The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.


While 1990 is just slightly outside of the usual range The Cassette Chronicles covers, I felt the need to write about Dio’s Lock Up The Wolves album this week because I heard one track somewhere recently and just wanted to listen to the full album. And since I have this one on cassette, why not write about it for the series.

The funny thing to me is that this album is seen as far less successful than the past Dio releases. For some reason, the material didn’t seem to connect with audiences. This strikes me as more than a bit odd because there is some unquestionably fantastic music on the album.

Having added 17-year-old wunderkind guitarist Rowan Robertson to the lineup, the new Dio material had a real burst of new fire running through the songwriting. And they waste no time showing off the kind of pyrotechnics Robertson could bring to the music on the album’s opening cut “Wild One”. That razor sharp and blazingly fast musical soundtrack serves as the catalyst to not only introduce you to Robertson, but lets Ronnie James Dio delivery a scorching vocal take that still gives me goosebumps whenever I put that song on.

The song “Hey Angel” is a bit slower in overall pacing but it is still pretty much a heavy rocker of track. When Dio calls out “Hey Angel…”, you almost expect someone to reply.

The music switches things up to allow for a slow burn pacing on the follow up song “Between Two Hearts”. The song, while not plodding per se, does have a very focused and deliberate tone to the music. Meanwhile, I have to say that the song “Night Music” just draws me in when I hear it. I like the slightly understated way the guitars flow freely in the music. Plus you get a real rhythmic pounding on the drums from Simon Wright. I really like the way the song lyrics serve as kind of an extended anthem about what makes rock and metal our very own “night music” too.

The album’s title cut closes out Side One and I found myself really getting into how the song’s opening gives it such a dramatic presence from the start. At well over eight minutes in length it not only is the longest track on Lock Up The Wolves but it definitely lives up to the idea of being the album’s central track.

The song moves along in a slightly uptempo pace but you can see exactly how this track could be mistaken for one of those epic tracks Dio sang for Black Sabbath as well. For me, I loved that the song played out so long because I invariably always find myself swept up into the music and then Ronnie’s vocals bring the song fully to life as you feel yourself sinking into the song.

On Side Two, the album kicks off with the song “Evil On Queen Street”, which sounds like a horror movie or novel title, is a really intriguing song. There’s a cool vibe threaded into the song’s music. It moves along at a jaunty pace but at the same time feels like it could just explode and switch gears into a full bore rocker at any time. It doesn’t happen but I like the way the song plays with your expectations here. And when you add in one hell of an insistent performance from Dio himself, this song is utterly fantastic.

But if you want some more fiery guitar driven rock, you’ve got the song “Walk On Water”. Man, the adrenaline pumps through both you and the music as you listen to the song. The same could be said for the song “Born On The Sun”, even though the songs are completely opposite to each other in terms of pacing. “Born On The Sun” has a heavy tone to the delivery even with its overall uptempo style. And I loved the lyrics for the song, especially when Ronnie James Dio delivers the line “You believed in something / Now it’s just a lie”. I thought the line itself was great already but I liked the phrasing Dio used when singing the line a lot as well.

That great sense of great lyrics combining with a stellar delivery continues on the song “Twisted”. The music is lively and rocking but then you have lines like “He told you the truth but you were sure of it, lies” is amazing when you hear it in the song. Plus, I thought “They told me I was guilty / so I thought I did the crime” was another great line in the song.

The album closes out with the song “My Eyes” and I have to say that I’ve long thought it is just an absolutely killer track. There’s a soft intro that leads into a more frenzied delivery before Dio’s opening vocal line comes through your speakers in a slower pace. You could make a case for calling this a ballad but there’s much more to the track than such a simple designation like that. Once the first verse is finished, the song explodes into a heavier delivery and Dio’s vocals change tact as well. His delivery is far more intensely delivered to coincide with the change in musical tempo.

I consider myself a huge Dio fan and I’m also a big fan of the Lock Up The Wolves album. So every time I read about how the album began a downturn in Dio’s commercial fortunes as a solo performer, I’m mystified as to why. This album is chock full of some killer rock music and it always leaves me wanting more when the final notes fade out. I’d say give the album a new listen and I think I you’ll find yourself rather amazed at just how incredible Lock Up The Wolves is. It’s a tour-de-force for Dio the band and for Ronnie James Dio himself.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The Lock Up The Wolves album featured an entirely different lineup than past releases. Besides Robertson, the new lineup featured Teddy Cook on bass, Jens Johansson on keyboards and Simon Wright on drums. This was the only album Rowan Robertson recorded with Dio. After the tour, Dio would shelve his solo band as he returned to the Black Sabbath lineup for what would turn out to be the Dehumanizer album and tour.

Despite the departures of bassist Jimmy Bain and drummer Vinny Appice, they both have multiple co-writing credits on the album.

The CD edition of the album contains the song “Why Are They Watching Me” but the song was not on either the cassette or vinyl editions of the release. Guitarist Rowan Robertson has said there were two more songs that were demoed that never made the album either.

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