It is impossible to discuss all time heavy metal classics without at one point getting into Holy Diver, an album in little need of an introduction. But to recap until that point, Ronnie James Dio had left Rainbow in 1978 and then left Black Sabbath four years later, and he took all those experiences and sounds with him when he created his own Dio, whose debut - again - needs no introduction. Released way back in 1983, Holy Diver is filled to the brim with Dio’s theatric antics, fantastic storytelling and perfect musicianship from the iconic four members. It’s also where Dio really began to separate from his previous bands and form his own musical identity, something which would continue even further on The Last in Line (1984) - though there are still plenty of nods to those years in Rainbow and Sabbath found on here.
Holy Diver came out just shortly after heavy metal had its second coming what with the NWOBHM movement taking off. Dio foregoes the dual guitar approach that was made so popular by Judas Priest and Iron Maiden though, instead giving Vivian Campbell the spotlight. And the man delivers his A game. Iconic riffing such as the title track (which you’re now humming to yourself) mingle with catchy melodic rock approach of Caught in the Middle and the obvious Sabbath-esque closer Shame on the Night with its doomy approach. Campbell’s finest moments might just come right in the opener however, as Stand Up and Shout delivers a proto speed metal anthem for the ages; mighty riffage thick with groove for Jimmy Bain’s bass lines to intertwine, all the while Dio’s mighty vocals deliver in venomous potency that catchy, neon driven chorus. That’s not to say it’s all fist pumping all the time; the guys venture into some deeper intricacies throughout; atmospheric Don’t Talk to Strangers with Dio’s enigmatic vocals atop fleshy, melodic guitars from Campbell stands out as a highlight.
Being the third and final part in Ronnie James’s iconic big three (also Rainbow’s Rising (1976) and Black Sabbath’s Heaven and Hell (1980)), Holy Diver fires on all cylinders throughout. It might be the “lesser” one of the three, lacking the monumental highs that are Stargazer and the title track from the previous two albums respectively, but it also manages to maintain a higher level all throughout, lacking any mentionable low points. It’s packed with classic heavy metal imagery that would inspire thousands, thick riffing that’s still emulated today and Dio’s own classic theatric approach. Bringing some of the epic, melodic antics he lent to his stint in Rainbow, he gives the album that thick atmosphere and epic gravity, which, coupled with its chorus heavy accessibility helped create American power metal, and gave a rush to the European style a few years later. With their seminal debut, Dio cemented the main man’s larger than life theatrics, through pure, unadulterated heavy metal.
Standout tracks: Stand Up and Shout, Holy Diver, Don’t Talk to Strangers