Dio - Holy Diver
Now this is a pleasant surprise for the casual metal fan who has not come across it before, upon first listen this album screams "classic!" and forces you to ask all kind of questions about whether you've been living under a rock or not. Ronnie James Dio is the much talked about man who took over from Ozzy in Black Sabbath after they parted ways, the band Dio his unintentional solo act. Holy Diver was Dio's first release, and despite developing a cult following among the metal alumni it often slips under the radar with so many artists out there vying for attention. It is pure, cheesy balls to the wall metal, what more could we want?
Opening with perhaps the most empowering metal song of all time Stand Up & Shout
sets the score with an energetic metal bash, the anthemic lyrics ready made for fist in the air live concerts. This man can sing, as a rock vocalist Dio is extremely talented with no modesty about it and the fact he can turn the trite lyrics of the chorus (Stand up and shout! Shout! Let it out!
) into gold shows a lot of strength. If just about any other singer tried this it would fail miserably and stuff would be thrown i am sure. A blazing solo later we have an essential listen.
, the title track, is the most well known Dio song. A series of ocean inspired synth samples open it, then into the main section and it's iconic riff. It is up there with the most ingratiating of classic riffs such as Smoke On The Water
, Born To Be Wild
or Iron Man
, a very likely candidate to be stuck in your head for extended periods of time. Dio's vocal lines do nothing to stop the likelihood of this song infecting your consciousness, with some curiously metaphorical lyrics this is yet another strong, cheesy metal anthem. The next two songs Gypsy
and Caught In The Middle
follow the trends set by the album so far where Dio sticks to what he is best at writing. Mainly driven by vocals the lyrics of both Gypsy
and Caught In The Middle
are extremely catchy, groovy mid-paced numbers featuring some excellent guitarwork from Vivian Campbell. In terms of great songwriting this album so far has proven a winner.
Don't Talk To Strangers
tries something new, Dio singing over clean guitars! By any standards it is hardly a pioneering combination, but Dio's softly sung classically trained voice backed by arpeggios sounds like power metal ballads in the making (much like the Iron Maiden of this era). It doesn't stay clean for long, the dynamics typically shift into full fledged rock with some great riffing and Dio shouting with conviction what he only whispered with caution at the beginning. It's a bit of an odd song with it's message, which works pretty well regardless. After this is Straight Through The Heart
, another crowd pleasing riff-rocker. The lyrics here are more of the kind you will be singing to yourself long after the song has finished, Dio's vocals carrying some amazing weight here. Invisible
starts with a chorus effect drowned guitar intro and some banging drums, with some eerie vocals. This rises into a crescendo which gives way to silence, then bang we are into another Dio rock anthem. This one seems to be about a girl with teenage insecurity, probably one of the weaker tracks.
Alongside Holy Diver
, Rainbow In The Dark
is the other big Dio anthem. This song has it all, an iconic riff, an irritatingly catchy keyboard ostinato, well written lyrics, excellent vocal delivery, it works amazingly. It has a very power metal feel to it, this album has been cited as a huge influence on the genre and you could go worse then Rainbow In The Dark
as for an example why. Shame On The Night
is the last track, starting with a mysterious, exploring guitar part with a wolf sample it builds up dynamics using some slow, distorted sections, then strips back to a simple bass part for the verses. It is a much darker track then the rest of the album playing out slowly, it sends it out on a good note though.
is an excellent album, for what it lacks in variety it makes up for by sticking to a formula that Dio excels at which is writing anthemic songs that just plain rock. It showcases some excellent vocals from the man himself and blazing guitar work from Vivian Campbell, this is a classic metal album that should go under the radar of nobody who calls themselves a fan of the genre. It is dripping with metal cheese and is damn fun.