Like a lot of trad metal veterans, Ronnie James Dio had a difficult 90s. 1996’s confused weak link, Angry Machines, had alienated long-term fans with its misguided attempts at aping a more contemporary style, so when Magica was released in 2000 it was joyously fallen upon with jubilation by the Dio hardcore.
Ronnie’s first narrative fantasy concept album – about a noble wizard fighting an evil priest over a book of spells – was fleshed out with some classy, dramatic HM tunes like crunchy anthem Fever Dreams, Feed My Head, jaunty folk-metal reel Losing My Insanity and irresistible ballad As Long As It’s Not About Love. Inevitably it has its fair share of padding, and sometimes feels a little too much like a default reversion-to-type after an unsuccessful experiment.
The second disc of this ‘deluxe edition’ includes Ronnie’s brilliantly earnest 18-minute reading of The Magica Story, a disposable instrumental Japanese bonus track, five live Magica songs and Electra, the last song this band ever recorded – an awesome stately epic intended for release on Magica II, the sequel that RJD was writing while fighting the cancer that eventually killed him. An unavoidably poignant experience, but also simply one of Dio’s finest post-80s songs.