Few men can claim as much prestige in the Heavy Metal scene as can Ronnie James Dio. The man invented the horns, for goodness sakes and probably has the most impressive solo career of any Metal musician. The first three albums, “Holy Diver,” “The Last In Line,” and “Sacred Heart” are essential for fans of good ol’ Heavy Metal and some might even include “Dream Evil” on that list as well. After those records, however, DIO hit what you might call a slump, releasing a string of unpopular and often off-written records. Luckily, 2000’s “Magica” brings back the glory days of DIO with an added touch of storytelling and experimentation.
That’s right, “Magica” is indeed a concept album. I won’t take the time to explain the concept, since that’s basically what DIO does on track 14, “Magica Story,” which is 15+ minutes of spoken word storytelling from Uncle Ronnie. It’s an interesting way to end the album, but skip-worthy all but the first time you hear it. You don’t even really need to listen to it that time, either, as it comes in printed form with the liner notes. It’s not a terribly original story, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
Kicking things off is “Discovery,” which is basically a mechanized spoken word that introduces the album, leading right into the main “Magica Theme,” a nice instrumental number that reminds me a bit of PINK FLOYD. Right there are two things the reoccur pretty regularly throughout the album: robot voices and PINK FLOYD influence. The former makes it so that there is no way to listen to “Magica” as anything but as a concept album and the latter, along with DIO’s brand of plodding Heavy Metal, makes it definitely enjoyable either way! “Plodding” is definitely the word here, as “Lord Of The Last Day” starts off the album proper with ominously slow and heavy riffage and some sinister vocals by Mr. Dio. The first many songs follow a simple style, with heavy riffage and simple song structures, but don’t think that this is simplistic Metal for dummies – the focus here is Dio’s majestic voice and he definitely delivers both aurally and lyrically. Try not to sing along with “Feed My Head” or get shivers during the half-ballad “As Long As It’s Not About Love.”
Finishing as it began, the album comes to a close with reprises of both the “Magica Theme” and “Lord Of The Last Day” (not counting the “Magica Story,” of course). The last fading bit of “Lord Of The Last Day – Reprise” brings “Magica” satisfying closure, wrapping up not only the album but also the story DIO has woven here.
“Magica” is quite an achievement by DIO and the album goes highly recommended to fans of Heavy Metal of both the literate and thoughtful and the fun and infectious varieties. If you want fantastic stories and epic scope, “Magica” delivers, but if you all want is some hard rocking Metal magic, skip over the story bits and look no further than “Fever Dreams” and “Feed My Head.” Excellent work by DIO! (Online October 19, 2005)