LOCK UP THE DISBELIEVERS – A CLOSER LOOK AT AN UNDERRATED DIO GEM
25 years ago the sadly missed Ronnie James Dio and the members of the band DIO released one of the most underrated and brilliant metal albums of all time in the shape of «Lock Up the Wolves», which came out in May 1990 on Warner Brothers Records. The four albums that preceded the aforementioned album, those being the heavy metal classics «Holy Diver» (1983), «The Last in Line» (1984), «Sacred Heart» (1985), and «Dream Evil» (1987), featured world-class musicians such as Vivian Campell (Whitesnake, Def Leppard), Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath), Craig Goldy (Rough Cutt), and Jimmy Bain (Rainbow, Widowmaker), but by the time it came to composing, arranging, and recording «Lock Up the Wolves» the line-up had pretty much changed completely, but the album turned out to be nothing less than completely captivating. Besides Ronnie James Dio on vocals the band consisted of the British guitar-genius Rowan Robertson, drummer Simon Wright (UFO, AC/DC), keyboardist Jens Johansson (Stratovarious, Cain’s Offering), and bass-player Teddy Cook (Great White, Virgin Steele). The album did sound quite different to its predecessors, but it was unmistakably a DIO album. Need I really elaborate on the mindblowingly awesome vocals courtesy of the maestro himself? I think not! You all know what Ronnie James Dio was capable of in terms of vocals, coming up with melodies, writing lyrics, and making the hair on your wimpy arms stand up, so let us just leave it at that for now. Ehh, no, wait a minute…let me just point out that I love the lyrics to the entire «Lock Up the Wolves» album as they seem more personal and melancholic somehow compared to those that accompanied «Holy Diver», «The Last in Line», and so on. Some of the metaphors used are simply brilliant, and I suppose the fact that the music is slightly darker and more bluesy compared to the DIO albums from the 80s touches and moves me in a completely different way than, say for instance, «Holy Diver» does. That is nothing against «Holy Diver» – I love that album to death! Rowan Robertson has a unique way of crafting riffs and a sound and style of his own, and it just blows my mind that he was only 17-18 years old when he co-wrote and recorded all 11 songs on the album with Ronnie. How crazy is that? I mean…COME ONE! Simon Wright and Teddy Cook sound tight and in the groove on the album. Listen closely to Teddy’s bass lines on «Evil on Queen Street» or Simon’s great drumming on «Wild One». Listening to stuff like that gives me a heavy metal boner – make no mistake about that! The title track is an epic and moody masterpiece that is as timeless as it is a stroke of genius. The use of keyboards compliments the song beautifully while Ronnie’s voice and poetry simply elevate things beyond anything that I can put into words. Songs such as «Hey Angel», «Born on the Sun», «Between Two Hearts», and the aforementioned title track are some of the most melancholic DIO songs to ever see the light of day. The album as a whole has a morose aura to it. Forgive me for being a geek, but to quote Mr. Hyde in the movie entitled «The League»: «Its sorrow is as sweet to me as a rare wine». That quote always springs to mind whenever I listen to «Lock Up the Wolves». Other highlights include «My Eyes» and «Why Are They Watching Me?». Just read the lyrics to «My Eyes» and you will understand why that song rules.
«Lock Up the Wolves» is one of those albums that you have to listen to a number of times before everything falls into place and it all starts to make sense. It is not only coherent and cohesive, but also varied and dynamic. Whenever I listen to it I never fucking skip a track. I listen to the whole thing from start to finish. I always get carried away and captivated by the album and lose myself completely in its surreal and hard rocking atmosphere. The album has a haunting quality to it that I cannot translate into words, but it does wonders for my mind and soul, and for that I am grateful. If you are one of those pathetic weenies who are only familiar with «Holy Diver» then I suggest you remove your head from your ass this instant and go hunt for a CD or vinyl copy of «Lock Up the Wolves». Just approach it with an open mind as opposed to expecting «Holy Diver Part II»! If you check the metal forums or google the album it quickly becomes apparent sthat ome fans cherish and adore the album while others simply do not get it. I guess that is fair. Great art usually provokes strong reactions, be they positive or negative ones.
But why stop here? We ought to at least talk to one of the musicians who was a major part of composing and arranging «Lock Up the Wolves, right? We could not agree more with you, which is why Eternal Terror Live caught up with Rowan Robertson and asked him a few questions in relation to the album as well as what it was like being a member of that particular era of DIO. Here you go:
Do you feel slightly nostalgic or sentimental when you listen to "Lock Up the Wolves" nowadays?
RR: When I listen to it, I listen more in a discerning way, to the parts, the energy, the tones. I am a big fan of recording! What I feel nostalgic about is the time period spent with Dio, the memories are definitely something I treasure. What could be cooler than moving to LA at seventeen, having crazy parties and going to the Rainbow with Jimmy Bain haha! Every day going to rehearsal to play with Dio for an album and up coming tour, it was awesome!
One of the most memorable shows I have ever attended was the Southern Cross gig at Garage in Bergen back in late 2012. You guys ruled and everybody in attendance was so into it. That was a great night. On a personal level, that gig meant an awful lot to me in the sense that I got to hear songs off "Lock Up the Wolves" live for the first time ever. How did you feel about performing those brilliant songs again after so many years? Everybody in the band seemed to really enjoy themselves on stage. What was the atmosphere within the band like during your short tour of Norway/Sweden in 2012?
RR: Thanks! We have fun together, lots of laughs. Henrik Haugen is the drummer and he put the whole thing together, we keep in good touch. He is such a good, positive person, a true rock and roll fan! I definitely enjoyed playing the LUTW material again. Coming to see Norway and Sweden was wonderful and I hope to do it again soon. The rock fans there are great and so welcoming!!
When you were a member of DIO, how did you feel about performing the Black Sabbath material live? Personally, I like all eras of Black Sabbath and I love the fact that they were slightly different to each other, but they all had that unmistakable Sabbath sound and atmosphere to them. Were you into Black Sabbath and Rainbow before you joined the DIO band?
RR: Before I joined the band I was a huge fan of Dio and Dio era Sabbath. Those records meant a lot to me as kid. I blasted "Holy Diver" and "Heaven and Hell" in on my bedroom stereo all the time! Deep Purple and AC/DC as well. I love both the Dio and Ozzy eras of Sabbath now. The first line-up of Sabbath was an incredible band. I love Geezer’s lyrics and Tony’s riffs (not just in the Ozzy era) are and will always be untouchable. The eras are so different in style but both amazing. As far as playing Sabbath and Rainbow stuff with Dio, I enjoyed it a lot. I seem to remember loving playing "Tarot Woman" and "Stargazer". Ritchie Blackmore was definitely one of my biggest influences and I felt very much at home playing the Rainbow stuff back then.
How do you look back on that time in your life with DIO? Personally, I feel that "Lock Up the Wolves" is extremely underrated. It is definitely my favorite album by the band. Somehow it just had more substance to it, and it was moodier and more melancholic in a sense, but at the same time it was really organic and dynamic and varied and so on.
RR: I agree with you that it had a melancholic thing in there, not intentionally on my part at all, but it’s there. Maybe as the LA scene was almost done, there is space in the recording which is different than the first two albums. They hit the nail on the head harder for sure and LUTW is more bluesy I think. Some people love the record and some don’t! Really glad you like it. I look back at that time fondly for sure and am so grateful to have known and played for Ronnie. He put me on the map and all opportunities I have to this day stem back to him.
Is it true that the DIO band started working on a follow-up to "Lock Up the Wolves" shortly before Ronnie left to re-join Black Sabbath for the "Dehumanizer" album and tour? Was the material shelved, or has certain ideas and parts shown up elsewhere in other songs and so on over the years, say for instance in DC4 or on later DIO albums?
RR: No, there were no songs for a second record. I got together with Ronnie I think twice and we played around with a riff or two, while he was, I think, deciding whether to go back to Sabbath. It must have been difficult for him at that time and the attraction of making another Sabbath album must have been exciting. I love the "Dehumanizer" album!
Do you by any chance know whether or not a deluxe edition of "Lock Up the Wolves" will ever surface? Perhaps it is already in the works?
RR: I have no idea if that is something Wendy Dio would want to do.
When you are at home and you just want to relax and kick back, what kind of music do you listen to? What are some of your all-time favorite hard rock albums?
RR: There are so many recordings that I love it’s just so hard to say, but I suppose Sabbath, Zeppelin, Floyd, Beatles, Stones, Purple, Hendrix, Cream, and ZZ Top. I gravitate to the bluesy stuff. As a kid there was the Anthrax, Megadeth, Metallica stuff too. My rhythm playing is very influenced by Scott Ian!
Rowan, I want to thank you for doing this interview. I feel very honored. Any final comments or words to the faithful readers of Eternal Terror Live?
RR: Thank you Jens. I wish everyone all the best and am so happy to be asked by you to talk to your readers. Rock on!
THE SOUTHERN CROSS
On a final note, there is a Dio tribute band out there named The Southern Cross featuring Rowan Robertsen (guitar), Rick Hagan (drums), ‘Arry Gogstead (bass), Geoff Nicholls (keyboards), and Nils Patrik Johansson (vocals). They toured Norway in late 2012 and performed a number of songs off «Lock Up the Wolves», and witnessing one of those shows was a dream come true for me. The performance ruled beyond belief! I still think about that night quite often, actually. Anyway, I wrote a review of it back then and submitted it to black-sabbath.com. If you are interested it can be located here: