I can hardly believe that its been thirty years since we first saw the album “Holy Diver” being released by the late great Ronnie James Dio and his at the time brand new band Dio. Of course I seem to find myself always saying this when an album that I recall buying when it was originally released reaches a milestone like this and in some sense it makes me shake my head. Before continuing let’s all give a round of applause for this mighty Metal milestone and the overall impact that it had on the Metal genre ever since.
As most Metal fans know, Ronnie James Dio came to our musical attention first in Rainbow and then in Black Sabbath were he had replaced Ozzy. For me, the first listen to Dio’s pipes that I got was with the “Live Evil” album by Black Sabbath and then I would purchase “The Mob Rules” so a little bit of a reverse for me. I liked Deep Purple but do not recall being too up on Rainbow until much later. It happens, but I digress. Anyway, when Dio had left Sabbath many of the growing Metal fans who I called friends were intrigued about what would come from the singer and I don’t think anyone expected the incredible power and Metal majesty that was within those grooves on “Holy Diver”. When it was first observed on the racks of our local record store we were all stunned at the very graphic imagery of a Netherworldly demon dragging a priest through the violent seas. If the cover was intense one had to imagine that the musical contents were going to be equally so. We all learned this was true when the needle first dropped on the album and that guitar riff by the unknown at the time Vivian Campbell led us into the rousing and energetic tune. Over the years this song has become a popular cover for other Metal bands to do and most recently we found the Adrenaline Mob doing it in concert and on their latest EP.
Joining Dio in his new band would be Sabbath’s Vinny Appice and bassist Jimmy Bain and on the album that they delivered together as a debut it was very clear that it was a fearsome foursome when it came to Metal composition. If you said this publicly no one would argue with you after hearing what “Holy Diver” as a trudging title track offered up while the soft starting rocker “Don’t Talk To Strangers” found many air guitars being put into action. A personal favorite of mine was always “Straight Through The Heart” and that was based on my love of the drum fills and drive of the tune itself. Of course everyone loves “Rainbow In The Dark” and the tune was covered many years later by Killswitch Engage who did a great version and even an homage to its original video. I used to watch that clip on a station for Metal videos called U68’s “Power Hour” program. You see back in 1983 when this clip was first airing in my region there were only a few people I knew who even had MTV. Shocking I know but alas truth.
Needless to say this album has remained one of the strongest of them all, and an influence to so many Metal providers who followed shortly after and are still coming onto the scene today. It’s also a clear favorite of mine as well and I don’t see that changing any time soon. No matter when I find myself listening to it, I feel as though its still as fresh as it was when I bought it so very long ago. It’s sad that Ronnie never lived to see his magnificent debut reach such an anniversary but part of me likes to think that he watches down upon the Metal realm from a greater cosmic vantage point now and continues to inspire its fans more and more each day. I’ve left the comments open for readers to help me toast the anniversary of this magnum Metal opus so please feel free to reflect and share your own opinions on it. Oh and before I close this narrative, let me explain that the photos of Ronnie that are featured are not from his solo Dio work but with that of Heaven & Hell. Sadly I never photographed Ronnie as a solo artist and only when he was alongside that too short lived a Metal provider. I could just not find myself toasting his epic debut without a few images of him as well.
Holy Diver Track Listing
1. Stand Up & Shout
2. Holy Diver
4. Caught In The Middle
5. Dont Talk To Strangers
6. Straight Through The Heart
8. Rainbow In The Dark
9. Shame On The Night
Official Website: http://www.ronniejamesdio.com
I’d like to think that everyone has a copy of the original album but if you don’t for some strange reason, I have not only embedded a purchase point to the original, but also to a couple of releases that Dio had when he celebrated the full album on tour some years ago. Be sure to check them out and let’s hope that we find a special edition remaster being released for “Holy Diver” sooner rather than later.