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Back at the 70’s, Rainbow was the band that ruled in the rock scene. Then out of a sudden, their singer R.J.Dio was out of the group. It was a shock for the fans. Before they knew it, Dio joined Black Sabbath in the place of Ozzy Osbourne. A fitting combination that gave us to memorable albums, Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules. This huge singer and personality had proved that he did not depend on Blackmore. So, what kept him from proving the same thing to Tony Iommi when he was fired from Sabbath? He recruited three skillful musicians and in no time, Dio’s first release came out at the disk stores, with the brilliant title, Holy Diver.
Having worked with those two monstrous musicians I mentioned earlier, Dio gained much in experience, knowledge and fame. On Holy Diver, Dio combine the sound of Rainbow and Sabbath and the result was an epic, hailed by the metal fans. Holy Diver is a metal monument and Dio’s top achievement. With nine songs that stick to your mind, it is heavy and technical at the same time, thanks to the virtuoso guitarist, Vivian Campbell. His inspired riffs and divine solos give another dimension to the album. I must also mention the important contribution of Bain, the bass player and Appice, the drummer of Dio. Everybody knows how important it is to have a good rhythm section if you want to go far as a band.
The album begins in a thunderous way. The bombastic riff of Stand up and Shout gives us a fair warning of what is about to happen. Then the bass and drums come in to fill the picture and urge us to do as the title says; to stand up and shout with all our strength that heavy metal will never die as long as bands like Dio are here. Rock ‘till you drop! The self-titled song is considered to be Dio’s greatest hit. Don’t mind the bit long introduction. Focus on the majesty of this remarkable composition. Beautiful guitar theme, nice breaks and Dio… my God what a singer!
If there are few tracks in here that are kind of poorer in quality, these are Gypsy and Shame on the night. Gypsy is a mid-tempo but mature song, typical Dio. I listen to it with ease. I can’t say the same for Shame on the Night. It’s rather slow and mediocre. It falls too behind compared to the other diamonds of Holy Diver. Don’t let that ruin your whole opinion of the album.
And now we get to the best song I think Dio have ever written. The one and only Don’t Talk to Strangers. It is a song that will be forever a Dio classic, a hymn for heavy metal. Starting with a serene melodic riff and gentle vocals, it turns into a river of hot, boiling metal that flows in your veins. I get the chills whenever I listen to it. It reaches divinity. There are just a few other songs like this in metal. Perhaps Rainbow in the Dark could be a match but it loses by a breath. Another fantastic song, with awesome keyboards and a tremendous performance by R.J.Dio Unique in its own way. I have to say that the crystal clear production of Holy Diver allows the bass and the drums to stay at the front line.
But there is more. A hinch of perfection can be found in Caught in The Middle. Steady pace and a pure rock atmosphere are the characteristics for this one. It’s a song that speaks Straight Through the Heart. Another great piece of work. The smashing drum intro by Appice gives you the first punch in the stomach before Dio unleash some streaming rock energy. Invisible, kind of sounds to me like the Holy Diver song, though not as excellent. Dio’s angry vocals give life to this one.
The best leverage of Holy Diver is that it’s a well balanced album. There are no fillers but songs that are heard with great pleasure. It’s a colossal release, superb and one that Dio never surpassed. It turns out that what happened between Sabbath and Dio was for our best. Otherwise we wouldn’t have gotten this precious asset in our collections. Don’t you think so?