On October 4, 1996, "Angry Machines", Dio's seventh studio album, was released in Japan (and 11 days later also in the US).
This is perhaps the most "different" album in Dio's marvelous catalog, and probably the title of this album best describes what makes it so. This album is dark, heavy, gloomy but mostly "angry", of all Dio's albums. It has almost no melody, certainly no catchy tunes and it combines elements of Doom Metal, Groove Metal, and Industrial Metal, so the words "Angry Machines" definitely characterize what happens inside.
Despite the difference from the rest of the albums and although Dio is definitely not in his comfort zone, we think it is a good album that matched the spirit of the era and was simply underrated.
The album continues the line that started in "Strange Highways", released in 1994, and if we stretch it a bit further, it could even be the little nephew of Dehumanizer who Ronnie James Dio released along with "Black Sabbath" in 1992.
It should be remembered that at the time, the slogan "Les Is More" was written on the wall. The nineties were the years of grunge, alternative, groove metal, and industrial, none of these styles connected with melody, sweet singing, or virtuoso solos, so you can say this album was an experiment of Dio to adapt to the musical spirit of that period. Indeed, beyond the heavy sound and dark style, even Ronnie James Dio himself sounds on this album as angry and vicious as he has ever sounded.
The one who is essentially responsible for the heavy sound of the album is guitarist Tracy G who joined the band on the previous album and even then started pulling the band towards groove metal. Years later Tracy G was interviewed and noted that no attempt by him to change the band's style could have passed without the approval of Ronnie James Dio, and even if he did try to pull in a certain direction, then Dio could veto it if he was not interested.
The heaviness and change can be heard from the first note of the album, straight on the opening track "Institutional Man". The slow and cruel drum beats of Vinny Appice, which is his latest album with the band, lead us to one of the heaviest riffs, chainsaws, and crunches we heard on any "Dio" album, light years away from Vivian Campbell's catchy and melodic riffs from the early 1980s.
But the change in sound does not only come from the direction of heavy guitars. There's also Dio's vicious vocals like in the song "Big Sister", and there are the crazy drums in the opening of "Don't Tell the Kids". Listen to Jeff Pilson's terrifying bass sound in the opening of "Hunter of the Heart", listen to the dark keyboards of Scott Warren who just seemed to be taken from a horror movie in the middle of the song "Stay Out of My Mind" and understand what we're talking about.
Despite the heaviness of this album and the fact that it does not have a single song that can be said to be melodic and catchy, it is a strong metal album that has some great tracks.
The syncopations and breaks of "Black" do it for us in a big way. The opening riff of "Double Monday" throws us straight to Seattle in good vibes and when the song suddenly breaks with the short acoustic section the contrast feels to us like mixing coffee with alcohol. Increasing the rhythm after the opening of "Don't Tell the Kids" that explodes on us suddenly like a sprint run, or the "Black Sabbath" heaviness with the arpeggio riff of "Stay Out of my Mind" takes us back to Birmingham England, 20 years earlier.
Ahhh .. and this album ends in great dissonance with the song which is a huge contrast to all the chaos that took place earlier "This Is Your Life". A piano piece with moving vocals by Ronnie James Dio, originally written by Tracy G on guitar, was stripped down and rebuilt with a string piano accompaniment. The song conveys an important message that we should value and make the most of our time on earth, because life is too short and life does not last forever. Unfortunately, the song became famous and became highly relevant following the death of Ronnie James Dio.
So anyone looking for "Holy Diver" or "Sacred Heart" here will not find them here. The band has made the necessary adjustments here in the style and style of songwriting that have made this album exceptional and different from the rest of the band's albums, but it's not necessarily bad. Ronnie James Dio has undergone a process of change that began on the previous album and brings with him something different that we have not heard in his entire career. We must say that today we are listening to this album with much more openness than it was 20 years ago and we invite you to do the same and give it another chance, because it is definitely not a bad album and completely underrated.