In March 2000, "Dio" released its eighth studio album, "Magica".
It was a wonderful and glorious musical comeback for one of the great singers of the metal world.
After two albums in which Ronnie James Dio moved away from the roots of heavy metal, combining elements of Doom Metal, Groove Metal, and Industrial Metal in his albums "Strange Highways" from 1994 and "Angry Machines" from 1996, "Dio" opened the millennium in a storm with a concept album. An epic detailed fantasy, which tells a fascinating imaginary story about heroes, villains, magic and sorcery, love, sacrifice, and the struggle between good and evil.
This musical comeback was also accompanied by a personnel comeback, with guitarist Craig Goldy, drummer Simon Wright, and bassist Jimmy Bain returning to the lineup. In order to explain the magnitude of the personnel comeback, we will mention that guitarist Craig Goldy and original bassist Jimmy Bain have not played together since the album "Dream Evil" from 1987, and that drummer Simon Wright was not been part of the band since the album "Lock Up the Wolves" from 1990. The return of the longtime members has done the band well, as not only has it brought "Dio" back to its origins of well-known and good Heavy Metal roots, but in our humble opinion this is one of the band's best albums.
The plot story begins with "Discovery" a research spaceship that reaches the star "Blessing", which froze thousands of years ago after losing its two suns. The spacecraft was attracted to the frozen star following a weak distress signal which leads it to a hidden tomb, where the magic book "Magica" is revealed. The voice of the metallic robot that accompanies the intro reveals to us that the members of the delegation checked the manuscript in the ancient book, and that: "The information is complete, but does not conform to logical patterns. Flesh cannot be mutated into stone and remorphed back to the body once again. Continue the investigation with special attention given to one word. Magica!"
From there we move on to the "Magica Theme". A short theme steeped with keyboard carpet, being played throughout the album by Ronnie James Dio and guitarist Craig Goldy. The intro is meant to put us in the mood of the story that takes place thousands of years before the members of the delegation arrived at the star "Blessing". In those days the inhabitants of the planet lived in harmony, peace, and happiness. It was a time of joy, blossoming, and prosperity, in which the magicians used the book "Magica" and its charms wisely for the benefit of the people. But where good thrives, evil survives, and evil has dark plans ...
The third track is actually the first song on the album "Lord of the Last Day". A dramatic and metallic beginning with a heavy and dark powerful riff designed to introduce us to the villain in the story - Shadowcast - "Lord of the Last Day", which will make the lives of the planet's inhabitants miserable.
Evil forces known as "Evilsyde" are led by Shadowcast and they plan an attack, capture and extermination of the planet's inhabitants. The magic book "Magica" is the target that will help the forces of evil turn all those who will not be willing to join Evilsyde into "stone sculptures". Their souls will be sent to the "Otherworld", where they will be used as the energy needed to feed the Shadowcast extermination machine.
"Fever Dreams" features one of the most beautiful riffs in Dio's repertoire, and no, we're not exaggerating. This is the big hit from the album. The Genius work of Craig Goldy who play the guitar amazingly. This piece is so great that it was chosen as one of the tracks that Ronnie James Dio performed at the "Deep Purple" shows in which he was a guest, in the years 2000-2001. In this song we first meet the good man in the story Eriel, whose dreams are haunted by the evil Shadowcast.
The evil forces led by Shadowcast surprised the inhabitants of "Blessing" and caught them unprepared. The attack was well planned. "Blessing" people were defeated and the book "Magica" was captured.
We pick up gear with the fifth track "Turn to Stone" a rhythmic track whose riff and sound remind us of the classic "Dio" era from "Dream Evil" days. Goldy's guitar work in this song is flawless, especially in his amazing solo. In this song, the evil people of Shadowcast use the magic of the book "Magica" to turn the people of "Blessing" into "stone statues".
But the sweeping victory and capture of "Magica" were not Shadowcast's ultimate goal. He must locate, find and eliminate his longtime rival - the great wizard Eriel, who has previously defeated Evilsyde with the help of his wisdom and with the help of the "Magica" book. Before his capture, Eriel manages to cast a spell with the powerful magic words "Restoration", which has the power to bring the stone sculptures back to life. But it's not that simple, as it takes three full days before Eriel can say the last words of magic that will complete the spell and execute it.
"Feed My Head" describes the thoughts in Eriel's feverish mind and the despair that overwhelms him, while he waits in his cell for his execution. He is very worried that this will happen before the three days of waiting pass and that he will not be able to complete the magic that will bring the planet's inhabitants back to life.
The seventh and epic track "Eriel" introduces us to the power and might of the good magician, who manages to find hope in all the despair and predict a better future for the people of "Blessing" and himself.
"Challis" is brought to Eriel prison cell. This is the eighth song on the album, a rhythmic and energetic track with an amazing riff that blends well with the power and strength of the rebel leader Challis - Eriel's great hope. Eriel recognizes his own qualities in the young boy and he finds him very similar to him. He teaches Challis the spell designed to revive the people in due course. He instructs him to remove all anger and hatred from his heart, for only the pure man can accept and convey the spell: "Sanasha Gorath Sollis Arcanna".
During their stay in the holding cell and while awaiting his execution, Eriel tells Challis about his love for the beautiful "Annica" that was destined for him from birth that he had to leave in order to fulfill his destiny. The deluxe version of the album includes an instrumental track called "Annica", which does not appear on the original album. Listen to Craig and his amazing guitar work in this piece.
"As Long as It's Not About Love" is the ballad of the album. A magical song that highlights Dio's mighty voice. The part describes the power of love and the inner struggles of Eriel who was forced to leave his beloved Annica in order to fulfill his destiny. The power of this love is what will save the people of "Blessing", with the help of Challis.
The tenth track "Losing My Insanity" is one of the most beautiful and special tracks on the album. It starts with Irish/Celtic music and becomes a heavy piece that combines the intensities of "Black Sabbath" with folk music. At the end of three days of waiting in his cell, the time came for Eriel's execution. Shadowcast comes especially to oversee the execution process. Eriel is taken from his cell and he feels he is about to lose his sanity. There is a short time left until it will be possible to complete the magic that will bring everyone back to life. He thought he would be able to filter the spell himself, but he is led to the gallows by Shadowcast's instruction.
From there we move on to the highlight of the album with "Otherworld". Eriel is executed before he has time to say the magical spell, his soul moves to the "Otherworld". Broken Challis hears from his cell the cheers of Shadowcast's men in the face of the death of the great magician. Just after the three days of waiting, he filters the spell he has learned from his master, and the magic of the "resurrection" manages to bring all the people of "Blessing" back to life.
The final track on the album is an 18-minute spoken word one, in which Ronnie James Dio reads aloud the full story of "Magica". The story ends with the insight that Challis was in fact the son of Eriel and Annica, who inherits his father's place and rises to greatness.
But the story was far from over and the track "Lord of the Last Day (Reprise)" hints that evil has not been subdued and is expected to return. If it were not for Dio's tragic death, we would probably have enjoyed the sequel to the fascinating story. Dio planned to turn "Magica" into a trilogy, but working with his friends from "Black Sabbath" under the name "Heaven & Hell" on the album "The Devil You Know" and the shows that were meant to promote it, delayed the writing of the rest of the story. Before his death, Dio had released the single "Electra", which was intended to be part of the album "Magica 2". This is the last single released by Dio and it is a painful reminder of what we would have gained had it not been for the death of one of the greatest singers in metal.