CD Review: Black Sabbath – 13

CD Review: Black Sabbath – 13
Universal Republic
All Access Rating: A-

Black Sabbath - 13 2013
13 is a matter of life and death for Black Sabbath. The harsh truth of the matter is the godfathers of heavy metal may not be long for this world. 

Tony Iommi’s cancer scare has certainly given them pause to consider their own mortality, and if Iommi is to be believed, it was his health concerns that led Sabbath to move on without original drummer Bill Ward and get 13 made with someone else – namely, Brad Wilk, of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave fame. Time waits for no one, not even Black Sabbath.

The grim reaper hasn’t come knocking on their doors just yet, however. As 13 proves, Sabbath is, thankfully, still alive and kicking up a monstrous racket of doom-laden metal that’s reminiscent of that haunting and truly unsettling first album that signaled such a turbulent sea change in rock music back in 1970. Rife with meditations on dying and the afterlife, as well as existential thoughts on whether the Almighty still has a pulse, 13 is the heaviest, blackest tar Sabbath has stirred in decades, just as producer Rick Rubin intended. And yet, some of that sludge Sabbath is so famous for has been washed off. Cleaned off somewhat, the snarling, brass-knuckled sound of 13 is bone-crushing, as that serrated edge to Iommi’s crunching, growling riffs and his intensely focused solos saws through steel, throwing sparks into the air.

Inhabiting both heaven and hell, with sympathy for the devil and his Maker, the lurching 8:52 first single “God is Dead” seems to move in slow motion – as if sizing up its prey – right up to the bridge, which twists and swings like a bridge during an earthquake. Surging with energy, as Iommi’s guitar slashes like a broadsword, it seems as if Sabbath has discovered an ancient and evil groove, pulled out of the ground by its roots by Geezer Butler’s brawny bass lines and reanimated for the garment-rending, circling menace of “Live Forever.” That survival instinct is kicking in, although the grave doesn’t seem like such a bad option on 13.

Stretching out long past seven minutes, as most tracks on 13 do, the gnarled psychedelic-blues of “Damaged Soul” ponderously crawls through the wreckage of a life in ruins, while “Dear Father” is a slow, steady climb up a mountain of emotional garbage – the remains of a broken relationship with a not-so loving parent. And “Loner” is almost as depressing, as Iommi stacks cement blocks of riffs to create a movable wall of thick, impenetrable sound – the kind the subject of the song might build internally to shut out the outside world.

Mangled guitars, writhing bass lines and crashing drums surround Ozzy Osbourne’s rather dour vocals, which fits 13’s downtrodden mood like a velvet glove. Shifts in tempo and melodic current occur, but they are not abrupt. Sabbath flows easily from detour to detour, never needing a GPS to find their way back to the main road – although it’s easy to get lost in the lush, mysterious “Zeitgeist,” the snaky conga drums and brushed acoustic guitars bringing to mind “Planet Caravan.” Sabbath’s past is omnipresent on 13, which makes the whole musical direction of the record seem calculated and not as naturally or organically inspired as perhaps it should appear.

Nevertheless, 13 is a lucky number for Sabbath. With its tenacious hooks, the album bearing those numerals has given them their first No. 1 record in 43 years. Maybe God isn’t dead after all.
    Peter Lindblad

DVD Review: The Rolling Stones – Crossfire Hurricane

DVD Review: The Rolling Stones – Crossfire Hurricane
Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: B+

The Rolling Stones - Crossfire Hurricane 2013
Wherever Keith Richards goes musically, Charlie Watts is sure to follow. As bassist Bill Wyman explains in the documentary film “Crossfire Hurricane,” Watts has always played slightly behind Richards and Wyman would go out ahead of both of them, a style which gave the Rollings Stones’ gloriously ragged brand of rock ‘n’ roll a bit of a “wobble,” as he calls it. 

To Wyman, it’s this magical interplay that makes it seem as if the Stones, at their most shambolic, are constantly on the edge of falling completely apart.

That’s what made the Stones dangerous. It wasn’t necessarily the drugs, the villainous excess, their uninhibited sexuality or their supposed affinity for Satan, although that’s what the world outside the band’s inner sanctum thought. Internally, at least to Wyman, they teetered on the brink of utter chaos musically; that was what made them exciting and wild. A whole generation picked up on this barely controlled vibe, and they wanted to riot. The Rolling Stones lit the fuse.

If nothing else, “Crossfire Hurricane,” the newest career-spanning documentary (on DVD and Blu-ray from Eagle Rock Entertainment) on these pop-culture icons and rock ‘n’ roll revolutionaries, rather artfully captures the explosive zeitgeist of the Rolling Stones’ formative years and their Marquee Club meltdowns, when the band, for all intents and purposes, expected to be attacked nightly onstage by fans – causing concerts to end abruptly. And it segues seamlessly into the late ‘60s, establishing a somewhat tenuous, but undeniable, link between the Stones and the social upheaval of the time, with raw footage from “The Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus” thick with a heavy voodoo-like atmosphere while the band runs through “Sympathy for the Devil” – this island of feverish, hypnotically tribal rumblings surrounded by scenes of unrest, violence and fan worship.

And so goes “Crossfire Hurricane,” wandering through the last days of Brian Jones and his fading relevance into the Hyde Park triumph – that “baptism of fire” for Mick Taylor, as Richards puts it. From there, it moves on to Altamont and then to the Stones fleeing England for France for tax reasons and Richards’ heroin problem, before vaulting into the Stones’ metamorphosis from sinister miscreants to stadium-rocking party machine and it does so in a lithe, but ultimately superficial, manner, as if afraid to get bogged down in one subject or another. There appears to be a schedule to keep, and there’s no time to dilly-dally or study any particular period in Stones’ history with any sort of depth. Director Brett Morgen is running behind.

Current interviews with the Stones provide an oral history that speaks over the top of a mesmerizing, wonderfully arranged collage of vintage candid images and film footage of live performances, TV interviews, and behind-the-scenes peeks of the hedonistic Stones at play and at rest that seem positively voyeuristic. Some of it is familiar, like the “Dick Cavatt Show” intro, and some of it is has never been seen before, and the way it is all pieced together, “Crossfire Hurricane” puts the viewer right in the center of the Stones’ maelstrom, whether it’s taking place onstage, backstage or in the streets. And you get swept up in the current of it. There’s no sense trying to swim your way out of it. You’ll just drown in the fast-paced carousel of visual stimuli that spins away on screen.

Like the Stones themselves, “Crossfire Hurricane” is often on the verge of crumbling into mayhem, and that’s what makes it magnetic, the charisma and ennui of the Stones spilling out over each frame. Still, it does, as other reviewers have said, leave one wanting. To the filmmakers, the only Stones’ history worth exploring is everything that happened from Tattoo You backward, and maybe they’re right, but it the film does trail off without a real definite conclusion. And while everything up to and including Altamont is covered fairly extensively, that which happens afterward gets short shrift.

More than that, the commentary from members of the Stones that drives the narrative rarely offers much in the way of fresh perspective or revelation. They’re sorry for how things unraveled with Jones, but what were they to do? Drugs had left him a shell of his former self. Taxes in England were killing their bottom line, so they exiled themselves. Mick Taylor departed, taking the rest of the band aback. But, here comes Ronnie Wood, who was a better fit socially at least. That’s the level of discourse here, at least for the second half of the film, where “Crossfire Hurricane” runs out of steam and fails to latch onto anything of vital interest.

It’s worth watching – just for the scintillating live stuff alone, as a variety of spirited archival concert performances from the mid-‘60s are tacked on as bonus features and packaged with entertaining liner notes. Don’t expect, however, many new answers to nagging questions observers have always had about the Stones. 
– Peter Lindblad

Ethan Brosh is 'Living the Dream'

Young guitarist reflects on tour with Yngwie Malmsteen, talks new record
By Peter Lindblad

Ethan Brosh recently toured
with Yngwie Malmsteen
In a duel reminiscent of the Old West, only without the bullets and the threat of imminent death, a brash young guitar slinger named Ethan Brosh recently challenged one of the fastest draws in metal history, Yngwie Malmsteen. It was a shredding showdown for the ages, with both players going down every night in a blaze of glory on a recent tour together.

Throughout April and May, fans of intricate guitar architecture, sheer technical brilliance and face-melting soloing were treated to awesome exhibitions of mind-blowing guitar work from both men, one an up-and-coming six-string dynamo seeking respect and the other a master of the instrument always pushing himself to greater heights. For Brosh, it was a coming-out party, a chance to show a whole new audience what he was capable of, and the sky is the limit for the Berklee College of Music graduate, who grew up in Israel learning classical music and is now a teacher at the school.

And the rest of 2013 has more excitement in store for Brosh, who will be releasing his second all-instrumental album, Live the Dream. He had help from a number of metal luminaries, as the album was mixed by Max Norman, known for his work with Ozzy Osbourne and Megadeth, and mastered by Bob Ludwig, whose work has pumped life into the recordings of Iron Maiden, Def Leppard and Bon Jovi. And speaking of Megadeth, none other than Dave Ellefson plays bass on the record.

This isn’t the first time Brosh and Ellefson have teamed up. They were in the band Angels of Babylon together, along with drummer Rhino, although Brosh has since left to concentrate on his solo work and his other band, the melodic-metal upstarts Burning Heat.

Live the Dream promises to build off Brosh’s first record, 2009’s Out of Oblivion. A few stars of metal came out for that one, as well. Most notably, Brosh traded licks on the record with ex-Dokken guitarist George Lynch and former Michael Jackson guitarist Greg Howe, while Derek Riggs, the man behind all those great Iron Maiden covers, provided the art work.

Indeed, Brosh has been blessed, but he’s earned the respect of his peers. Whether Brosh is blazing away on his electric guitar or working out some complex acoustic patterns, his talent and dedication to his craft is impossible to ignore, and those who’ve seen him opening for the likes of Michael Schenker, Lynch Mob, Danger Danger and Enuff Z’nuff would undoubtedly echo those sentiments.

Brosh recently took time out after the Malmsteen tour to talk by e-mail about his education, watching the great Yngwie in action, his admiration for Lynch and Ellefson and other projects he has on the horizon in this interview:

How was the tour with Yngwie Malmsteen? Has your material been well received?
Ethan Brosch: Finally got back home! The tour has been amazing … it really was. Of course it was difficult on some levels, but overall it was an incredible experience. Actually, the crowd reaction to our material was the best part. Going into it I had no idea how Yngwie’s fans would react to my playing and if I’d be playing in front of many jealous guitar players who would boo me … I was very pleasantly surprised how warm and appreciative people were throughout the whole tour since the very first night in Cleveland.

In what ways has seeing him play live inspired you?
EB: In many ways. I would find some time during Yngwie’s set to be on the side of the stage watching him tearing it up very closely. Seeing the focused look in his eyes every night and seeing how things differ from one night to another and seeing how he deals with it had taught me a lot. I had also asked him about it. I also found it inspiring seeing him always moving onstage 100 percent of the time on every show without getting tired and discouraged at any point. It was a reminder for me to always give it my all regardless of how I feel on a particular night or venue. Also just listening to his amazing phrasing on a nightly basis and seeing how much he improvises is something that I’d like to incorporate more into my own music.

What led to you joining the Malmsteen tour?
EB: My great manager and years of hard work basically. Doing things like this in the music business is a long process with many factors involved.

What’s been your favorite moment on the tour so far?
EB: I can recall a few. Some of them are just random moments onstage where I was realizing all of a sudden what was happening. Seeing people responding so well to songs I wrote in my basement or some which I wrote when I was a teenager was a great feeling. Being back home in Boston as part of the tour and seeing my friends in the crowd was a very good feeling. Also having Yngwie tell me I was a great guitar player after he heard me play on a whole tour is something that will stay with me forever.

Ethan Brosh in action live
You went to the Berklee College of Music. What were your expectations going in, and in the end, was it everything you thought it would be?
EB: We’re talking about something that happened a long time ago. I do remember not knowing what to expect from Berklee at all. But coming out of it I thought it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I absolutely love Berklee – the teachers, the students, the never-ending music and the beautiful location in Boston. It’s one of the main reasons why I still live here in Boston. Being back at Berklee as a teacher in the summers is something I really enjoy doing.

How did that experience impact Out of Oblivion?
EB: Some of the material on Out of Oblivion was written as songwriting projects at Berklee. Also just growing as a musician and understanding more of what I was doing and composition ideas really helped develop Out of Oblivion. I also meet Mike Mangini at Berklee and that helped kick start the whole record to begin with actually.

Tell me about the making of Out of Oblivion. What pleased you the most about how it turned out?
EB: This was a two-and-a-half year project that took everything out of me. What pleased me is the result considering I had no idea what I was doing as far as making a record when I first gotten into it. Listening to George Lynch and Greg Howe playing on it still gives me the chills nowadays! My tune the “Hit Man” will probably forever be the tune people recognize me for. And having my guitar mentor Eyal Freeman playing bass on some of these tunes personally means a lot to me. And, of course, Derek Riggs, whose paintings got me into my first love, Iron Maiden, doing my first album’s art was a huge thing! I guess looking back I feel very proud of this record, and it was well worth all the work I put into it.

Explain if you can how the song “Downward Spiral” came about?
EB: I just remember me sitting in the dark on a hot summer night in my bedroom in Israel many years ago messing with my Washburn EC-29 guitar (It’s the guitar on the “Ancient Land” video that everyone’s always asking me about). I remember coming up with the two main riffs. It was only years later when I was recording Out of Oblivion that I came up with more sections and solos to complete it and be ready to record it. Then I had the idea of trying to approach George Lynch to play on it. I feel very lucky he did. He gave that tune a unique feel that only George can bring. He’s always been one of my biggest influences and a guy I respect so much. I’m very proud to call him a friend now. Working on the video of “Downward Spiral” was such a pleasure and will forever be a great memory. I’ll always be grateful to George for helping me out like that. What a great guy.

You’ve worked with George Lynch quite a bit. What do you admire most about his playing and what is it about working with him that you enjoy the most?
EB: What I admire about him is that George is a very artistic person. His whole look, persona, and playing is very different and just so colorful. I think he is the best metal player who ever lived. His attack on the strings is the coolest and most aggressive I’ve heard. It’s aggressive but with so much style. George is also a player who works 100 percent on instinct and has a true rock ‘n’ roll approach. His phrasing is so musical, different and beautiful. Not to mention his never-ending search for the perfect tone and how great it always sounded over the years. These are the type of things I’m trying to take away from these great players and bring to the new generation instead of just ripping off all the shred licks from these guys.

Ethan Brosh playing at Berklee
Now that you are off the road, what are your plans? Will you be heading into the studio again? What will the material be like, if you have indeed started on it already?
EB: Well I just finished my second instrumental record which will be released later on this year. I’ve been working on it for the past two years. It’s called Live the Dream. I had pre-release copies available on the Yngwie tour exclusively. I’m very happy to have had Dave Ellefson from Megadeth play bass on some of the record – having the greatest mastering guy of all-time, Bob Ludwig, master it. And convincing the great Max Norman to come out of retirement and mix the record! Max produced the first three Ozzy records and all the classic Megadeth records. We had a great time working together! I feel like Live the Dream takes things to the next level after Out of Oblivion. Many more things to come, the full length record of Burning Heat we’re working on. Maybe some instructional DVDs, more touring and hopefully me finally being the guitar player of one of the biggest 80s metal groups I grew up on. That’s something that I really want to do and I’m ready to go!

Is there any news on Angels of Babylon?
EB: Angels of Babylon will be releasing its second record soon on Scarlet records in Italy. I played lead guitar and nylon strings guitar on that record. I feel like it’s some of my best lead work to date. I have recently parted ways with AOB on good terms to focus more on my solo career and Burning Heat.

What was the studio experience like with Angels of Babylon? How different was it from the recording of Out of Oblivion?
EB: The Angels of Babylon records were very different than Out of Oblivion and Live the Dream. On the AOB stuff all I did was play just lead guitar and nylon strings guitar. Everything else was taken care of by Rhino pretty much. With my instrumental records all the writing, producing, recordings, etc. etc., was on me, so of course, it was a lot more work. Either way I like all these records.

Talk about working with Dave Ellefson.
EB: I love working with Dave Ellefson. There are very few bass players that I feel really understand the style and have the right approach, not to mention the tone. Dave is a legend without a doubt and it’s always a pleasure working with him. We were in Angels of Babylon together. I played a solo on one of his F5 band’s songs. He just recently played on my record Live the Dream. I hope to continue and do lots more work with Dave ‘cause I think we can do some really great things together. I also love how professional he is as far as communicating and working. There’s no BS with him, and I love that because that’s what I aspire to be like myself. I’m also learning a lot from him about the business … great guy and a great friend.

What were your favorite songs on the Kingdom of Evil album?
EB: Kingdom of Evil has a lot of great songs on it – “Oh How the Mighty had Fallen,” “Conspiracy Theory,” “Tear Out My Heart” and the title track are some of the obvious ones. I think all the songs are great on that record honestly.

Can we expect an “Ethan Brosh Yngwie Malmsteen” collaboration down the road?

EB : Only time will tell, All I can say is I hope so! I’d like to take the opportunity to thank all my fans because I love them all. I’d like to thank anyone who took the time to read this interview and check out my music. That’s what it’s all about for me. 

CD Review: The Resistance – Scars

CD Review: The Resistance – Scars
Armoury Records
All Access Rating: A-

The Resistance- Scars 2013
Yelling out, “Fire in the hole” right before “Clearing the Slate” erupts into all-out war Marco Aro has sufficiently warned all who enter Scars, the debut full-length album cut by Swedish death-metal butchers The Resistance, that they do so at their own risk. Their lawyers might make everyone sign a waiver as well, because the brute-force intensity of Scars isn’t good for anybody with a heart condition.

Seething with white-hot rage, The Resistance’s fire-starter gives Hatebreed’s Divinity of Purpose a run for its money as 2013’s fiercest metal-core conflagration. Made up of ex-In Flames guitarists Jesper Stromblad and Glenn Ljungstrom, drummer Chris Barkensjo (formerly of Kaamos and Repugnant) and Facedown’s growling Aro, the one-time vocal flamethrower for The Haunted, The Resistance traffics in blistering speed, tight hooks, crunching riffs, bullet-proof production and frenzied dynamics on Scars.

Smashing through the door like a renegade swat team, “Clearing the Slate” and “Your Demise” are fast and furious attacks that leave no survivors, and “To the Death” – lasting only 1:25 – is even more frantic, the battling elements of double kick-drum beatings and Aro’s guttural bellow lending a black urgency to a hard-hitting song that beckons and gurgles for last rites. And just when it seems that The Resistance is ready to go heavy and slow things down on “Expand the Empire,” as they do in the track’s menacing intro, they suddenly fire up the engine and open the throttle again to see what this clean-running machine can really do.

Surgical in its precision and shockingly brutal, Scars has more going for it than raw horsepower and violent lyrics. There’s not a wasted note on the record, and there’s nothing uncertain or hesitant about how The Resistance goes about their business. It’s not often that they change tempos, but when they do, the sleight of hand is almost imperceptible – except in the case of the epic, if somewhat heavy-handed, closer “(I Will) Die Alone,” the most melodic and emotionally affecting of Scars’ infernos. Even when “Warmonger” and “Eye for an Eye” – maybe the weightiest songs on Scars – downshift into more of a prowling tempo and stalking movements, there are reasons for doing so. They are setting you up for the kill, which comes quickly in the overdriven title track, continuing the relentless ferocity that threatens to consume Scars.

Influenced by Entombed, Dismember and Grave, Scars is the aural equivalent of sticking your head in a blast furnace at full heat. On the blood-red cover is a collection of skulls. Those are probably the skeletal remains of those who couldn’t handle the extreme nature of The Resistance’s sonic onslaught.

-           Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Styx – The Grand Illusion / Pieces of Eight Live

CD Review: Styx – The Grand Illusion / Pieces of Eight Live
Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: C

Styx - The Grand Illusion/Pieces
of Eight Live 2013
Styx came into its own in the late 1970s, having stumbled upon the right mix of soaring progressive-rock bombast and the more down-to-earth, guitar-driven AOR anthems – like “Renegade” – that punched a clock, wore a hard hat and paid union dues.

Finding a middle ground proved difficult for Styx, as Tommy Shaw, feeling his oats, pushed for a direction that was tougher and more down-to-earth, while Dennis DeYoung favored power ballads and heady theatrics. That creative tension, when properly harnessed, as it was for 1977’s The Grand Illusion and 1978’s Pieces of Eight, produced magic, even if the critics scoffed. They didn’t understand, but the people did. That’s who Styx was speaking to anyway.

This is not the same band. It’s a shell of its former self, the dramatic flourish of DeYoung’s soaring vocals being missed most of all, as James “JY” Young and Tommy Shaw try to carry on with a newer lineup and the occasional appearance of original bassist Chuck Panozzo. What Styx has become is a Vegas act, living off its past and trading glitz and glamour for true grit. Or at least it would seem that way from the double CD The Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight Live they have recently released.

A rather limp document of Styx playing both records cover to cover at the fabled Orpheum Theater in Memphis on November 9, 2010, The Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight Live sucks the sneering venom out of “Miss America,” meanders its way through “Man in the Wilderness” like a clueless tourist, and sleepwalks it way through “Superstars.” Concerned more with being a genial master of ceremonies than singing the material with appropriate panache and vitality, lead vocalist/keyboardist Lawrence Gowan – his delivery pretentious and forced – bears much of the blame, but Young and Shaw are in for the lion’s share of it.

For whatever reason, they don’t feel the need to assert themselves or their instruments here, making for a record that sounds flabby and weak-willed, even if the melodic grandeur of “Come Sail Away” is as wondrous as ever, the winning earnestness of “Angry Young Man” comes shining through, and the pomp and circumstance of title track to The Grand Illusion rises to the level of that which is more often reserved for royalty. A glossy lacquer of synthesizers certainly suffocates their guitars, but more than that, they seem satisfied to remain in the shadows, content to make pretty sonic filament and beautiful harmonies, but nothing of real substance.

The hope is that Styx would rally during the Pieces of Eight portion of the evening, and they do to some extent, the lilting, progressive-folk gold of “Sing for the Day” glowing warmly and “Great White Hope” rocking with more vigor and hunger, thanks to Todd Sucherman’s rolling avalanche of drums. A bigger test remains, however, with “Blue Collar Man” and “Renegade,” and Styx falls flat on the former, playing as if they’re pulling an anchor behind them, before recovering slightly for a more rambunctious, but still somewhat impotent, version of the latter.

“Queen of Spades” is where Styx finally seizes the day, the guitars sharper and more biting, the rhythms more menacing and the synths adding color and texture rather than fighting for supremacy. And they traverse more diverse and sonically interesting territory in “Lords of the Ring” with more purpose, their collective vocals a glorious choir. It’s too little, too late, though, as Styx appears to be satisfied with reheating old leftovers rather than presenting its best material in fresh and invigorating ways. 
– Peter Lindblad

CD/DVD Review: Dio – Finding the Sacred Heart – Live in Philly 1986

CD/DVD Review: Dio  Finding the Sacred Heart – Live in Philly 1986
Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: A-

Dio - Finding the Sacred Heart -
Live in Philly 1986 2013
Trying to recreate Stonehenge onstage didn’t work out all that well for Spinal Tap. Undeterred by such a brutally funny cautionary tale, Dio had something bigger and more impressive in mind for the spectacular staging of 1986’s “Sacred Heart” tour, and he got the math right.

Under the watchful gaze of a massive, animatronic dragon, Dio frolicked night after night among medieval ruins, a steady barrage of pyrotechnics and state-of-the-art laser displays, with drummer Vinny Appice perched dangerously atop a thick, 15-to 20-foot column of fake stone. A crystal ball with a hologram of Dio talking of magic, rainbow bridges and epic quests appears just before they start the dramatic journey through “Sacred Heart.” And when that portion of the show arrives where the dearly departed Ronnie James Dio, light sword in hand, does battle with the mechanical beast, opening its chest to reveal a heart made of lasers, even Nigel Tufnel, Derek Smalls and David St. Hubbins would have to bow to the creator of this theatrical monstrosity.

Philadelphia was one of the stops on the tour’s second leg, the one where guitarist Craig Goldy replaced Vivian Campbell, who played such an integral role in the making of Holy Diver and The Last in Line. Having already formed a bond with Dio and his wife, Wendy, from his days in Rough Cutt, Goldy was the ideal fill-in. He knew the songs backwards and forwards and the juggernaut known as Dio, having lost none of its potency, invaded the Spectrum on June 17, 1986 looking to once again conquer a territory that had always loved him and become its king of rock ‘n’ roll – with the cameras rolling, of course.

The original film of his coronation has been faithfully restored, and considering its age, the visuals are remarkably vivid, warm and visceral, preserved in a package of treasures titled “Finding the Sacred Heart – Live in Philly 1986.” This riveting performance is out on DVD, Blu-ray, CD and as a double LP, released via Eagle Rock Entertainment, and seeing a younger Dio energized and full of life is at once terrifically inspiring and emotionally crushing. Ever the showman, his clarion voice is melodic and passionate, cutting like a razor through smoke, walls of power chords, pounding drums and swinging rhythms. And he draws blood in this performance, as does the band.

Drawing from his days in Black Sabbath and Rainbow, as well as the first three Dio albums, the set list is a movable feast of classic metal. Dio, Appice, Goldy, bassist Jimmy Bain and keyboardist Claude Schnell breathe fire as they tear through medleys of “The Last in Line,” “Children of the Sea” and “Holy Diver,” as well as one consisting of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Children,” “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll” and a particularly combustible, full-throttle drive through “Man on the Silver Mountain,” with venomous glee. Closing the night with a violent rendering of “We Rock,” Dio was just as relentless in attacking “King of Rock & Roll” and “Like the Beat of a Heart,” while taking pains to emphasize the sweet pop-metal hooks of “Hungry for Heaven” and the dark beauty of “Don’t Talk to Strangers,” just before it transitions into a blazing inferno of rock. And they kick out the jams in “Heaven and Hell,” turning it from a slow-building dirge into something more aggressive and angry. 

Flashier than Campbell and out to prove something to a fan base that wasn’t all that accepting of him initially, the confident Goldy plays with a chip on his shoulder, and his ingenious, scissoring solos and torrential, serrated riffing are electrifying. Appice is a locomotive on drums, and Bain, always the glue of this outfit, tenaciously holds down that low end like a smiling pit bull, while Schnell combines the muscular thrust of Jon Lord with the synthesizer swirls of a Keith Emerson in galvanizing flourishes. Aside from Bain, they all take a solo turn, and while Schnell’s is somewhat less compelling, the others are dynamic and thrilling.

Add in an informative featurette, narrated by Dio, on the elaborate stage show,  the original video of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Children,” two thoughtful interviews with late singer  one from the Sacred Heart period and one of more recent vintage  and in-depth, Malcolm Dome-penned liner notes and the fully loaded “Finding the Sacred Heart – Live in Philly 1986” becomes a comprehensive look at one of the most ambitious tours in metal history. 
 – Peter Lindblad