Last In Line's II is the first album the former Dio acolytes have made since the unexpected death of Jimmy Bain in January 2016 (opens in new tab).
Knowing that Bain would have wanted the band to continue, the remaining members - drummer Vinny Appice, guitarist Vivian Campell and singer Andrew Freeman - recruited former Ozzy Osbourne (opens in new tab) bassist Phil Soussan to fill his place, and then assembled in Los Angeles to do what they've always done: gather in a room and bash ideas around before taking them into the studio.
“The songwriting process was the same as Dio's Holy Diver, says Appice. "First, we have fun writing together. We get in a room and jam on riffs and chords until we hit on something good, then continue to build it into a song. Andy puts his magic on it and it all works out very well.”
"I am honestly prouder of our efforts on this album than anything in which I have been involved in for a very long time," adds Sousson. "With II I would like to think that we have stretched out from Heavy Crown to test some uncharted waters... the evolution of Last in Line!”
Below, the four members of Last In Line guide us through II.
Blackout The Sun
Vivian Campbell: "It’s a very simple, old-school riff with a feel that's reminiscent of classic rock bands of the 1970s and early '80s. It's the kind of riff I feel that Ronnie would have appreciated. It's also the kind of tempo that Vinny really excels at, as Vinny brings great power and majesty to slower tempo songs.
"When we started playing the initial idea, we thought at first that we might need another part. Most of the songs on II have a lot of parts and in-depth arrangements. However, the more we played Black Out The Sun, the more we realised that it delivered as is - especially when we heard Andrew's vocals! It's an impactful song that carries a lot of intent, so much so that we elected to open the album with it."
Vinny Appice: "Walked into the rehearsal studio and Vivian was messing with his sounds. I said, “Whats that you’re playing? It's killer!” and the intro was born. Fast verses into a big giant chorus with Andy storming over the top, killing it! Another earth-shaking guitar solo over some pounding up-tempo riffs pumping out on bass and drums. A song that is extremely fun to play live…"
Gods and Tyrants
Vinny Appice: "A very interesting song. Viv had this strange riff that seems a bit out of time. It was a cool riff to play, and created a contrast with the chorus, which is a bit Beatles-like; melodic, with Andy's huge vocals over it. Next, Viv burning a few crazed solos on the up-tempo parts on the way out, building into a crazy drum-bass-drum break which releases all the tension and ends the song proper, with a bang!"
Year of the Gun
Vivian Campbell: "The riff and tempo of Year Of The Gun suggested an aggressive melody, and I believe that Andrew delivered just that with his lyrics and the staccato approach to the vocals. Andrew lives in Las Vegas, and while I'm not sure to what extent the recent mass shooting there played a role in his writing, one imagines a tragedy of that proportion would be omnipresent and deeply moving.
"Some people have incorrectly interpreted this song as taking a stand on one side or the other of the gun debate. That would be incorrect. The song is simply an artistic reflection on the times that we live in. It's always been the artist's role to hold up a mirror to the real world."
Give Up The Ghost
Andrew Freeman: "This is, hands down, my favourite track on the record. The rehearsal demo for this was so epic that we had to record it twice to get it right. It’s a mid-tempo music track that has a fast vocal line on top of it, which creates the energy of an uptempo song.
"The subject of the lyrics reference the idea of closure, positive and negative. Moving on from past regrets, toxic behaviour and the pursuit of a lost cause. There’s also a bit of a lead, follow or get out of the way vibe to it as well."
Phil Soussan: "This was a riff initially inspired by a NWOBHM-style of guitar that quickly breaks into a spacey pre-chorus and then pays off with a classic unison riff à la Jimmy Page.
"The chorus as well as the middle section is again a modern post-punk/grunge idea of cool complex chordings with a figured bass line under to inspire melody. Lyrically I wrote much of this with Andrew and the song deals with the manipulation of people by social media and the addictive power that it has attained; there are now four times as many fatalities from driving under the influence (distraction) of Smartphones than driving under the influence of alcohol!
"It has almost become a religious daily routine. Indeed every track on this album deals with some form of breakdown within our society and social interaction has sandbagged any ability for people to interact in person."
Sword From The Stone
Andrew Freeman: "One of those tracks that is a classic Vinny Appice signature groove. Nobody plays like him, and when Vivian and Phil lock in it’s just magical.
"Lyrically it references the old King Arthur story and addresses our current world problems and poses the question; Wouldn’t it be great if there was someone... anyone... who could - metaphorically - fix everything by pulling a sword from a stone? As if it would be that simple."
Phil Soussan: "This was the first song we wrote together. Vinny and I had arrived early to the first session and we started playing with this riff. I had an idea of a Black Dog-type riff that repeats with a vocal in between (and at first the vocal gaps had been longer.)
"Viv joined in and we started writing through the rest of the parts of the song. It literally was assembled section by section, and we recorded the demo a few hours later. It is a very exciting track and Andy’s performance on it is inimitable, that scream at the end is absolutely thrilling.
"This was the moment that answered all our questions about whether we would be able to write together in the same spirit that had inspired Holy Diver, Last in Line and Heavy Crown. With this track written, I think I speak for us all, that we had the confidence to cut the safety ropes and just go for it!"
Love & War
Vinny Appice: "A serious groove sets this boy up, with some tasty vocal effects over it. The chorus is a bit à la Dio retro. A very interesting middle eight that seems to melt and take you away to another universe and back again, keeping the groove pumping to the end of the song."
Andrew Freeman: "False Flag is mostly about conspiracy theories and misinformation in the media. An undercurrent in our world that is never discussed in the mainstream but most are aware exists. The subject of the songs lyrics reflects in the verse as they have a dark, demonic sounding low octave harmony under the main voice. Just a cool, dark sounding track."
Phil Soussan: "Perhaps my favourite track on the album. It's a track that was written on a day when things got messed up, and we were not in the headspace to write anything... and that is precisely when magic occurred!
"The song represents the positive conclusion at the end of what is a realistically dark album: that while you might be saying goodbye there is always a light at the end.
"The structure of the music for me had come from modern 'post punk' influence, and Andrew’s vocals sing perfectly over it. The bass and drums lead the vocal melody and Viv’s classic guitar soloing at the end is reminiscent to me of a Paul Kossoff-style of playing.
"It is the track that makes me want to put the record on again, and I can’t say that about too many records that I have heard over a hundred times recently!"