REVIEW: Dio – Lock Up the Wolves (1990)

DIO – Lock Up the Wolves (1990)

July 1990: A M.E.A.T. Magazine interview (issue #14) with Ronnie James Dio states that he was unhappy with Dream Evil, one of my favourite Dio albums. He felt the songwriting was unfinished, that the songs needed tightening up. Supposedly some of the changes he made were a response to that. If that’s indeed the case, then Lock of the Wolves came as a total shock. These songs feel even less finished than any Dio album before.

Dio had completely revamped his band. Craig Goldy (guitar) was the first one to leave. Apparently Vinnie Appice, Jimmy Bain and Claude Schnell didn’t care for Goldie, but they all ended up departing too. Ronnie was no longer happy with the writing process nor the dischord that had set into the making of Dream Evil.  Because of these circumstances he was able to revamp the entire Dio lineup but not by choice.

Ronnie took on a young and international crew: Swedish Jens Johansson on keyboards (ex-Yngwie Malmsteen), new York kid Teddy Cook on bass, ex-AC/DC skin-pounder Simon Wright, and the young 17 year old Scot, Rowan Robertson as his new guitar wizard. Robertson won the role after a cattle-call resulted in 5000 tapes sent to Dio for his consideration.  The end combination was a band of skilled players, but lacking in road-tested chemistry. Plus the pressure was certainly on Robertson, having guitarists like Vivian Campbell and Richie Blackmore writing the solos you were going to be playing.

About half the album was written when Bain and Appice were still in the band, and they appear on several writing credits. Robertson has a co-write on every song, and Jens Johansson has two, while new bassist Cook has one. Regardless of the numerous writers, the album is very singular in its direction. That is to say Lock Up the Wolves is a painfully sloooowww Dio album.

I was very disappointed that there are only a couple fast rockers to keep the blood pumping. The first track, “Wild One”, fools you into thinking this album will be a rocking good time full of tasty guitar hooks and wicked Dio lyrics. However, “Born On The Sun”, while boasting a great chorus melody, sags and droops. “Hey Angel” and “Between Two Hearts” are more of the same. I kept waiting for another fast song, or just something different to keep me awake. I had realized that Lock Up the Wolves is loaded with boring pseudo-bluesy riffs, slow to the point of coma-inducing.

The only slow tunes that really have spark of any kind are the monstrous title track (over 8 minutes of drama) and the ballady “My Eyes”. “My Eyes” is my personal favourite track on the album, and perhaps worth the price of purchase if you can find the album cheap. It’s also fun to play the game “How many of Dio’s other song titles are in the lyrics?” with this one.  The CD-only bonus track “Why Are They Watching Me” is the only other serious fast rocker on the album, and I have no idea why it was the CD-only bonus track, because the album desperately needed a kick in the pants.

And that is Lock Up the Wolves in a nutshell. Approximately 50 minutes of slow, pseudo-bluesy guitar and dull rhythms. About 10 minutes of heavy metal. That’s it.

I do love the cover art.

2/5 stars

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65 comments

      1. I’ve heard great things about the newest two or three, but I’m untrusting, I think almost all albums I’ve bought by a band after their first five or so good ones are usually not really as good as they should be.

        Some exceptions, like Exodus and Testament, and the two new Kiss albums, but largely, even when they are surprisingly good, they’re often skipable.

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  1. I bought this at the time as well Mike on cassette and for Dio product it was left behind as well. Like you said the cover was cool but the music ..mmmm not so much and well I bought into the Dio hype of the young guitar flash he had plucked. Seems talented but this was my last Dio purchase until the Heaven And Hell Live At Radio City cd release.
    Cool you added the MEAT articles..good flashback…..

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      1. No I don’t think I did. If I remember right I gave up during the 2nd side. It was actually the 1st Dio album I ever bought so it put me off buying any of his solo stuff for a while. I’d only heard him in Sabbath at that point.

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  2. Six words:

    DIO! DIO! DIO! DIO! DIO! DIO!

    Ahem. You know, slow and bluesy doesn’t have to induce coma. It’s its own thing. I’d need to hear this record to be sure, but I can only imagine (if Dio put his name on it) it’s still gotta be done with class and style. He did metal on his other records. This one sounds like it was a departure. Cool!

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    1. Well, Dio’s been known to drop a stinker from time to time. People don’t like to speak ill of the dead, but I can’t recommend Angry Machines to anyone. It’s awful. Master of the Moon wasn’t that good, although Strange Highways had its moments. I would rank these 4 albums as Dio’s worst.

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      1. Angry Machines is pure crap and Strange Highways isn’t that far behind. Kill The Dragon and Master Of The Moon doesn’t really go anywhere. Why would anybody wanna hire Doug Aldrich? Hallo Coverdale? Dio? The guy has about as much groove as my refrigerator…
        Magica was ok though, but I don’t think that Dio managed to hire one really great guitar player after Vivian Campbell. That Tracy G guy was awful. But his band WWIII were great. Jimmy Bain and Vinny Appice were members of that band as well.

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        1. Yepp. But I love his voice. I think he’s awesome. He did sing and co-wrote on song on George Lynch’s Sacred Groove album, The Beast. Awesome song.

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      2. You know, man, all of this sounds like a challenge to me, like now I need to hear this (and the others people consider lesser). I almost always like albums that other people dislike. That’s me, the weirdo.

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  3. To be honest, and I’m a huge Ronnie James Dio fan, I think that Dio only released three great albums – Holy Diver, The Last In Line and Sacred Heart. Sure, Dream Evil had its moments, I Could have Been A Dreamer is really good and All The Fools Sailed Away is quite superb, but the rest of the album goes from ok to mediocre.
    This album, however, is a mystery to me. I remember buying this the day it came out and I have disliked it from day one. Not one single good track on it. Which is weird because Jimmy Bain usually has a thing for writing catchy melodies and riffs. But I guess his heroin addiction had gotten the best of him by then.
    But just the other week, I picked up this CD once again and thought “what the heck, let’s see how it holds up today” as it was years and years since I last played it. And you know what? I really dug it. A lot. All of a sudden I heard shitloads of stuff I never noticed before. How about that? I’d give it a 7/10 today. back when it came out I’d have given it 3/10…

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    1. I don’t know if I’ve ever had the experience where I put this album on and it pleasantly surprised me. You’re right that Jimmy Bain is usually up to a much higher standard in songwriting.

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  4. I lost interest after Dream Evil, which was one of my favourites too. It was a big LP for all our metal crew. I think this highlights the whole lack of an act being a proper band, hired hands don’t get to say ‘no, that’s not a good idea’ very often.

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      1. It’s actually pretty interesting, when you think of the Dio – WWIII connection, that Rowan Robertson later started the band Wicked Alliance with WIII singer Mandy Lion…

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    1. Actually for me I lost interest after the Intermission Ep….I don’t know why Dream Evil did not catch on with me,never bought it and actually have never heard it…..and than I buy Lock Up The Wolves..hahahahaha …..crazy fickle music fan I am,well back than….

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      1. Well dude perhaps this will serve as the impetus I need to review that deluxe edition. I’d like nothing more than to turn you onto it! All The Fools Sailed Away is reason enough to listen to it.

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        1. I dunno about this Piper deal..cool u guys dig it but like I said I threw Headless Childern on my iPod last week and listened to it hardcore for a few days and now it’s like forgotten again ….for me lately it has been the KISS Ritz show and Slang! That’s been what I been listening to….

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        2. Dio himself hated the sound of Dream Evil, it is pretty lame, I give him that, and he said that Claude Schnell ruined because he “sounded like a fucking amusement park…”

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        1. This IS slowing down! LOL. It started with Queen – The Works being on sale for $8 on Amazon, remastered 2 CD set. I said, “Well, that’s a steal” and then as you know you need to spend $25 to get free shipping. So as you can see, I was shopping smartly :)

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  5. Jesus we just had 30cm of snow here in the last 17hrs…practically shut down the whole city including the Landfill!!…so it’s nice to chill and read at Landano HQ! After shovelling like crazy to keep up! Fortunately my neighbour has a snow blower and did my driveway this pm when I was at work after I shovelled at least 15 cm @ 5:30 am today!

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    1. I wouldn’t survive a T-Bay winter dude! We had a bit of snow last night and then a melt and rain this morning…so that’s when the office foundation started to leak. Work smelled like poo for a couple hours.

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  6. For me Mike Queens The Game is my fav of there’s as that was the first of there albums I purchased. Also I really enjoy the Live Rocks Montreal cd release from the Game tour. Esp when Mercury belittles the crowd for not singing on Save Me I think…..

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  7. And yep Jovi’s Jersey is a classic…..Homebound Train is a cooker man….people get lost on the singles but there’s some good deeper tracks on there….

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  8. I have to post this, because he put so much work into it. Andy on Facebook has this to say:

    First of all Mike, thanks for inviting me to comment on this album; I guess I always was the unofficial “Dio expert” on the panel, lol. And sorry for taking so long to post this – I didn’t check Facebook for a day and a half *right* after you put this up, go figure …
    Now as for Lock Up The Wolves, I disagree strongly with you on this one, and on Dio as a whole in this era. In my opinion, Dio’s previous album, Dream Evil, was a weak effort, and it’s my least-favourite album of his 1980’s phase, which I refer to as his “dungeons and dragons and rainbows” phase, before he got all angry at the world in the 1990s. And just to be clear, yes I include 1990 as part of the decade of the 1980s, as a decade is from the year ending in one to the year ending on zero, so the decade of the 80s encompasses the years 1981-1990, hence Lock Up The Wolves, released in 1990, is from the 80s. Got it? Good. Let’s move on.
    So Dream Evil was, to me, a really weak album – my criticisms of it are almost identical to your criticisms of Lock Up The Wolves: It has a rocking, head-banging opening track in the song “Night People,” and then the rest of the album sucks. Okay, it doesn’t outright *suck* (that would be Angry Machines in 1996), but all the rest of the songs are, well, really slow, kind of boring – sound familiar? The only other song that comes close to being good is All The Fools Sailed Away, and that’s a very slow-moving ballad. So I was really disappointed by Dream Evil, all in all.
    I was excited when Lock Up The Wolves came out in 1990, and was doubly-pleased when I got it on CD as a birthday gift from my girlfriend at the time, Melissa Valade – remember her Mike? – and I listened to it start-to-finish, which is how I prefer to listen to my albums. I really enjoyed it, and felt that it was back to the quality of Dio’s “holy trilogy” of awesome early solo work (Holy Diver, The Last In Line, and Sacred Heart).
    You complain that Lock Up The Wolves is, for the most part, slower in pace, and yet you *love* Dream Evil, which is exactly the same! So what’s the difference? In my opinion, Lock Up The Wolves is actually *not* as slow as Dream Evil, because it has two fast, rocking songs that are better than anything on Dream Evil (including “Night People”), those songs being “Wild One” and “Why Are They Watching Me.” You mention those two songs in your review, and yet in regards to those two songs you complain that Lock Up The Wolves has “only a couple” of fast rockers on it, but this is a bit disingenuous, and I’ll tell you why. Remember Dio’s “holy trilogy” of albums to start his solo career? Each of those has “only” a couple of really rockin’ songs on it, with most of the rest of the album being slower, introspective songs. Holy Diver: “Stand Up And Shout” and “Rainbow In The Dark.” The Last In Line: “We Rock” and “I Speed At Night.” Sacred Heart: “King Of Rock And Roll” and “Like The Beat Of A Heart.” I dare you to point out any others that are really pulse-pounding head-bangers … because there aren’t. The title cuts to all three albums are glorious rock anthems, but all of them are fairly slow-paced. Any others of the really good stuff on those albums are also slower songs, but they are still awesome.
    So you saying that Lock Up The Wolves “only” has two rockin’ songs is, as I said above, disingenuous, because *all* of Dio’s 1980’s heyday albums (except for Dream Evil, which only has one … and yet you love it!) “only” have two fast songs apiece; it’s the rest of the songs on each album that make them a bad album (Dream Evil) or good albums (all of the other ones). In the case of all the good albums, there are still absolute gems among the slower-paced songs – a song doesn’t necessarily have to induce head-banging to be great (although it always helps, lol).
    So in the case of Lock Up The Wolves, we’ve established that the two fast, rockin’ songs (“Wild One” and “Why Are They Watching Me”) are really *good* songs, and what about the others, the slower, often more introspective ones? This is the meat of the issue – you don’t like them, while I for the most part love them. IMHO, “Born On The Sun” is a great song. You seem to almost think so too, as you describe it as “boasting a great chorus melody,” which it definitely does, but then you go on to criticize it anyway – it’s almost like you were looking for reasons *not* to like this album rather than reason *to* like it. (Maybe you were having a bad day when you first listened to it, and this forever impacted your opinion of it?)
    To go on, “Hey Angel” and “Between Two Hearts”, which you’re blase on, I like. I agree with you that the title track is awesome, your description of it as “monstrous,” and “over 8 minutes of drama” is bang-on. “Evil On Queen Street” is a great song, and for me it has the extra positive aspect of essentially being a song about Kitchener, lol, as there really was a lot of “evil on Queen Street” back when I was 19 when this album came out, lol.
    Finally, “My Eyes” is a *great* song, as I happen to love retrospective songs by artists, and for me, it was a huge bonus that, the very first time I ever listened to this song, I *instantly* recognized all of the references to his previous works that Dio wrote into this song. It was like I was a member of a select and exclusive group, which essentially I guess I was as a huge Dio fan, and the Grandmaster himself was giving us all a nod with this song, sort of a, “Are you familiar with all of these songs I’m mentioning?” I most definitely was familiar with them, and that enhanced my enjoyment of this song then, and ever since. And for the record, by my count there are ten references to previous work in his career contained in “My Eyes.” They are, in order: Falling Off The Edge Of The World (from the Black Sabbath album, The Mob Rules), Man On The Silver Mountain (from Rainbow’s first album, Ritchie Blackmore’s), Rainbow Rising (Rainbow’s second album), Heaven And Hell (Dio’s first album with Sabbath, and the glorious title cut), Stargazer (from Rainbow’s second album, Rising), Invisible (from Holy Diver), Dream Evil (needs no explanation at this point), Rock and Roll Children (from Sacred Heart), Another Lie (also from Sacred Heart), and finally the title of the song itself, “My Eyes” is either a reference to the song “Evil Eyes” from The Last In Line, but it also *could* be a reference to “Do You Close Your Eyes” from the Rainbow album Rising (it likely is the first and not the second, but I just wanted to be complete about it). And if I’ve missed any, please fill me in!
    So all in all, I have always felt that Lock Up The Wolves is a great album – maybe not *quite* as good as his first three solo efforts, but damned close to them and definitely a *lot* better than the weak Dream Evil. I find it really interesting that our opinions on his first three albums are the same, but are so flipped when it comes to his fourth and fifth efforts – you love Dream Evil, I hate it, and vice versa on Lock Up The Wolves. I guess it goes to show that with art (and music most definitely is art, in fact it’s the liveliest art), beauty and enjoyment are definitely up to the purveyor.
    And I have always considered you to be a really good friend, ever since Mrs. Callon’s history class in 1990-1991, so I won’t hold it against you for being so wrong.

    P.S.

    We do at least agree on one thing about Lock Up The Wolves: The cover art is excellent!

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    1. Like The Beat Of A Heart is not a fast song. It has more of a Purple-groove (well, the riff is stolen from Purple’s Love Child anyway…), so I guess Sacred Heart only has one as well. But you could count Just Another day, but that one’s more of a pop influenced song, so there you go.
      Ah, and All The Fools Sailed Away might be slow, but it is an epic track and has more in common with a song like Egypt than any ballad.
      And I would call Evil Eyes a fast song so, I guess The Last In Line has three.
      My point is, fast tracks, slow tracks, ballads, epic songs, all of that lies many times in the eye (ear?) of the beholder – it’s pretty hard to state whatever’s right. And in the end, you like what you like no matter how hard, fast or slow the music might be.

      And I just want to say one thing that might get me beheaded – I love when Dio goes pop – Rainbow In The Dark, Mystery, Hungry For Heaven and Rock And Roll Children – brilliant songs.

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      1. No beheadings here Jon. I like those songs too. Mystery might have been the first one I ever heard! I can’t remember! But I still love it, and Rainbow in the Dark was just on the radio two hours ago!

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  9. Have been knee deep in the Dio classic period this past couple weeks and finding it ever so hard to move on from them, some great stuff fer sure.

    Ya know I gotta say now, not then but certainly with the benefit of time, Lock Up The Wolves has aged very well in fact would quite happily say it’s not only far better than remember but actually pretty bloody good.

    Wild One opens in typically good Dio fashion and while slow, Born On The Sun is tops. Love the melody the chorus is sublime… Night Music is fun and paying particular attention to Hey Angel (as it was used to showcase the album during a promo interview) it too is terrific. Walk On Water is a ripper and Why Are They Watching Me is a highlight, to be honest think it’s far better than many Dio tunes of similar ilk that came before! And My Eyes is the perfect finish to the album, can’t imagine anyone other than the mighty Ronnie doing such vocal justice to the tune, very moving and a tasty album closer!

    So after years of pegging just those first 4 records (I say 4 because I too think Dream Evil as good as Sacred Heart), very close to saying it was 5 great records before the 90’s saw Dio running into walls (until the comeback of comebacks that was Magica!).

    I woulda been a 2 back when too but now, personally rating this at ‘least’ a 3 no less!

    Thanks for the review (and as always LOVE the pics and additions cheers!)
    Man I love these Dio records, RIP Ronnie yer music still lives on!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wardy I like to bring out the old magazine articles to help illustrate a review. Always glad to do it. You’ll be happy to know I’ve polished off another Dio review, a good one too.

      Try as I might though, I just can’t get into Lock up the Wolves. I’m really glad others like it though!

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    2. Wardy,
      Guess what album I’m reviewing this morning? Just finished Edge of Thorns!

      It’s been an ambitious week. I’ve not taken it easy. I chose a 2 CD Dio deluxe, a Queen album, and Edge of Thorns to tackle. Pretty awesome music :)

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