On May 15, 1990 "Dio" released their fifth studio album - "Lock Up the Wolves".
The album was a significant change for the band in terms of lineup, musical style, and reception.
The album features a complete change in the band lineup, with a new, younger, and international crew, comprising Jens Johansson on keyboards (ex-Yngwie Malmsteen), Teddy Cook on bass, Simon Wright on drums (ex-AC/DC), and Rowan Robertson as the new guitar wizard.
Robertson won the role after Ronnie James Dio received 5000 tapes for consideration.
About half the album was written when former members Jimmy Bain and Vinny Appice were still in the band, and they appear on several writing credits. Robertson has a co-write on every song, and Johansson has two, while Cook has one.
The album features a mixture of styles ranging from fast and energetic like "Walk on Water" to slower and bluesy like "Evil on Queen Street" or "Twisted". However, the album's overall pace is slower, at times monotonous, aside from "Wild One", which has a groove nearing Speed or even Thrash Metal, making the decision to place it as the opening track very logical.
"Lock Up the Wolves" is not without its standout tracks. "Hey Angel" has a catchy and memorable melody as if it was taken from the "Dream Evil" sessions. "Lock Up The Wolves" is a strong, dark track, which showcases Dio's powerful voice. "Night Music" has one of the best guitar solos on the album and it's guitar intro reminded us of Angus Young's guitar picking, and "Evil on Queen Street" is a great blues track that takes its title from a deli in Toronto that had a sandwich with that name.
Unfortunately, "Lock Up the Wolves" was not well-received by critics and fans alike. Dio himself expressed dissatisfaction with the album's predecessor, "Dream Evil", feeling that the songwriting was unfinished and needed tightening up. Some of the changes he made in "Lock Up the Wolves" were a response to that, but even so, the album failed to impress, and that affected the band's status in the metal community, while the album became the lowest-charting "Dio" record apart from the live "Intermission".
In the broader context, 1990 was very confusing for the metal scene. A time of change, showing great bands shifting and moving toward different directions and sounds. For some the change was great and rewording, like in the case of "Painkiller", "Cowboys from Hell" and "Rust In Peace", but others got lost in the way, like with albums such as "No Prayer for the Dying", "Slaves and Masters" and "Eat the Heat". Unfortunately, "Lock Up the Wolves" is more related to the latter group. It was Dio's lowest point after 4 great albums, but it still has its moments of brilliance. No wonder that after its release Ronnie James Dio took time off from "Dio" with a brief "Black Sabbath" reunion on the album "Dehumanizer", giving him time to think about his next move...