Dio - Sacred Heart
Warner Bros. Records
Heavy Metal
9 songs (38:29)
Release year: 1985
Dio, Warner Bros. Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

Barely two years after the release of the classic Holy Diver, and just over a year after the equally great The Last in Line, Ronnie James Dio and co (Schnell, Appice, Bain and Campbell, unchanged from before) released their third full-length album. No, you shouldn't expect anything up to the heady heights of the previous two, and indeed, this is a downright disappointment according to some. Yes, you should expect an altogether more commercial focus – after the gold-certified Last in Line (platinum by 1987) a move towards the more mainstream 80s rock sound was inevitable, and several songs here stray in that direction. Dio watered down, then, and perhaps running a bit dry for inspiration – but still having the remarkable strength that was Ronnie James Dio's fabulous voice, and therefore still worth listening to.

Sacred Heart is a strange album in some ways. Why on earth does opening rocker King of Rock and Roll have dubbed-in crowd noise, for example? Why not just put a live recording in? Hang on, why open a studio album with a live track anyway? The self-congratulatory song is bad enough, the 'we are awesome' theme having diminished returns since the previous albums' openers of Stand Up and Shout and We Rock – yet that King of Rock and Roll is actually a pretty great song makes me forgive the band. The following title track opens with an obnoxious synth sound effect, but is a decent mid-paced stomper with all the usual Dioisms about fighting dragons and running up rainbows present and correct.

Straightforward rockers like Another Lie and Like the Beat of a Heart are solid if not incredible additions to the tracklisting, and Just Another Day has some wonderful guitarwork despite sounding a bit Ozzy-fied. Rock 'N' Roll Children is regarded as one of the finest Dio songs for a reason – building majestically if synth-heavily to a truly epic conclusion, with a sing-along chorus, it's perfectly catchy. Hungry for Heaven tries to keep that feeling going, but feels a bit too constructed to me, as if made up of riffs and hooks from other, better Dio songs and designed for playing over the credits of some forgotten 80s film. (Doing some wikipedia-ing actually revealed Hungry for Heaven's presence on the soundtrack for cult wrestling classic (apparently) Vision Quest, so my psychic powers are improving.) And while RJD himself is terrific, the AC/DC-esque Shoot Shoot is a very poor closing track with a terrible chorus.

Still, the energy never drops, and all the performances are terrific. This would be guitarist Vivian Campbell's last full-length with the band, departing acrimoniously in 1986 to join Whitesnake and later, of course, Def Leppard and the reanimated Thin Lizzy. It feels like the end of an era somehow, Campbell being replaced by Craig Goldie on 1987's Dream Evil which, while viewed more positively than Sacred Heart, is still not up to the classic duo that Dio's solo career began with. Fans of the man's voice (and if you're not, you really should be) will find much to like in Sacred Heart, although there's no denying that it's a serious step down in quality. There are definitely songs present that would be far worse without a terrific talent like RJD to elevate them, and that's a real tribute to the legend. RIP, I'm still not over his passing.

Killing Songs :
King of Rock and Roll, Another Lie, Rock 'N' Roll Children, Just Another Day
Goat quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Dio that we have reviewed:
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
Dio - Lock Up the Wolves reviewed by Alex and quoted 81 / 100
To see all 10 reviews click here
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