Review: Dio “Holy Diver” (1983) [Mercury Records]

Review: Dio “Holy Diver” (1983) [Mercury Records]

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The band’s frontman Ronnie James Dio was not precisely a newcomer in heavy metal music, as he was part of two of the most recognized bands thereof: Rainbow and Black Sabbath. Fanatics of such acts and the metal scene in general never overlooked his work, given the influences and the guiding principles he left for whatever relating to epic songwriting (a.k.a. dungeons and dragons), not to mention how memorable and powerful is his voice.

Despite his unfortunate departure from Black Sabbath, the voice of metal formed his band, and for his benefit, he was able to recruit skilled musicians, including his former bandmates Jimmy Bain and Vinny Appice, as well as the Irish guitarist Vivian Campbell (Sweet Savage). Such a line-up guaranteed an auspicious beginning for Dio, and even better, it helped him move the musical direction in the way he wanted: walking towards the dungeons and dragons thematic. The result of all these elements altogether ended up in what is probably one of the most astonishing heavy metal albums ever brought in the metal scene.

The music displayed herein immediately causes an impact on the listener with the powerful, intense and speedish opener “Stand Up and Shout”, which is a kind of cross-over between Sweet Savage‘s numbers “The Eye of the Storm” and “Queen’s Vengeance” (the intro riff seems to take much after that of this number).

You may imagine how explosive the number resulted; nonetheless, the band kept of climbing and somehow found out their creative peak in the “Heaven and Hell” reminiscent title track. The constant explosion of power-chords throughout the number, the dark stormy atmosphere, and the powerful Dio vocals make of this song the most epic in the band’s catalog.

The rest of the album does not move away from that direction. On the one hand, you have numbers which kept the line of heaviness drawn by the title song, such as “Straight Through the Heart”, which although moving in a mid-pace, do not lose the punch that characterizes the whole damn thing while guaranteeing a dose of ass-kicking heavy metal. “Don’t Talk to Strangers”, on the other hand, keeps the epic spirit of the album with its proggy architecture, which moves from a sweet and soft intro to a heavier tune seasoned by the very aggressive soloing and riff set provided by Campbell.

Although the album is filled with Dio‘s trademark metaphoric songwriting style, where things become interesting is in their most famous number, the melodic nostalgic “Rainbow in the Dark”, which through metaphors displays the feelings Dio experimented when he left Black Sabbath (just to come back again to take this role 10 years later). It also represents an opportunity of reaching the masses, as it was able to balance the commercialism and heaviness without losing the latter, something that is not common, since generally, including commercialism in the formula results in a poor songwriting work.

Its consistency and effective songwriting work have allowed the album reach high scales of respectability and good sales, ending up in an RIAA platinum certificate on account of its sales. Undisputedly, the album has enough merits to be considered the best album ever released in the metal scene, and few releases can reach the quality of Dio‘s debut. If you claim yourself a metalhead, this album should be part of your collection. If you haven’t bought it, what are you waiting?

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