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I'm really amazed with the amount of positive reviews and with the average rating of this piece. Don't get me wrong, I really like this record, it probably is the best one Dio ever made (I don't have all his discography, so I can't say yet if it is his best or not) and it features some nice performances (everyone knows that Dio is a great vocalist and he quite possibly reaches his top with Holy Diver). So, why this record doesn't get a 95% or a 98% for me?
Well, the reason is: the little variety. Unfortunately for Dio, that's one of the things I praise the most and this records lacks it and lacks it badly. Surely there are differences between the songs and you can distinguish easily one from another; but all of them follow some what similar structures and there is too much focus on the choruses. Now, the focus on the choruses isn't necessarily a bad thing; one song here and there featuring a powerful chorus is always a pleasant thing to hear. But a completely different thing is creating a record made entirely of straight-forward songs and there are few bands out there that manage to keep the integrity and the quality within those albums. As you can see, catchiness is a thing that you must use but not abuse, as it can, at the same time, bring your album up to the skies or bring it down, powerfully, to the ground.
But when this album is good, it is really, really AMAZING. Stand Up and Shout is a fantastic opener, being an early speed metal number, probably the faster song Dio ever released. The chorus is also fantastic (“stand up and SHOUT... LET IT OUUT!!”) and catchy, the intense drumming driving very well the song too. The title track is another highlight, a metal classic with a great main riff, courtesy of Vivian Campbell. After Dio, Vivian delivers the best performance here, his riffs and solos complementing perfectly the lines played by the other musicians. There is also an interesting use of keyboards (by Jimmy Bain and Ronnie Dio) and it works especially well with Rainbow in the Dark, which benefits from that unforgettable keyboard riff. Don't Talk to Strangers probably is my personal favourite here, mainly because it manages to be somewhat different from the other tunes: it begins very calmly, with those fantastic lyrics and then explodes into a mid-paced, heavier part, it is simply great. Invisible is also cool, mainly because of the guitar work.
So, after all, you might enjoy this record if you like straight forward metal with some nice, over-the-top vocals and guitars. The drums are not very creative, but still decent and precise, with Vinnie Appice being the sticksman. Anyway, there are some really good tracks here, like the ones I mentioned above, but all the other ones are very average and too focused on the vocals and choruses. Remember one thing: you need more than a good vocal performance to make a masterpiece.
Despite all of my critics, Holy Diver is a very enjoyable album, but, as you can see, not the masterpiece that many claim it is. I wrote this review with that exact purpose, to show you that a masterpiece this isn't. If you also need an introduction to Dio try this, as it manages to be a lot more solid than its sucessor, The Last in Line.
Best Moments of the CD:
-the ending of Stand Up and Shout.
-the real beginning of the title track (after that, a bit overlong, intro).
-the build-up of Don't Talk to Strangers.
-the keyboard parts of Rainbow in the Dark.
“Don't dream of women 'cause they only bring you... DOOOOWN!”