Dio
Holy Diver


2.0
poor

Review

by Brendan Schroer USER (179 Reviews)
June 15th, 2013 | 344 replies


Release Date: 1983 | Tracklist


It's always interesting to go back to a classic album -- whether out of personal nostalgia or just observing its legendary status -- and see how it holds up years later. Ronnie James Dio is quite a frequent topic of discussion in this regard since he was involved in numerous acclaimed records in his heyday, recording with acts such as Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and of course his own band simply known as Dio. Dio's first record Holy Diver seems to be considered by many to be the crowning achievement in the singer's entire career, hailed as a cornerstone in the heavy metal genre as a whole (and especially influential to future power metal acts). So wow, this must be absolutely astounding; a real classic, right? Well, unfortunately I can't bring myself to even come close to a conclusion like that.

Let's start with the good, though. First of all, Dio's voice was absolutely great here; he hits some very high notes and changes his vocal style well with whatever atmosphere/sound he's working with. Album highlight "Stand Up and Shout" is a great example of the man's vocal prowess, setting his frenzied howls and screams against a flurry of Iron Maiden-esque speed metal riffing; awesome stuff. Going back to the variety in his vocal style, he switches things up very well when the acoustic intro to "Don't Talk to Strangers" comes around and he gets to use a softer approach. The song eventually builds and the vocals evolve into more powerful shouts and cleans, but it's really nice to hear that intro and let it set the mood for the track. The other "plus" that this album has it at least has a concise vision. It never sounds aimless or scatterbrained, so props to Dio for that. Unfortunately, those factors aren't enough to save the record as a whole.

While Holy Diver isn't terrible per se, the entire experience (with some exceptions) feels dull and uninspired. Most of this music is very typical 80's hard rock/metal that never really gets off the ground, but instead plods and plods and plods. Take the title track for example; after a cheesy (and overly long) synthesizer opening, we get a decent C-minor riff that sounds like a cross between Black Sabbath's "Heaven and Hell" and Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger." The guitar and bass are locked together in unison as a mid-tempo drumbeat gives extra support. This song definitely places emphasis on Dio's vocals, and he certainly does sound invested in what he sings about. The problem? The song runs out of ideas rather quickly; around the last minute in particular, the same riff and variations of earlier lyrics are repeated over and over, and the same plodding rhythm just trudges on in an extremely repetitive manner. Even the solo in the middle isn't anything really engaging or exceptional by any means; it doesn't exactly switch things up all that much with each rhythm-section modulation and, in the end, just sounds like it was meant to fill up the song's runtime. Unfortunately, many of these criticisms can be extended to the entire record as well. The beginning of "Caught in the Middle" sounds like a normal Dokken-style 80s hard rock opening, although it does include some nifty rapid guitar strumming. However, this song represents exactly what the biggest problem with the record is: wasted potential.

A lot of the album's overall mediocrity and poor quality comes from the songwriting, and that's because Dio doesn't let these songs work off the proverbial ground he's built them from. Going back to "Caught in the Middle," that beginning riff could have set the stage so well for a really solid metal number, but instead resorts to boring verses and uninteresting modulations that any generic local band could be using. Particularly around the 3-minute mark, there's an ascending guitar/bass section; drummer Vinny Appice slows things down and Dio sounds like he's trying to make this the climax of the piece. Still, this portion sounds incredibly uninspired and especially awkward, the latter being due to the fact that the same generic harmonized chorus comes right after this change of pace comes around. Most of the songs on this album follow an extremely similar structure to one another, and sooner or later a change in pace will be desired. However, even with two semi-ballads ("Don't Talk to Strangers," "Invisible,") the songs start to run together after a while. In fact that's actually one of the reasons that "Rainbow in the Dark" is a highlight; yeah, it has a concise and traditional rock sound to it, but sounds much more anthemic and has those fun keyboard lines to back it up. The last thing to bring up is the lyrical content. It's pretty much your standard fantasy/folklore material; lots of mythology, lots of Lord of the Rings, lots of Dungeons and Dragons, etc. It's not really my thing, but different strokes for different folks, I guess.

That's about it really. Holy Diver really did have a lot of potential, but it's way too bogged down by a failure to successfully build some great songs from solid foundations. Dio himself had a great voice and the other band members are very good at what they do, but the weak compositions are really where this album suffers. The lyrics aren't exactly the most inspired or well-written, either. Ronnie James Dio was on some amazing albums, but this is sadly lacking. However, considering its classic status, it obviously struck a chord with many others. If you're one of those people, rock on. For me, it's a "pass."



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user ratings (1062)
Chart.
4.4
superb
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
FiveLeavesLeft
June 15th 2013


9838 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

6/15/2013: Necro drops the fucking ball

But yeah, I felt that this needed to be explained after the comments on the other Dio review.

I feel like I'm about to be burned alive by the heavy metal gods

Havey
June 15th 2013


9684 Comments


metal

fish.
Contributing Reviewer
June 15th 2013


21965 Comments


everyone brace

Bab
June 15th 2013


85 Comments


Yeah, not a good album in my books

tempest--
June 15th 2013


13506 Comments


the title track [...] sounds like a cross between Black Sabbath's "Heaven and Hell" and Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger."

oh my god

Digging: Jake Kaufman - Shovel Knight Original Soundtrack

ViperAces
June 15th 2013


12430 Comments


"sounds like a cross between Black Sabbath's "Heaven and Hell" and Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger.""
the two greatest songs ever

Insurrection
Contributing Reviewer
June 15th 2013


21101 Comments


reminds me of my scum review. good luck man

Digging: The Contortionist - Language

manosg
June 15th 2013


6101 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

So long for objective reviews. It's OK not to like an album and support your opinion but I wonder what made you write a whole review for it.

Having said that, you have a knack for writing good material but I disagree with you 100%.

Digging: John Coltrane - Ballads

ViperAces
June 15th 2013


12430 Comments


btw calling this generic is REALLY dumb bro, its like calling the number of the beast generic. these albums invented the genre

ChopSuey
June 15th 2013


2392 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

thats great dude

Jacquibim
Contributing Reviewer
June 15th 2013


14375 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Necro you don't need to justify yourself it's k.

Digging: We Will Fail - Verst÷rung

Titan
June 15th 2013


4884 Comments


@Necro

Where the fuck is Caress Of Steel?

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
June 15th 2013


8357 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

and god dammit im sick of people assuming any sort of fantasy lyric comes straight from lord of the rings/dungeons and dragons, first of all those are not the only sources of fantasy and they weren't even the first fantasies, but then again i wouldnt expect lowly sputnikers to be familiar at all with burroughs, howard, peake, anderson, vance, white, lord dunsany, eddison, etc....

and if someone can find me one lotr/d&d reference on this album, that'd be great
This hard. People here really need to stop referencing lotr in regard to every metal album that has fantasy lyrics.

Good review otherwise, I don't agree with it at all, but at least you managed to convey why you don't like this.

ViperAces
June 15th 2013


12430 Comments


btw every song about lotr is a classic

Jacquibim
Contributing Reviewer
June 15th 2013


14375 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Mat Hinkel 1 year ago
Fuck yeah! This is what I listen to before I destroy everything.´╗┐

Titan
June 15th 2013


4884 Comments


bad response andcas

InbredJed
June 15th 2013


5905 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Holy Diver solo is one of the funniest moments in recorded history

Digging: JJ Cale - Okie

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
June 15th 2013


19757 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Damn bro u couldn't just put the knife in you had to twist it too? :3

Digging: Spectral Lore - III

InbredJed
June 15th 2013


5905 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

women be shoppin'

ViperAces
June 15th 2013


12430 Comments


production is so perfect on this



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