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An Absolute Classic - 100%

YADF, May 12th, 2012

Fresh from his stint with the legendary Black Sabbath ("Heaven & Hell", "Mob Rules", & "Live Evil"), Dio forms his own band and releases one of the best metal albums of all time. It tops even that acclaimed Sabbath LP "Heaven & Hell".

Drummer Vinny Appice also left Sabbath with Dio and together they formed the band "Dio". Dio recruited former Rainbow bassist Jimmy Bain and after a long search settled on guitarist Vivian Campbell. Despite Campbell's subsequent fame (Whitesnake, Def Leppard), half of the songs on "Holy Diver" were already written when he joined the band. He did receive writing credit on four ("Caught In The Middle", "Gypsy", "Shame On The Night", & most notably "Rainbow In The Dark"). Then again there are only nine songs on this album, which was was common at the time and there is no filler whatsoever. How anybody that appreciates Dio could rate this any less than perfect is bewildering. Yes, "Rainbow In The Dark" is pop metal (hit #14 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart) with keyboards and saturated the airwaves and MTV, but why hold that against the album? It's a great cut. You need at least one radio single on each album and this one fit the bill.

Of course the title tract (#40 Mainstream Rock), the ominous "Straight Through The Heart", and the fast and ferocious "Stand Up And Shout" are the real highlights, but every track is top shelf material.

On a side note, I did find the cover a little offensive. Like Alice Cooper, I am a Christian and I certainly wouldn't support anything truly "demonic". The truth is that this type of music is just fantasy in the Dungeons and Dragons or Final Fantasy mode. Dio was never a Satanist (and didn't exploit such imagery as much as the insipid phony known as Ozzy Osbourne) and in reality most of his songs have a positive message or a happy ending where good conquers evil. Dio himself downplayed the cover's "demonic" elements in the bonus interview on the 2005 remaster as "fantasy" and suggested one "not judge a book by its cover".