Dio - Holy Diver (Super Deluxe Edition) Music Album Reviews

Dio - Holy Diver (Super Deluxe Edition) Music Album Reviews
The zenith of Ronnie James Dio’s formidable career, reissued on what would have been his 80th birthday, is a heavy metal holy grail —a beacon of iconic riffs and ecstatic, empowering anthems.

Before the release of Holy Diver, Ronnie James Dio was merely the greatest hired gun in the history of rock’n’roll. In 1974, Deep Purple’s Roger Glover drafted the diminutive American, born Ronald Padavona, to sing on his bongwater-soaked rock opera, The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast. Dio’s performance so impressed former Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore that he hired him to front his new neoclassical hard-rock band Rainbow. Dio made three albums with Blackmore, but left Rainbow in 1979 to join Black Sabbath, taking on the daunting task of replacing the newly solo Ozzy Osbourne for the band’s Heaven and Hell. Dio’s second album with Sabbath, 1981’s Mob Rules, was another masterpiece, but Dio was growing tired of standing in the shadows of his more visible bandmates. (His debut with Rainbow was literally called Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow.) When Sabbath showed him the door, it was a blessing in disguise. The midnight sea was calling.

There was no question what the 40-year-old singer would call his new band. Dio formally launched in the fall of 1982, with the eponymous rocker on the microphone and fellow Sabbath expat Vinny Appice behind the drumkit. After a brief dalliance with future Ozzy guitarist Jake E. Lee, the band’s lineup solidified: Dio, Appice, former Rainbow bassist Jimmy Bain, and guitarist Vivian Campbell, from the Belfast band Sweet Savage. Their first album, Holy Diver, came out the following spring. The supporting players were crucial, but they were just that: supporting players. At last, there was a recorded document of Ronnie James Dio as a true bandleader. On a new four-disc, super-deluxe reissue, his leap into auteurism sounds as visionary as ever.

Holy Diver opens with “Stand Up and Shout,”—or, more accurately, it opens with the main riff to “Stand Up and Shout,” one of the most iconic and ubiquitous runs of notes in metal history. That simple, blues-based power-chord progression is an object of totemic power, passed from metal guitarist to metal guitarist like a talisman. It just screams heavy metal. Variations on the riff showed up on Riot’s “Swords and Tequila” in 1981, Accept’s “Flash Rockin’ Man” in 1982, Mercyful Fate’s “Curse of the Pharaohs” in 1983, and Iron Maiden’s “2 Minutes to Midnight” in 1984. The urgent, double-time version that Vivian Campbell plays on “Stand Up and Shout” lands right in the middle of that timeline, and while its similarity to those other riffs is almost certainly coincidental, it’s fitting that it announces the arrival of Dio. First on Holy Diver, and then on the nine additional Dio albums he would make before dying of stomach cancer in 2010, the singer would bend the sound and aesthetic of classic heavy metal to his will.

All the ecstatic truths of Ronnie James Dio are in full bloom on Holy Diver. His rich baritone is in career-best form, clarion-clear even when he digs into his lower register for a little extra grit. By ’83, operatic tenors with soaring falsettos were becoming a new standard in metal. Singers like Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson, Judas Priest’s Rob Halford, and Queensrÿche’s Geoff Tate seemed like the future of the genre. Dio couldn’t always hang with those guys on pure technique, but he anchored his voice in a deep, convincing earthiness they couldn’t quite access. His clean articulation of every syllable was also key to his appeal. Audiences could sing along to a Dio song within a couple repetitions of the chorus, even if it was their first time hearing it.

The lyrics on Holy Diver frequently push metaphor beyond its breaking point. Dio sings about velvet lies, a truth as hard as steel, the palace of the virgin, the chalice of the soul, and a rainbow in the dark. He chose words that sounded good coming out of his mouth first, conjured a vivid image second, and made logical sense third—if at all. What the hell is a holy diver, anyway? The cover art, illustrated by Randy Berrett, suggests it’s a priest who’s been tossed into the sea by a demon, but the lyrics provide no such concrete evidence: “Holy diver/You’re the star of the masquerade/No need to look so afraid/Jump on the tiger.” Dio preferred piling on imagery to building a coherent narrative, but his overarching themes always came into focus. He liked to speak to people who felt alone in the world, who needed his songs to overcome whatever private adversity they were going through. “You’ve been left on your own/Like a rainbow in the dark” may not be the most cogent simile ever written, but when Dio sang it, its empowering beams shone through.

Holy Diver also helped codify traditional heavy metal as a recognizable sound, particularly in the United States. With thrash rising on the California coast and cutting-edge regional scenes emerging in Europe and the UK, Dio became a standard bearer for old-school metal. Bain and Appice formed a rock-solid rhythm section; Campbell’s style was firmly rooted in the blues, proficient but not overly flashy or technical. Their chemistry on Holy Diver belies the fact that they had only started playing together months prior. “Gypsy” swings like Zeppelin on amphetamines, “Caught in the Middle” crunches in groovy lockstep, and “Shame on the Night” wrings high drama out of a simple blues backbone. “Rainbow in the Dark” is a pop-metal banger before the vocabulary for such a thing existed, built around a lilting motif played on a cheap Yamaha keyboard. It's one of the best metal songs ever written, and according to Campbell, “we had the fucking song written in 10 minutes.”

There are six versions of “Rainbow in the Dark” on the new Super Deluxe edition of Holy Diver, released on what would have been Dio’s 80th birthday. Like most box sets of this size, it provides an overwhelming amount of music with limited replay value. A new remix by Joe Barresi (Tool, Queens of the Stone Age) unearths outros that were initially lost to the album’s deeply ’80s fade-outs, providing a small behind-the-scenes glimpse of the sessions, but his aggressive tinkering sterilizes the songs. Hearing Holy Diver this crisply feels uncanny and a little unnerving, like watching an old TV show with the motion smoothing turned on. The new remaster sounds much better, offering a beefier listen without sacrificing the character of the original recording. A recording from a 1983 Fresno concert shows off how great Dio sounded live at the time, but the dull drum solo and 20-minute version of “Heaven and Hell” don’t play nearly as well when you aren’t there in person. The outtakes and alternate versions are strictly heads-only.

None of that underwhelming bonus material can dampen the greatness of Holy Diver. Dio went into the sessions with something to prove, and he left with one of metal’s holy grails, a classic of the same magnitude as Paranoid and The Number of the Beast. His work with Rainbow and Sabbath was just as pivotal to the genre, but Holy Diver is his zenith—the most Dio album of all time. These are the songs that made Dio the avatar and patron saint of dorky metalheads everywhere. Here was a 5'4", middle-aged man, singing about rainbows and tigers and drinking red wine from a golden goblet. His very existence was a siren song for dweebs; if you were uncool, Dio was for you. Consider the virtuosic opening sequence of 2006’s still-awesome Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny: Our hero (Troy Gentile, playing a young Jack Black) is terrorized by his buttoned-up Christian father (played by Meat Loaf), who destroys all his rock’n’roll paraphernalia and slams the bedroom door. Only one poster survives the melee—the star of the masquerade, the rainbow in the dark, the truth as hard as steel. Ronnie James Dio, seated on his throne, comes to life and urges the crestfallen teen onward: “You will face your inner demons,” he instructs. “Now go, my son, and rock.”

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Dio - Holy Diver (Super Deluxe Edition) Music Album Reviews Dio - Holy Diver (Super Deluxe Edition) Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on July 16, 2022 Rating: 5


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