The debut album from DIO hit the ground running when it was released on May 25, 1983. The band was formed after the initial Black Sabbath “Heaven and Hell” record which saw front man Ronnie James Dio head the band after Ozzy Osbourne left a vacancy. While the Sabbath records had a particular sound, and strong sales, the band DIO took on a different form, with more straightforward metallic rock and roll. With a showcase for theatrics, the album “Holy Diver” became the most popular record from the band. When looking through the classic rock catalogs of any longtime fan, you will no doubt see that this one is in the collection. Recorded in the infamous Sound City Studios, Dio Holy Diver had a sonic sound that is hard to match from the era.
The Classic Appeal of Dio Holy Diver
From the opening guitar riffs on “Stand Up and Shout”, the lineup solidifies the classic metal sound that would shape DIO as a band. With equal levels of Rainbow, Sabbath, and the signature sound of Ronnie James Dio belting out fantasy lyrics, listeners are taken on a storybook of fantastic elements. The norm at the time was for metal records to take on a very “Lord of the Rings” type of push.
The album’s lyrical contents and videos showcase that “Lord of the Rings” type of push. From good and evil, to questioning morality, and even a few religious elements, you get a wealth of themes in the Dio Holy Diver recording. While the opening track is definitely a solid number, it was the second track on the record that exploded. “Holy Diver,” became the lead and most successful single from the debut. Other tracks included heart thumping kicking classics like “Caught In The Middle”, “Straight Through The Heart”, and of course the popular “Rainbow in the Dark.” The initial nine tracks were repackaged with a deluxe edition later on, but the vinyl record from 1983 features a classic line up and hard hitting sound.
Much has been written about the artwork and album cover of Dio Holy Diver.The artwork uses imagery that some found shocking. While some thought it showcases an anti-religious message, Ronnie James Dio argued it was a signal of hope, as the rest of the artwork’s montage showcases the priest escaping the clutches, chains breaking. Even though the band’s mascot “Murray” is the main focal point, the artwork of Dio Holy Diver became symbolic for many years of the band’s existence.
The band’s staying power was credited to the stellar line up. Vinny Appice on drums, Jimmy Bain on bass and keyboards, Vivian Campbell on guitar, and of course Ronnie James Dio as the lead vocalist. As far as classic rock albums are concerned, this metal hit “dove” into the mainstream, eventually going platinum in sales, and beloved the world over. In the annals of rock history, you’ll find that “Holy Diver” is consistently ranked in the top 10 of any major publication. It is by far one of the greatest vocal performances that Ronnie James Dio left us before his death in 2010. From song writing to performance, “Holy Diver” is truly a gem of classic rock and metal.
Dio Holy Diver: Album Review
Written by Janey Roberts