Last In Line – “Heavy Crown” (Frontiers Records)
30 years after recording one of the landmark albums of the 80s in Ronnie James Dio’s “Holy Diver” the remaining member of the band – Vivian Campbell, Jimmy Bain (RIP) and Vinny Appice – actually returned to the same Sound City studio to reconnect to the original material that they had co-penned together. Frontiers Records, fast becoming the world’s greatest classic rock label, soon had them kicking around the idea of recording new material – the result of which is “Heavy Crown”! Enlisting Andrew Freeman (The Offspring, George Lynch’s Lynch Mob etc) on vocals and keyboard player Claude Schnell (Y&T, Rough Cut, Dio) and naming themselves after Dio’s 1984 album, Last In Line have been re-performing their original songs as a touring band over the last few years. Now comes the challenge: there is an ‘official’ Dio band in Dio’s Disciples managed by Dio’s wife Wendy currently performing this repertoire too – however, they weren’t the original guys who recorded those two classic albums. Opening with ‘Devil In Me’ you gotta wonder if it’s a deliberate poke in the eye as its easily from the “Holy Diver” era in just about every aspect from the epic riffs bolstered by the keyboards, Freeman’s own vocals that are very much RJD – not to mention to pseudo biblical lyrics ‘..when I climb the mountain, I’ll part the seas, I’ll tear the sun down..’ – well, you get the picture. While an entire album of this would’ve definitely pleased me, what really surprised me is that “Heavy Crown” really isn’t about revisiting the old days but rather taking that original chemistry and spirit to forge a band in its own right – and it really works a treat! With Jimmy Bain passing away last month, I’m really glad his loud, crunching bass lines can be heard on such a classy and stupendous album – he really has gone out on a high note!! In fact, the whole album has deliberately been engineered to be loud and naturally sound just like it was back in the 80s with solid, heavy drum pounding from drum god Appice and Vivian Campbell once again unleashing his inner beast in a rock out rollercoaster of classic hard rock riffs and the sort of high octane soloing that really put the balls into Dio on steroided rock numbers like the epic title track ‘Heavy Crown’ and the spellbounding Blackmore-esque ‘Starmaker’. Pushing the envelope, there’s a very fast n punky number in ‘I Am Revolution’ but ‘Martyr’ shows what this band is really about: fast n chugging with ultra catchy rock riffs and soaring vocal melodies that are generation-less in their appeal. Man, they sure got this old man a rockin’! Last In Line definitely show how classic rock doesn’t have to confined to the realms of history as “Heavy Crown” takes on the new world with all of the confidence of the old.