Don’t dump growling metal singer Ronnie James Dio nor Swedish guitar hero Yngwie Malmsteen onto the bandwagon of ’80s metal bands making the arena rounds these days. Dio, 51, is the vocally talented legend who helped bring Black Sabbath back to respect after the band axed Ozzy Osbourne. Dio then went on to a platinum solo career. His non-ironic influence resonates through today’s minor-key metal; without Dio, there’d be no Chris Cornell.
Yngwie Malmsteen has always been peerless; a classical composer whose too-fast shredding owes more to Bach than Eddie Van Halen. His influence is hard to spot these days, because no one else can do what Malmsteen does.
“(The fans) are ready to have it again . . . people who can play,” Malmsteen said over the phone from a tour bus in Cleveland, Ohio. Where once Yngwie was the fastest in a sea of fast guitarists, his shredding sounds amazing and new against the backdrop of today’s minimalist punk-guitar aesthetic. “People don’t want to be putting time into becoming a good musician,” Malmsteen says in an accent that seems unaffected by 11 years of living in Miami. “(They) just want to bang out a few chords.”
While “hair metal” has become a source of parody, Dio and Yngwie stick with their sober themes of magic, sorcery and knights in shining armor. If RATT, Warrant and Poison are about T&A, Dio and Malmsteen are more into D&D.
But this time around, the medieval motifs will have to be conveyed through the music. Though the bands pack smaller venues like Jannus Landing, the budgets are pruned, as is the stage decoration. “It’d be nice if it were the old days where we could bring dragons with us and pyramids and knights in shiny armor and lasers,” Dio says. “But unfortunately for a lot of bands like ourselves in the genre . . . for the last 10 years we haven’t been given an awful lot of attention and you need to make a lot of money to spend a lot of money to bring those things with you.”
Neither artist is on the revival trip. Friday at Jannus Landing, Dio will perform hits such as Holy Diver, Rainbow in the Dark and Last In Line, but the majority of his set will come from his new concept album, Magica. And though Malmsteen will span his 15-album career, his set will draw from his latest album, The War to End All Wars.
But Dio believes that only his old fans will keep up with his new stuff. “Rock ‘n’ roll is such a generational thing and each generation has to embrace its own music.”
Adds Dio: “I don’t see how (old-school metal bands) could delude themselves into thinking that they’re going out there changing the world . . . Kids don’t want to see their moms and dads leaping about on stage making music; they want to see someone of their own ilk up there . . . though I’ve never ever gotten older than 18 or 21 years old inside of me.”