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Legacies are most often misplaced, and even if a particular work could be seen as an intricate part of the artist’s legacy, it is often blown out of proportion to the point of stealing the glory of other opuses under the craftsman’s catalog. In many respects, “Holy Diver” as an album demonstrates the worst aspects of this overpowering exaltation, as many occasional consumers of Dio’s auditory cuisines will pass up many subsequent works and refer solely to said 1983 classic, in addition to his Sabbath collaboration “Heaven And Hell” and his classic Rainbow collection “Rising”. But in spite of all this, objectively speaking, every song found on Dio’s first solo offering is worthy of extensive praise and wonderment.
Insofar as the first single of Dio’s opening onslaught upon the metal masses as the true helmsman, the a-side and title track of the debut shows a slight refinement of his 3 year stint with Black Sabbath. The similarities between it and the title song of “Heaven And Hell” leap out at the listener almost immediately, though the overall duration of the song tends much more towards a plainer fanfare rather than an extended epic, although the atmospheric keyboard intro could be seen as a parallel piece of epic composition to the acoustic outro of the 1980 Sabbath song. Dio’s vocal presentation provides an even greater contrast, being a bit more menacing than oratory-like. Likewise, Vivian’s lead break has a much more frenzied nature, though still retains enough melodic points between the barrage of flashy runs and wild pitch bends to keep from becoming a mess of notes.
The b-sides speak a little bit less to Dio’s recent stint with Sabbath, but still have a familiar character in reference to his past. “Don’t Talk To Strangers” has a similar atmosphere to that of “Children Of The Sea”, but much like with the a-side, this song elects to go a somber route rather than an epic one. The acoustic intro seeks listens more like a fatalistic lullaby than the backdrop of a grand philosophical narration, and Ronnie’s ironic sarcasm at the way society teaches us to treat each other puts the face of alienated youth on the general emotion of helplessness. The solo marks one of Vivian’s crowning achievements while in Dio, shredding left and right with no regard to subtlety and only slightly more towards brevity. The other accompanying song “Evil Eyes” would later appear on “The Last In Line” takes a somewhat different route, as the aggression is restrained a little more in favor of a catchy route in line with said follow up album, and Dio’s voice is a little more operatic than gravely. It is very different from the other two, but as with all things, different does not necessarily mean more or less, in any respect.
Ultimately the notion that one album can be labeled as Dio’s legacy is somewhat off-putting to anyone who has really familiarized themselves with the entire band’s discography. It is somewhat understandable that many take this view given that these songs are highly accessible in comparison to the later 80s and 90s material, and it’s also not nearly as posh as “Sacred Heart”, but even the greatest of albums can be pumped up to the point of nearly bursting from the pressure of its own fame. Nevertheless, the greatness of “Holy Diver” is undeniable, and all who have any interest in one of metal’s mightiest and now sadly fallen heroes should not be without it.