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Dio

Holy Diver

Review by Greg Olma

This is where it all began for the band named after the mighty Ronnie James Dio.  After his split with Black Sabbath, he was out to prove that he was a force to be reckoned with and he did just that with Vinnie Appice, Rainbow band mate Jimmy Bain, and hotshot guitarist Vivian Campbell.  This collection of tunes represent the best of the early 80s metal with its sword and sorcery lyrics and  heavy riffing.  Dio’s voice was at its peak here, and there was a fire in the performances throughout.   A relatively unknown, Campbell showed us why he was in guitar hero category, and Holy Diver is some of Appice’s best drumming.  Although I’m a fan of all of the Dio releases, they were never able to quite capture the same magic that was pressed into the groove of this classic.


This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2019  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Stand Up And Shout
Things start off with a rousing rocker that has “concert opener” written all over it.  Right off the bat, the band hit you right between the eyes with a straight up metal gem in the vein of “Neon Knights” or “Turn Up The Night.”
Holy Diver
This was the first single off the record and, while a great tune, it would not be the one I would have picked.  It starts off with a bit of keyboards to set the mood before the band launch into a rather plodding rock track.  It almost has a “Heaven and Hell” tempo.
Gypsy
In my opinion, this one has a very New Wave of British Heavy Metal feel to it.  It starts off with a little swagger but then settles into a mid-paced metal tune.  This track and “Invisible” often get overlooked, but they are worthy cuts and fit in perfectly with the overall sequencing of the album.
Caught In The Middle
Now this is a hit.  It’s one of the more lightweight tracks on offer but it has a great melody and an extremely catchy chorus.  It is metal but has a bouncy, happy, vibe that can make you forget that you are listening to a serious metal record.
Don’t Talk To Strangers
This is where the band capture lightning in a bottle.  This is serious metal but it starts off very mellow with cautionary advice from Dio.  Once the band kick it into high gear, they run through this fast rocker that ebbs and flows a bit before they revisit the opening mellowness.  This is by far one of the best Dio (if not metal) tunes out there.
Straight Through The Heart
Appice ushers in this mid-paced song that has gaps giving the song (and disc) space to breath.  There is an epic sounding bridge that is something Dio was always great at incorporating into their brand of metal.
Invisible
As mentioned earlier, this cut, along with “Gypsy” often get forgotten, but when listening to the album as a whole, you see how they fit in perfectly.  The song starts off with a dreamy guitar sound that keeps it mellower until the whole band kicks in and turn this into a bonafide rocker.  Dio spits out the lyrics, and Campbell puts in a great solo making this a highlight on the record.
Rainbow In The Dark
I read that Dio (the man, not the band) was not very fond of this track, but it turned out to be one of his most beloved hits.  I agree that the keyboards give it a bit of a lightweight sound, but you can’t deny that they are catchy as hell.  Campbell also puts in one of his best solos here.
Shame On The Night
Like all good things, there has to be an end.  This moody piece has some wolves howling at the beginning and it continues with its plodding tempo.  In the spirit of “Lonely Is The Word” and “Over And Over” from Black Sabbath, this cut has an almost sad feeling to it.  I loved those two Sabbath tracks, and this one is just as good.
 
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