Record #431: Dio – Holy Diver (1983)

Ronnie James Dio is a complete legend in the metal community. He is a completely ubiquitous voice in some of the genre’s most important pioneers.

This was made obvious to me the other day when I bought this record and Rainbow’s Rising, only to discover that he was the lead singer for both projects.

Note: I have already been properly shamed for not knowing this.

After cutting his teeth in Elf, Rainbow, and freaking Black Sabbath, Ronnie (who also invented the metal horns, btw) started his indelible solo project. And this record is a debut befitting his already sizable legacy.

While it might not be very heavy by today’s standards, this is 100% pure octane heavy freakin’ metal. From the irresistibly head-bangable opener “Stand Up and Shout” the the chiming acoustic guitars that open “Don’t Talk to Strangers” to the arena-ready guitar solos in “Invisible,” every moment of this record delivers on the album promised by the completely badass cover.

And that’s completely ignoring the singles. “Holy Diver” and “Rainbow in the Dark” regularly appear on lists of the best heavy metal songs ever. And that legacy is completely warranted.

While Ronnie gets the most credit for this record, he only got there because of the amazing players he surrounded himself with. Jimmy Bain and Vinny Appice provide a rhythm section made of solid rock. Vivian Campbell, who would go on to play in Whitesnake and Def Leppard, rips up the fretboard with fire and fury.

And at the center of this maelstrom, you have the manic howl of Ronnie James Dio. An almost operatic tenor that is still being imitated.

Though I am infamously unfamiliar with classic metal (I got into metal with ISIS, not Metallica), this album immediately grabs my attention. A doorway has opened up to me to a whole new class of metal, and I’m walkin’ through it.

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