Various Artists - A Light in the Black : A Tribute to Ronnie James Dio
Massacre Records
Melodic Power Metal
Disc 1: 10 songs () Disc 2: 10 songs ()
Release year: 2015
Massacre Records
Reviewed by Alex

Tribute albums are often both hard and easy to review. On one hand you know the songs and don't have to comment on compositions and songwriting. That was the job of the original artist. But then, you have to listen and spot differences/similarities between the tribute and the primary. For A Light in the Black Dio tribute album Massacre Records only used their own artists not inviting any from the outside. That, in a way, insures that different and extreme genres won't be represented, and the focus is going to be on power metal and melodic rock. While I love extreme metal tributes for classic metal artists, I couldn't pass up another Dio tribute for a quick perusal, I just have total respect and admiration for one of the best vocalists in heavy metal who ever lived. At the same time, the best Dio tribute I have heard was Holy Dio on Century Media 15 years ago, so in my mind Massacre artists have to go against not only the Dio icon himself, but also against those big names who were a part of the Century Media tribute back then.

Overall, A Light in the Black does not have major lowlights. Also, the album takes aim not only at major hits, but also makes mention of lesser known songs (I by Rebellion, Time Machine by Circle of Silence, Caught in the Middle by Wizard). At the same time, tributes sometimes serve for me as a source to discover a band based on a strong performance, only to follow them later to their own original releases. A Light in the Black did not quite provide me with those revelations. While delivering quality performances throughout the artists on the tribute do not elevate themselves to the prominent heights.

A few notes, so you get an idea of who was present. My MetalReviews colleagues were recently very high on Crystal Ball. The Swiss have two chances on the album. On the opening Sacred Heart they provide cool looseness, even though the notable Dio’s accent lacks sometimes on the song’s key words. This problem is not only Crystal Ball’s, as Holy Diver by Gloryful – probably my favorite childhood song – also does not quite deliver on Dio vocal level, doing a pretty commendable job otherwise. With The Sign of the Southern Cross Crystal Ball decides to open up with an appropriate dark piano, but for doomy heaviness they need some sort of gurgling background, unlike Black Sabbath and Fates Warning (on the aforementioned CM tribute). Evil Eyes by Gun Barrel has a rocking feel, prominent bass and dry 80s snare, but the absence of a growl in the needed vocal spots is glaring. On Heavy Metal Will Never Die Gloryful decides to highlight an opening riff, going slower in the direction of the early Manowar albums, rather than trying to strain vocally. The Order on I Could Have Been a Dreamer, on the opposite, puts the emphasis on the voice, and do a good job with it. Metal Inquisitor are brash with their own solo interpretation on the King of Rock’n’Roll, but Iron Fate takes that to the extreme, lengthening Light in the Black and dualizing the guitar lead, turning it in some sort of a Judas Priest showcase. Circle of Silence also do an interesting job with the solo on One Night in the City, but vocally the song is not romantic enough. Another difficult job falls to Messenger on Don’t Talk to Strangers. No Dio, and no Hansi Kursch either (Blind Guardian did Don't Talk to Strangers for CM), Messenger and Siegfred Schubler have to resort to backing vocals choir help. Stand Up and Shout by Love.Might.Kill is energetic, but somewhat muddy, The Last in Line is a little too shrill vocally by The Order, and Circle of Silence just does too much chugging in a standard power metal mold on Time Machine (in truth, I am not in love with the original either). Wizard is trying to sing out ‘Caught in the Middle’ providing a somewhat anticlimactic closure after Gloryful’s Holy Diver should have been a very fitting end.

Both Messenger and Rebellion further prove that Kill the King was made to be a power metal hit. I wish there was emphasis on the world ‘power’ and less stratospheric climbing in ‘fly like a rainbow’ in Messenger’s delivery. Burden of Grief and Neon Knights obviously stand out on the tribute being the only song delivered with no clean vocals. The band does a good job connecting the riffs and the middle solo to their brand of vocals, with passion showing through.

At 2 discs / 20 songs the tribute might have been a little too long, but then this is Dio. The man left a legacy and every song he ever made is probably worth covering at some point.

Killing Songs :
Holy Diver by Gloryful, The Sign of the Southern Cross by Crystal Ball, Neon Knights by Burden of Grief
Alex quoted no quote
Other albums by Various Artists that we have reviewed:
Various Artists - Brutal Africa: The Heavy Metal Cowboys of Botswana reviewed by Andy and quoted no quote
Various Artists - Servants of Chaos II reviewed by Andy and quoted no quote
Various Artists - In Mordor Where the Shadows Are - Homage to Summoning reviewed by Andy and quoted no quote
Various Artists - Re-Machined: A Tribute to Deep Purple's Machine Head reviewed by Stefan and quoted No Quote
Various Artists - Illud Divinum Insanus - The Remixes reviewed by Charles and quoted no quote
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