REVIEW: Dio – Magica (deluxe edition)

DIO – Magica (originally 2000, 2013 Niji deluxe edition)

Although Ronnie James Dio was a very vivid songwriter, he only made one true concept album.  Magica was intended as a trilogy, but only the first part was completed before Dio’s death in 2010.  Magica was released in 2000 as a story of aliens, heroes, villains and magic.  Dio’s new band consisted of returning champions Craig Goldy (from the Dream Evil album) on guitar, drummer Simon Wright (Lock Up the Wolves), and original bassist Jimmy Bain.  The album, co-written by Dio and Goldy, was considered a triumph in its time.  It is a strong return to old-style quality metal after 1996’s questionable Angry Machines CD.  This deluxe edition collects the album and all related tracks together in one place.

Without getting into too much story detail, “Discovery” introduces aliens that serve as a framing story.  Alien explorers have found the ancient planet of Blessing, but are confused by the written records they find.  “Flesh can NOT be mutated into stone, and re-morphed back to the body once again.  Continue the investigation with special attention given to one word:  MAGICA.”

“Lord of the Last Days” is a dramatic and metallic start.  Dio’s slow grooves bring the melody and power of the riff to the fore.  “I love the night, so many shadows,” he sings as the villain character Shadowcast.  A segue brings us to the single “Fever Dreams”, a song so good that it was performed live in 2001 by Deep Purple with Ronnie as guest.  Goldy’s choppy riff is the stuff of metal dreams.  Fans who thought Dio strayed too far from the old school before were very pleased.

The music speeds up and becomes more menacing on “Turn to Stone”.   Evil has made its move!   “Turn to Stone” is classic Dio music, very much in line with Dream Evil (1987).  Goldy turns in some killer solo work here, before we move on to the robotic “Feed My Head”.   The album loses momentum on the long “Eriel”, and the truth is that the story gets too hard to follow without reading along with the liner notes.

Some smoking soloing introduces “Challis”, a memorable rocker that brings the album back on track.  The songs work best when backed by good old riffs.  “Challis” is quintessential hard rock Dio, but Dio also has a tender side.  The album’s ballad “As Long as it’s Not About Love” is long but exemplary.  Then it’s a celtic sounding jig on “Losing My Insanity”, before it transforms into something heavier and almost Sabbathy.

The deluxe edition of Magica contains the original Japanese bonus track, an instrumental called “Annica”.  This is on CD 2, but for the most authentic listening experience, you should move it back to where it belongs, on the first disc between “Losing My Insanity” and “Otherworld”.  This guitar piece really shows off Craig Goldy’s style and tone. Then “Otherworld” is the climax of the story, good triumphing over evil, and a nice dramatically heavy track.

The alien framing story returns with a reprise of “Lord of the Last Days”, indicating that the tale is not over.  Far from it.

The final track on the original album has been moved to CD 2: Dio reading “The Magica Story”, also included inside as text.  This is 18 minutes of some of the dullest narration you’ve ever heard.  Finishing it once is a challenge, listening to it regularly as a part of the album is madness.  Instead, skip to “Electra”, the only song they finished for Magica 2 (or 3).  “Electra” was the last single that Dio released in his lifetime, as part of a box set called Tournado.  It sounds like a part of Magica, perhaps indicating the next album would have been darker.  It’s sad but gratifying to know that the last song Dio put out was a good one.*

Five rare live tracks round out the set, all songs from Magica never released on anything else.  Live, the band featured Alice Cooper bassist Chuck Garric in Jimmy Bain’s place.  “Fever Dreams” is particularly good, a little bit faster than the original.  “As Long as it’s Not About Love” has more passion in the live setting.  Most fans have not had the chance to hear live versions of the Magica songs before this package came out.

When Magica was originally released, I was lucky enough to get the Japanese version right away.  I was hoping for something more like old Dio, and less like Angry Machines.  Judging from my time in the Record Store, I think many Dio fans lost interest in the band after Angry Machines.  One of my old customers, Glen, was turned around by Magica.  I recommended it to him, and he loved it.  Now, I’m recommending it to you.

4.25/5 stars

 

* Former Dio guitarist Doug Aldrich recently stated that he is in possession of a complete demo with vocals of another Magica 2 song.  He has offered it to Wendy Dio to release.

Advertisements

19 comments

  1. Cool to read about this album as I have been on a bit of DIO kick in regards to Holy Diver and Sabbaths Live Evil(Thanks Aaron)…
    I recalls seeing this one but never took the plunge….
    Good stuff Mikey

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Right, it’s getting hard to keep up with all the re-releases of everything. Thanks once again for recommending that Stranger to Us all remaster. I’m really digging it.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I struggle when stuff gets moved around (like Annica here) on newer editions – I’m expecting to hear certain notes when the song before it wraps up, and the flow gets disrupted when those notes don’t happen!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well Geoff, only people who have heard the Japanese version would remember that Annica goes between two other songs. For everyone else they are hearing the track for the first time.

      For me, yes it would be annoying to hear it on the wrong disc. For you? You’d dig it either way :)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I commented but it disappeared… basically, I’d said I haven’t heard this later stuff Dio stuff but if those players are involved, it doesn’t matter if he reads the phone book for 18 minutes, you know the tunes are gonna rock. Right on!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for reviewing this one Mike and fer the heads up!

    Man, nowadays I probably listen to Magica more than any other DIO record although have always loved it since its release. And I don’t think there’s any better start to a DIO album than Lord of the Last Day quite rightly described by Mike as ‘powerful’ indeed.

    After the wonderful introduction being greeted by that wall of sound and massive vocal during the opening number is borderline perfection, and by doing so with what can only be considered a slow number, was not only daring but a true statement of intent \m/

    And Mike’s done his homework, the remainder of the album a solid listen right through and I find myself agreeing with most his preferred highlights in particular Fever Dreams and Turn To Stone essential. And I’d throw the coin down again for the anthemic balladry (and generally too long a titled) As Long It’s Not About Love for its pure emotion.

    Never cared too much for the concept story but there’s value to be added if you need it and the cover art was okay at best. But the music on offer was and remains nothing short of excellent and was terribly saddened by Ronnie’s passing and that little moreso knowing that he didn’t get to finish his Magica trilogy (RIP).

    A 4.5 from me thanks Mike \m/

    Like

Rock a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s