Dio: ‘Lock Up The Wolves’

Released on May 15, 1990 (Reprise)

Review by Ruben Mosqueda:
Shortly following the touring cycle for the fantastic Dream Evil, Ronnie James Dio let everyone in the band go. He started from scratch putting together a line-up that featured former AC/DC drummer Simon Wright, bassist Teddy Cook, former Yngwie Malmsteen keyboardist Jens Johansson and his latest find on guitar — an 18 year old Rowan Robertson. Ronnie James Dio handled the bulk of the songwriting in his band. He did give ‘gunslinger’ Robertson the opportunity to write for the album and he wound up contributing to all 11 songs for Lock Up The Wolves. How would you like to be an 18 year old kid, find yourself in a band fronted by the legendary Ronnie James Dio and he’s asking you to co-write with him? That must have been an amazing experience.

When Lock Up The Wolves had a bit of hype behind it, a lot had to do with Ronnie discovering Robertson who the press saw as the second coming of Vivian Campbell who had performed on the classic Dio records. That must have been a great deal of pressure on Robertson, who was still a kid! Lock Up The Wolves was received with very little fanfare when it was finally released. Was it the change in line-up, the beginnings of the shift in the musical climate or was the album just not that good? Well, Lock Up The Wolves and the new line-up was introduced when the video clip for “Wild One” hit the MTV airwaves. It got moderate airplay before it virtually disappeared weeks later, which didn’t boast well for the new Dio line-up.

Lock Up The Wolves is a slower paced, at times monotonous album, aside from the “Wild One” which has a groove nearing thrash metal territory. Perhaps, that played a factor in its reception by the Dio fanbase. That could be it, but the fact of the matter is that a lot of the material didn’t match the charisma and energy of its predecessors. I wonder what Lock Up The Wolves would sound like had Jimmy Bain, Vinny Appice and Claude Schnell been a part of it? Who knows if that would have helped this album get a better reception?

The highlights are few and far between on this one, “Wild One” is superior to anything else on this album. Having said that, the other notable moments are “Hey Angel,” which could have been lifted from the Dream Evil sessions, “Lock Up The Wolves” is the dark, powerful gem on this record and “Night Music” is another fantastic song that really connected with me. I’m not inclined to reach for Lock Up The Wolves over Holy Diver, Last In Line or Dream Evil. It does fare better than Sacred Heart, which was really polished and the overuse of keyboards, frankly ruined that album. The Lock Up The Wolves line-up didn’t last. The album didn’t sell very well and the promotion for the album was nil. Had this record not happened however, we would not have had the next album Strange Highways, and what an album and what a line-up that was.

Review by Olivier:
Dio‘s Lock Up The Wolves will always stand out as one of the most disappointing CDs that I ever purchased. Let me explain why. I remember purchasing Dio‘s latest studio album Lock Up The Wolves back in 1990. I was truly excited to hear the album as a whole because I absolutely loved the first single “Wild One.” That track was a return to form for Dio after two “OK” albums in Sacred Heart (1985) and Dream Evil (1987) that did not measure up to the two amazing prior records Holy Diver (1983) and Last In Line (1984). “Wild One” was built on an incredible guitar riff, was faster paced and featured new 18 year old guitar prodigy Rowan Robertson shredding away. A couple of additional tracks in that vain and Dio could well have had the album of the year for 1990.

Perhaps my expectations were too high as my cravings for faster paced Dio material were left unsatisfied. After “Wild One”, it was back to the slower plodding type Dio fare. It was almost like the single “Wild One” was an anomaly on Lock Up The Wolves. It didn’t really belong on the record when compared to the rest of the tracks. However, instead of giving fans a true sample of what was to come on Lock Up The Wolves, the Dio team decided to release the faster paced “Wild One” as the first single. I can’t blame them since the song is head above shoulders better than anything on the record and it fooled me into buying the album. Had I heard any of the other songs as the lead up single for Lock Up The Wolves except perhaps “Walk On Water” (which is like a cheap copy of “Wild One”), my hard earned money at the time would have stayed in my pockets.

I must confess that it’s been almost a quarter of a century since I had heard Lock Up The Wolves since in 1996, some low life thief stole my meager but treasured CD collection at the time, which included Dio‘s 1990 release. My view towards the tracks on Lock Up The Wolves remains almost the same 25 years later with one stellar kick ass song (“Wild One”) and a disappointing slew of mainly slower, plodding and dull mid-paced Dio offerings. I say “almost” because I actually have enjoyed revisiting the rest of the tracks on Lock Up The Wolves as they are not as bad as I had remembered them to be. In fact, the musicianship and emotion conveyed on the tracks are actually pretty good from start to finish. A song like “Between Two Hearts” is well constructed, has a cool guitar solo and has a lot of power despite its rather slow parts. “Walk On Water” is actually another faster paced tune when I only remembered “Wild One” to fall in that category. I can appreciate the other songs on the record quite a bit more now but it’s still a mostly boring album to listen to aside from the first single “Wild One.”

It would take me a full decade to recover from my disappointment encountered from the purchase of Lock Up The Wolves. I ended up purchasing Inferno: Last in Live a couple of years after it was released and discovering that Ronnie James Dio was still writing some good new songs such as “Jesus, Mary & The Holy Ghost” (from 1993’s Strange Highways) as well as “Double Monday” and “Hunter of The Heart” (from 1996’s Angry Machines). I continued to purchase most of Dio‘s live releases including Holy Diver – Live in 2006 and At Donington UK: Live 1983 & 1987 in 2010. Nevertheless, I never ended up purchasing another Dio studio album because whenever I thought of doing so, I thought back to how crushed I was when I first heard Lock Up The Wolves after expecting an entire album of tracks resembling the sublime “Wild One.” There’s no need to say that I have never thought of replacing my stolen copy of Lock Up The Wolves and listening to the album almost 25 years later does not push me to repurchase the album anytime soon.

Track List:
01. Wild One
02. Born On The Sun
03. Hey Angel
04. Between Two Hearts
05. Night Music
06. Lock Up The Wolves
07. Evil On Queen Street
08. Walk On Water
09. Twisted
10. Why Are They Watching Me
11. My Eyes

Band Members:
Ronnie James Dio – vocals
Rowan Robertson – guitars
Jens Johnasson – keyboards
Teddy Cook – bass
Simon Wright – drums, percussion

Produced by Tony Platt and Ronnie James Dio
Mixed by Tony Platt and Nigel Green
Mastered by George Marino

Band Websites:
Official Website (Ronnie James Dio)
Facebook (Ronnie James Dio)

Reviewed by Ruben Mosqueda and Olivier for Sleaze Roxx, May 2020

Dio‘s “Wild One” video:

Dio – Wild One (Official Music Video)

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