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Magica Review

by Bret Adams

Dio's rock-solid 2000 concept album Magica would have better fit the musical climate 15-25 years beforehand, but a good album is a good album. Ronnie James Dio's band's previous studio effort, 1996's Angry Machines, admirably addressed modern, non-traditional heavy metal topics. But the musically superior Magica is rooted in the dark, mystical themes he perfected on Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and early Dio albums. One important factor is the solid lineup, particularly the return of Craig Goldy, the best guitarist Dio's had in his band besides Vivian Campbell. Bassist Jimmy Bain and drummer Simon Wright also return. Dio seems inspired, and his vocals are more textured than usual. Magica is a detailed fantasy epic about the struggle between good and evil. Several elements are similar to J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved Lord of the Rings novels, which themselves rely on traditional literary archetypes such as heroes, villains, and mythic quests. "Lord of the Last Day" builds slowly with Goldy's dirge-like guitar and Dio's menacing vocals augmented by strings. "Fever Dreams" is tightly arranged and geared for rock radio airplay with Goldy's crisp, snapping guitar and Dio's smooth, slightly edgy vocals. "Turn to Stone" is effective, traditional heavy metal based on slow, heavy rhythm guitar and drums. The most musically complex song is "Feed My Head" due to the hypnotic chorus, multi-tracked harmony vocals, clean guitar and cymbal interplay, slashing strings, and Dio's smooth vocal interlude. Although "As Long As It's Not About Love" has some of the characteristics of a basic power ballad, the arrangement is more detailed and flexible. The album ends with "Magica Story," Dio's 18 1/2-minute spoken narrative; the liner notes include a separate sheet with the complete short story. His warm, rich voice is enhanced with a little bit of echo and faint synthesizer touches occasionally add drama.

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