Holy Diver! Check out a review I wrote for the new DIO album remasters in Absolute Underground Magazine, the coolest metal/horror/tattoo mag in Canada!
Ronnie James Dio requires no introduction in the realms of rock 'n roll and metal, but if he did, it would be as one of the most influential and revered singer/songwriters in heavy metal history.
To commemorate the tenth anniversary of his most unfortunate passing, BMG Records have reissued and remastered DIO's long out-of-print 1996-2004 studio albums – 1996’s "Angry Machines", 2000’s "Magica", 2002’s "Killing the Dragon" and 2004’s "Master of the Moon".
To sum up Ronnie James Dio's musical legacy with any brevity is not a simple task, but I'll attempt a "coles notes" version.
In 1975 Dio, along with guitarist/songwriter, Ritchie Blackmore (formerly of Deep Purple), forged the legendary British rock group, "Rainbow". Don't let the name fool you, they rocked to high heaven. Combining hard rocking and atmospheric compositions with Dio's powerful and versatile vocals, belting out songs of fantasy and medieval lore, they became very successful, very quickly. But it was not to last, and in 1979 Dio would go on to more than fill the shoes of Ozzy Osbourne as the new singer of Black Sabbath.
Sabbath was revitalized by Dio's contributions musically and lyrically and quickly achieved a second wave of success. But it too was not to last, (but would continue later in reunions), and in 1982 Dio moved on to form the DIO band. In 1983 they would go on to release the critically acclaimed album "Holy Diver". From there, with endless ripping guitars, soaring vocals, and Dio's trademark sword and sorcery infused lyrics, DIO went on to dominate the 1980's with chart-topping albums and hit singles.
These early releases, from Rainbow, to Sabbath, to 80's DIO often overshadow Dio's later albums and collaborations. These reissues, featuring DIO's final four albums are nothing if not a reminder of the consistency of Dio's stand the test of time craftmanship. And as a collector and huge fan myself, the rare and live bonus tracks are a real treat. Each deluxe remaster features a bonus disc of rare and previously unreleased live tracks from the accompanying tour for each album. The 180-gram black vinyl editions include the original tracklistings and are available as a limited edition first run with an LP-sized Lenticular album art print. Each release also features updated artwork from frequent DIO art director Marc Sasso.
1996's "Angry Machines" concludes a trilogy I like to call "Dio Dark", which consisted of 1992's "Dehumanizer" (from Dio's second run with Black Sabbath), 1993's "Strange Highways" and "Angry Machines". This album showcases a much doomier, angrier musical approach which was consistent with a lot of classic bands at that time scrambling to find their footing in an uncertain decade for metal. The album is not without its gems, "Hunter Of The Heart" is very memorable, and the delicate album closer "This Is Your Life" shines very brightly at the end of this gritty musical journey.
DIO kicked the fantasy overtones into overdrive for 2000's "Magica", a brilliant return to form after his darker 90's releases. The new millennium introduced a whole new generation of metalheads to DIO's unique brand of old school metal with stand out tracks like "Fever Dreams" and "Losing My Insanity". This epic concept album was originally planned to be the first part of a trilogy, unfortunately, Ronnie passed away before he could complete the project. This reissue includes the thundering track, "Electra", DIO's final recording, and only known song from the sessions that would have come to be Magica II and III.
2002's "Killing The Dragon" really shines in the DIO discography, its chock full of memorable tracks that boast a current sound while still rooted in the classic greatness that they won fans over with in the 80's. The galloping title track kicks off the album and after a few seconds, if you didn't know already, there is no denying that DIO is back! "Along Came A Spider", "Better In The Dark", "Push" and countless other all-killer-no-filler tracks round out an excellent album that will have you returning to listen time and time again.
Before Dio's triumphant third return to Black Sabbath, he released what would be the final DIO album, 2004's "Master Of The Moon". This album is a continuation of the greatness achieved on "Killing The Dragon", if not quite as consistent or hard-hitting, it still packs many powerful punches. The title track, "One More For The Road" and "End Of The World" among others once again capture that classic DIO magic while steering you into new territory at the same time. This reissue features a really great live version of "Heaven And Hell", as well as the classic "Rainbow In The Dark" and the rare studio track "Prisoner In Paradice".
Not everyone will like a musical artist, you simply can't please everyone all of the time. I'm sure there were countless parents and religious figureheads that disproved of Dio's music, lyrics, and themes, but you would be very hard-pressed to find metal musicians, enthusiasts, and music industry professionals that have anything poor to say about Ronnie James Dio and his craft. Arguably the greatest metal vocalist of all time, his lyrics empowered, inspired, and opened one's eyes to the wonders that surround us, the truths we should always question, and the dreams we should never let the world take from us.
I can't tell you how many times I've listened to "Holy Diver", "Sacred Heart" or any of DIO's albums, countless times I'm sure. But I can tell you that they still move me to this day. All any of us can hope to achieve is a lasting legacy of positive influence after we're gone, and as selfish as it may sound, a hole that cannot be filled. Ronnie achieved all of the above and much much more. It's hard to believe he's been gone ten years, but it's easy to believe he'll live on for a hundred more.