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Any discerning rock/metal fan will already be aware that Last In Line originally came to be as something of a tribute entity, performing the music of Dio in a live context on both the festival circuit and at a number of other shows. Transcending arbitrary cover band constitution, this bunch of musicians could rightfully claim authenticity through their tribute, as Last In Line featured three founding Dio members - the rhythm pairing of sticksman Vinny Appice and bassist Jimmy Bain, as well as current Def Leppard axeman Vivian Campbell - plus the addition of onetime Dio keyboardist Claude Schnell (who joined Ronnie James and co. for the 'Holy Diver' tour, following the release of said debut album). Recruiting Andrew Freeman as vocalist, who's previously fronted Lynch Mob and toured with The Offspring as live session guitarist/backing vocalist, Last in Line transpired to be something of a powerhouse homage, both delivering on the promise of their personnel and living up to their namesake (their moniker derives from Dio's sophomore album).

2016 sees Last In Line break free from their original tribute intentions into an autonomous rock/metal force, with the release of their debut album, 'Heavy Crown', featuring eleven cuts of newly composed music. Schnell, however, is now absent from the band's ranks and the sad news broke last month, just four weeks ahead of the album's official release date, of Jimmy Bain's untimely passing. 'Heavy Crown', therefore, arrives as something of a bittersweet release, serving to both showcase the refined rock/metal prowess of Last In Line's natural progression into original songwriting, and a fitting swansong to Bain's masterful bass talents.

It seems we have Frontiers Music to thank for triggering Last in Line's foray into composing some original tunes, as it was the Italian label who offered the band an album deal. According to Campbell, upon formation, Last In Line's "ambition at that time didn't extend to writing and recording any new music". So, yep, Frontiers can take a degree of credit for kick-starting Last In Line's next chapter. And, after fully digesting 'Heavy Crown' over the past few weeks, I can quite confidently say that it's indubitably the next logical chapter in this outfit's existence. 'Heavy Crown' rocks in a big way. In a big retro way too, so when fans eventually get to hear this monster of a record, they can rest assured there's a strong element of respectful pastiche at work here. Featuring the same people responsible for composing and performing some of Dio's most seminal work, I guess it's simply a corollary of their 21st century take on rock/metal. However, while the songs are generally loaded with 80s rock and metal motifs (I refrain from saying "clichés", as these guys invented some of the very clichés they adhere to), they also sound refreshingly contemporary. This is predominantly through an almost untamed energy that can be felt throughout the record; one where it sounds as if the musicians are revelling in the very opportunity to compose and record as a unit once again. Needless to say, the performances are all first class, as instrumentations have an almost instinctive inherence about them, such is the way each instrument blends into a compelling whole. These guys belong together, and they've more than proved such with their inaugural venture into original compositions under the Last In Line guise. Freeman excels on vocal duties too. Sound-wise, the production and mix are both top-notch as well. In particular, Campbell's guitar tone is magnificent; full of warm lushness in his leads, and crisp, crunchy bite through his rhythm work.

All in all, while Last In Line aren't breaking any new ground here - and, to be fair, the expectation is one biased more towards retro revelry, which they've delivered in spades - they've succeeded in forging a series of tracks that'll stand tall alongside the Dio classics (that I presume they'll continue to perform at future live shows). Just as David Bowie bowed out on yet another career high-point with last month's sonically sublime 'Blackstar', Bain's final recorded work, alongside his esteemed colleagues and friends, is a strong finale to his musical career. And, hopefully, it also signifies the birth and continuation of Last In Line's new path.
Frontiers Music
Review by Mark Holmes
19th February 2016
1) Devil In Me
2) Martyr
3) Starmaker
4) Burn This House Down
5) I Am Revolution
6) Blame It On Me
7) Already Dead
8) Curse the Day
9) Orange Glow
10) Heavy Crown
11) The Sickness
"'Heavy Crown' rocks in a big way. In a big retro way too, so when fans eventually get to hear this monster of a record, they can rest assured there's a strong element of respectful pastiche at work here."