Review Summary: Although it fails to match the high quality of the previous releases, Sacred Heart remains an enjoyable album.
Due to several internal disagreements about Black Sabbath's Live Evil mixing and band credits, with Dio listed as "Ronnie Dio" instead of his known "Ronnie James Dio" artistic signature, Dio suddenly left Sabbath and quickly started a new chapter under his pseudonym. With his previous Sabbath mate Vinny Appice, the old Rainbow friend Jimmy Bain and the young and promising Irish guitarist Vivian Campbell, Ronnie James Dio released in 1983 the memorable Holy Diver and, only one year later, the classic staple The Last in Line. Both releases were critically acclaimed and commercially successful, helping to build around this new hard rock/metal force an extremely solid worldwide reputation, placing Dio among the greatest and most respectable hard rock acts of the mid-80's.
Keeping the same line-up, Dio didn't waste much time releasing on August 15, 1985 the highly anticipated third album, Sacred Heart. Even if this new release followed the same musical and lyrical formula of the previous albums, this record is somehow trapped in Ronnie's indecision about Sacred Heart's overall musical direction. If songs like King of Rock and Roll or Sacred Heart somewhat keep the original Holy Diver soul, firmly based on strong stylish riffs and a classic hard rock rhythm section that always avoid overacting performances, tracks like Rock 'n' Roll Children or Hungry for Heaven are clearly more mainstream compositions, deliberately made to please vastest audiences that could push Sacred Heart into the always commercially tempting US billboard. However Sacred Heart's main problem isn't these four songs. Even with different musical approaches, King of Rock and Roll, Sacred Heart, Rock 'n' Roll Children and the extremely catchy Hungry for Heaven are all great songs that largely please Dio's demanding fan base. The main issue here are the uninspiring Another Lie, Just Another Day, Falling Angels and specially the unexpected filler Shoot Shoot that push Sacred Heart into average territories, irrevocably damaging the overall quality of this album. This inconsistency could have been avoided if Ronnie James Dio managed to build a coherent flow throughout the album avoiding the unnecessary cliché songwriting so usually seen in the mid-80's.
Even if Sacred Heart failed to match the high quality of Ronnie James Dio previous releases, memorable moments like King of Rock and Roll, Rock 'n' Roll Children or Hungry for Heaven help to make Sacred Heart an enjoyable listening experience. The top level musical performances from this now legendary line-up, with honourable mentions to Vivian Campbell's inspired guitar work and Ronnie James Dio's always amazing vocal performance, also give that extra push to place Sacred Heart among Dio's most respectable releases.
King of Rock and Roll, Rock 'n' Roll Children and Hungry for Heaven
Solid musical performances
Ronnie James Dio's unique vocals
Overall musical direction
The filler Shoot Shoot