the classic closer). This album has it all; haunting melodies and crushing riffs all powered by the giant presence of RJDs perfect vocals. Visions of witches, wizards, magic and majesty; good against Evil – they’re all present in this album. This is the album that confirmed that Holy Diver wasn’t a one of fluke.
My personal favourite from this masterpiece was “One Night In The City”; its proof indeed that there is a pot of gold at the end of a Rainbow. There’s not a bad song on this masterpiece so go “Eat your Heart Out” this album will leave you “Breathless”. I’m giving it a 9.5 (not 10 because Stand Up and Shout beats We Rock)
State of Euphoria
Released September 19, 1988
The year 1988 was a joyous time for this nineteen year old metal loving teenager. Most everyone I know at the time were enthralled with Metallica’s…And Justice for All; released on August 25th of that year and rightly so. For me though, the other big release of that year came a month later in the form of State of Euphoria courtesy of New York City’s Anthrax. It was the fourth studio release from these East Coast thrash pioneers and it reached number 30 on the Billboard 200 chart and went certified gold in early ’89. Not bad for a band riding high off the heels of previous release Among the Living (considered a thrash classic). For my money’s worth, this album tore me to pieces in ways that Justice couldn’t. The thrash was frenetic at times; coupled with smart lyrics and packaged with a mind-disorienting cover image that I kept looking at over and over.
The songs on State displayed a more sardonic and witty side of the band and backed by my favourite track “Make Me Laugh” (about the evils of Televangelism). Of course, the group dipped back into Stephen King territory for “Misery Loves Company” and used David Lynch’s scatological brain-fuck – Blue Velvet as inspiration for “Now It’s Dark”. There’s also some social commentary centering on the urban troubles of homelessness for “Who Cares Wins” and a cover of “Antisocial” from the band Trust that has now become a popular staple in their live set.
There are some that say this album failed to live up to expectations following Among the Living, but yet the band decided to reveal a whimsical side; just based on utilizing Mad Magazine’s Mort Drucker for the back cover album art. For me though, the band’s solidarity is proof when you consider the tours they went out on with Iron Maiden, Ozzy, Metallica and Living Colour; thus cementing their thrash metal elite status of that year.
My favorite tracks on this are: “Out of Sight, Out of Mind”, “Make Me Laugh”, “Antisocial”, “Who Cares Wins”, “Now It’s Dark” and “Misery Loves Company”. I’m giving this a whopping 9 out of 10.
Flotsam & Jetsam
Released October 13, 1992
In 1992, Flotsam & Jetsam released their fourth studio album appropriately titled Cuatro (meaning the number four in Spanish). There are some ardent thrash fans who believe this album may have been the beginning of the end for the band, but I beg to differ. It’s true that the band was leaning far and away from the thrash template established at the start of their career, but Cuatro streamlined their sound and opened the door for some solid song-writing in the process. In particular Chris Cornell (of Soundgarden fame) who co-wrote the “The Message” with the band; notwithstanding the superior “Swatting at Flies”; which is now a staple in their live shows.
In my mind, Cuatro proved the band had more in mind than just mindless chugging and relentless aggression. Sure the youthful anger might be pulled back some, but mature song-writing and thought provoking lyrics take centre stage here. There is certainly a slight twist of Grunge permeating a track like “Wading Through the Darkness”, but speedy numbers like “Natural Enemies”, “Never to Reveal” and “Hyperdermic Midnight Snack” provides the album with enough of a metallic edge. There’s even a thrashy-groove vibrating through “Are You Willing” and the exclamation point is slammed down on final track “(Ain’t Nothing Gonna) Save this World”; complete with sampling and an experimental approach to song structure.
Cuatro was re-released on May 13, 2008 by Metal Mind Productions with new packaging and liner notes from the band. For my money’s worth, I’m giving this a solid 8 out of 10 and will say the album might be on par with Metallica’s Black Album in terms of rejigging the thrash sound for the 90’s. Some great numbers are: “Natural Enemies”, “Swatting at Flies”, “The Message”, “Cradle Me Now”, “Never to Reveal” and “Hyperdermic Midnight Snack”.