Dio - Holy Diver
Mercury Records
Heavy Metal
9 songs (41:33)
Release year: 1983
Dio, Mercury Records
Reviewed by Jay

When I go to metal shows today, usually run into people who are much older than I am. Often they tell stories of seeing the original Judas Priest and Black Sabbath before I was born. I relish in every moment of these stories because it allows me to vicariously experience seeing all the acts I will never see live in my life. The metalheads that are my age are also like-minded and we appreciate the stories of what the world’s strongest metal scene once was. It is sad that when you go to a show at New York’s legendary L’amour nightclub (where bands like Anthrax, Metallica, Twisted Sister, Megadeth, and Type O Negative among others got their starts) you see mostly the remnants of this once strong scene. The young metalheads are few and far in between. However when local bands play, there are many younger teens. They come to see their friends in bands but leave before the headliners come on.

Recently I saw Symphony X there. I was conversing with a professed Symphony X fan several years my junior. I said to him, “Russell Allen sounds a lot like Dio in his prime.” His response was, “Who’s Dio?” “WHO IS DIO?!?!” I responded and then proceeded to give him a lesson in metal history. If you do not know who Dio is, I do not think you can call yourself a metal head. This man has been integral in two bands that defined what metal was and then went on to a tremendous solo career. To this day, he can still headline ballrooms in the U.S. and Europe just by saying that he is touring. Hammerfall, Doro, King’s X and Yngwie Malmsteen are just some of the acts that have functioned as his SUPPORT in recent years. Ronnie James Dio. Ronnie James FUCKING DIO! You should be stripped of your metal stripes if you do not know this man or his music.

Dio’s most memorable contribution to the metal community is his first solo record, “Holy Diver.” This album is a masterpiece from start to finish. There is not a single track on it that is boring, too long, too short, poorly mixed or poorly recorded. This album stands the test of time being that it was released 20 years ago and still sounds current and powerful. The opening track hooks you. After the first riff of “Stand Up and Shout” (note: This is NOT the song used in Rock Star, this song is a billion times better) there is no turning back. It is the perfect metal riff and leads right into the motor-like galloping music that enraptures you. And then the man starts singing. Of the many unique qualities that Dio’s voice has, the timbre of his voice is the most striking. I have never heard another singer who had as much tone color in his voice. He has a forceful delivery and a range that can put nearly everyone in metal today to shame. He does not sing falsetto but he can hammer out those high notes. Words cannot describe the incredible authority this man has in his vocal style.

Supporting Dio on this album were Vinny Appice (who was in Black Sabbath with Dio) on drums, Jimmy Bain on bass and keys and Vivian Campbell on guitars. Campbell is a virtuoso and can solo with the best of them. Appice redefined metal drumming on this album. All of his patterns and fills are calculated and sharp. The title track on this album can be heard in most true metal songs to this day. The chord progression, the vocal styles and bass lines are common elements in songs heard today. The introduction alone is haunting, ominous and dark. The Haunted, Halford, Disturbed, Slipknot, Opeth and countless others have used techniques similar to this on their albums to set up the listener with a sense of uneasiness. Dio knew exactly what he was doing and set out to use this technique to an incredible maximal effect. Dio really revolutionized metal with this track. His vocals are completely on target and incredible. Kids today think that Corey Taylor from Slipknot has an incredible range because he can hit midrange notes when he is not growling or rapping. Dio could be a wakeup call to all of these misled kids.

Don’t Talk to Strangers” begins with an acoustic intro. Dio not only belts out profound lyrics with poise and command, he draws you into the song especially with the lyric “Don’t Dream of Women/’cause they’ll only bring you down.” The way he holds the last note of that word is haunting. I am amazed every time I hear this incredible song. The bass work on this song is spectacular and the riffs are perfectly blended into the song. Again, there is a killer solo here. The song slows down again leading up to Dio holding the same note again. This time there’s more pain heard in the note. He is singing from the collective blackness inside each of us and we can connect with his pain. His yelps and cries are again the collective pain we have felt. Similarly, on the next song “Straight Through the Heart,” we are assaulted with screeching guitars and Mr. Dio’s incredible vocals. A remarkable quality of Dio’s voice first became apparent to me on this song. He maintains incredible diction while singing. Most singers will loose the sharpness of their vocal style when singing. Dio manages to annunciate every word when he sings. Instead of having to pour over lyric sheets to understand what the words are, Dio feels his words are worthy of listening to. He makes every effort to let you hear them. While this is a small part of the listening experience, the little nuances of an album usually define the difference between a good album and one that changes the face of a genre.

Invisible” again starts out with a slow introduction. This is more of a psychedelic, trippy Pink Floyd style guitar. Dio comes in with light effects on his voice. Once the song kicks into high gear, it’s audible that this was the precursor to nearly the entire Guns N’ Roses catalogue. This song sped up is a dead ringer for “Paradise City.” Among the bands that must pay homage to Dio, GN'R and many of the later hair bands were watered down copies of what Dio was. “Shame on the Night” starts off similar to some older Black Sabbath songs especially reminiscent of “Hand of Doom.” The wolf howl is a nice touch though. This is the perfect slow tempo song to end an album. Dio sounds like a modern blues singer. He has a gravely tone and pained vocals. He is expressing all his rage and fury through his singing. I cannot stress enough how incredible this man’s delivery is.

I would be remiss without mentioning “Rainbow in the Dark.” This was the song that did it for Dio. It had an MTV video and welcomed the world to Dio. From the first seconds, the keyboard melody has you. This is the song that that gets stuck in your head. When I first heard this song, I ran out and bought this album. I remember telling my neighbor (former metalhead) that he had to hear this amazing song I just discovered. His response was, “Do you know how old this is?” The keyboard melody combined with Dio’s voice and the guitar attack complete with harmonics nearly every riff are unparalleled. The solo here goes on my list somewhere near the top as one of the best metal solos ever. EVER. “Do your demons / do they ever let you go? / When you've tried / do they hide deep inside? / Is it someone that you know? / You're a picture / just an image caught in time. / We're a lie / you and I / We're words without a rhyme.” These are the words of metal. They echo into a true metalhead’s soul as Dio’s barbed vocals pierce our ears.

If it weren’t for Dio, most bands we know and love today would not exist. Dio is that influential. It’s hard to see how Dio gets overlooked when people make best of metal lists. This song alone elevates this man to “Lord of Metal” status, an elite title shared by maybe 20 or so others in my opinion. Simply put, buy this album if you don’t own it. THIS ALBUM DEFINES WHAT METAL IS.

Killing Songs :
Jay quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Dio that we have reviewed:
Dio - Sacred Heart reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Dio - The Last In Line reviewed by Goat and quoted CLASSIC
Dio - Dream Evil reviewed by Thomas and quoted 93 / 100
Dio - Holy Diver Live reviewed by Jeff and quoted no quote
Dio - Master of the Moon reviewed by Jeff and quoted 78 / 100
To see all 10 reviews click here
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