Oh boy, another man down, in this morbid period that’s already polished off Lemmy, David Bowie, Scott Weiland, Glenn Frey and Paul Kantner. Inevitably the new album from Last In Line (formed in 2012 from the long-cold ashes of heavy metal heroes Dio) has become dominated by the sad death of bassist Jimmy Bain – a much-loved but relatively unsung rock figure, in contrast with the spotlit, fallen frontmen of late.
Still take comfort from the fact that the aforementioned album, Heavy Crown, is a pretty damn good last hurrah from Bain. Not to mention a strong extra string to the bows of Def Leppard guitarist Viv Campbell, ex-Dio/Sabbath drummer Vinny Appice and former Offspring man Andrew Freeman. These guys have seen the rougher side of life (cancer, the death of friends/bandmates, Bain himself pretty much died in poverty…), and you can hear the fists-clenched, teeth-gritted determination at work.
With all-guns-blazing air guitar fests (e.g. I Am Revolution) and heartfelt melancholy moments from Freeman, it’s a slick mix. Devil In Me thumps in first, all fat grooves, gung-ho guitar and beefy production, delivered with audible pride. The dominant tone, however, is a mix of angst and upbeat resolve. Burn This House Down is riffy but brooding – laden with genuine intent (and a superb guitar solo). And the heavy emotion in Starmaker almost feels like a tribute to departed rock greats.
Good album in the bag, is this now the end of Last In Line? It’s been suggested that producer/ex-Dio bassist Jeff Pilson could step in and enable them to continue. Alternatively, with Bain and keyboardist Claude Schnell out of the picture, perhaps there’s just not enough of the original Dio roots for them to carry on convincingly.
Either way, if this is it, they can go out with their heads held high.