Review score: 90%
Review Date: September 2012
Reviewer: Paul Jack
Source: Rock Hard Reviews
Please note, multiple versions of Holy Diver have been released over the years. This review is about the 2012 Deluxe Edition available in the UK at the time of writing. For readers in the US the deluxe version was unavailable at the time of publication, so the above links will take to you the classic album, which is still very worthy.
Well, you lucky people, there's a terrific 2012 deluxe edition of one of Ronnie James Dio's best albums, and it contains a whole extra disc worth of extras. Holy Diver is a little bit of rock history.
Dio's first stint with Black Sabbath saw the release of the classic album Heaven and Hell in 1980. That's the one with the notorious smoking angels cover art. Then came 1981's decent follow-up Mob Rules . We were blessed with Live Evil in 1982, a double live album filled with Dio singing a blend of his and Ozzy's numbers. Sadly, rock legends allege band arguments about the mixing of Live Evil, culminating in Dio quitting Sabbath along with drummer Vinny Appice.Hard working and hard rocking Ronnie went on to form a new band simply called Dio.
1983 saw the Holy Diver LP hit the shelves and yes, I bought a copy. Cover art arguments aside (see below), Holy Diver was a magical new album.
Controversy raged over the album cover, which portrayed the minotaur-like, demonic band mascot Murray, a stormy sea and a cleric. But who was winning? "Appearances are misleading," said Ronnie.
Of course, Iron Maiden's album Number of the Beast came out in 1982, and that too was the centre of controversy for not entirely dissimilar reasons. Guess the publicity didn't harm Maiden in 1982 and Maiden's t-shirt sales must have made a lot of dosh for someone.
Apparently some people even took offence because if you turn the Dio logo upside down and try hard enough there is a resemblance to the word 'devil'. It's funny, cos when I first read about that complaint back in the eighties it seemed to me that if you squinted hard enough at the upside down logo in a mirror it might have said 'stop moaning and get a life'.
Musically, Holy Diver brings us a choice selection of hard rock. These days lots of kids (and and adults) have fun playing RPG video games, but back in the eighties kids had D and D, Fighting Fantasy books, and a smothering of fantasy novels continuing the tradition started by Tolkien. Ronnie wrote lyrics which fed into that enthusiasm back in the day, going on to give us a plethora of songs about dragons, wizards, good versus evil, rainbows and the like. That last one might have had something to do with Ronnie's departure from Ritchie Blackmore's band Rainbow, but that's another story.
Holy Diver's title track is probably the most famous, a classic rock song. Ronnie James Dio demonstrates his trademark power vocals throughout this tight metal anthem. It's kinda fun to read everyone's differing interpretations of the lyrics. Years later, the respectful inclusion of Holy Diver in South Park was just fantastic of course.
Rainbow In The Dark is probably the second best known track from Holy Diver. Da kids today will most likely know it from video game Rock Band, but I remember this keyboard / guitar combo rock number getting me through one of the longest nights in my life when I was forced to work all alone in a certain factory doing the work of the entire skiving department, from before dusk to beyond dawn one dark and 'orrible night at the end of the summer of 1985. My only consolation was that I could play music to get me through it. Rainbow In The Dark's lyrics still resonate with me today – "No sign of the morning coming". Quite so.
Another personal favourite is Don't Talk To Strangers. An auspicious melodic intro features Ronnie's attention seeking lyrics set to gentle guitars, leading us into the full-on crash of a beautiful hard rock song skilfully played loud and large. Again, listen close to Mr Dio's lyrics for this cautionary tale.
There's so many good song on Holy Diver, it's as though everything seemed to come together for the band. The tracks fit together so well, and there are no filler songs. This is the sort of album which works extremely well when played through as the artist intended rather than the current fashion for a random pick-n-mix MP3 stew.
The final track of the original album was the slightly quirky Shame On The Night. Love the intro – werewolf howls and eerie guitar, then Dio demonstrates once again his strong vocals carrying us through this slightly spooky, atmospheric number. Check out Ronnie's laughter on the fade-out. If you figure out what the lyrics are about (apart from shame on everything obviously) then let me know). The backing sounded mildly monastic, but maybe that's just me.
Ronnie's death was a sad loss to the rock world. The guy was a true rock legend. If you're young and only heard about him via Jack Black / Tenacious D or their Pick Of Destiny movie then I recommend Holy Diver as the perfect way to hear Dio's work at its best. The original album is now widely regarded as a classic, and it's all here in this awesome re-release. The big selection of bonus tracks is a wonderful treat, giving you a taste of the band's live performances with Children Of The Sea (one of the best song's Ronnie did with Black Sabbath) and Man On The Silver Mountain (an o-l-d classic rock song from Ronnie's stint in Rainbow).
Buy Now! Amazon UK: Buy deluxe CD | Buy deluxe MP3 / Amazon US: Buy classic CD | Buy classic MP3
Classic Track List
- Stand Up And Shout
- Holy Diver
- Caught In The Middle
- Don't Talk To Strangers
- Straight Through The Heart
- Rainbow In The Dark
- Shame On The Night
Deluxe Edition bonus tracks
- Evil Eyes (later to surface on Dio's Last In Line abum - PJ)
- Stand Up And Shout (Live In Holland, 1983)
- Straight Through The Heart (Live In Holland, 1983)
- Stand Up And Shout (King Biscuit Flower Hour, 1983)
- Shame On The Night (King Biscuit Flower Hour, 1983)
- Children Of The Sea
- Holy Diver (King Biscuit Flower Hour, 1983)
- Rainbow In The Dark (King Biscuit Flower Hour, 1983)
- Man On The Silver Mountain (Anyone else remember Rainbow or just little old me? - PJ)