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Dio was at the peak of his popularity with the release of "Sacred Heart". Both of his first two LPs had gone platinum in the U.S. (1,000,000 + in sales) and were successful across the globe. Some sort of backlash was inevitable. Many were quick to pounce on the album for being inferior to "Holy Diver" & "The Last In Line". This is true. Whereas, those other albums had no filler "Sacred Heart" had it's share of mediocrity ("Shoot Shoot", "Fallen Angels", etc..). Additionally, the production is slicker and it's obvious the band was gunning for a hit. Most likely it was record company pressure. The Dio band's first two LPs were big sellers- going Gold within a year and eventually certified platinum as already mentioned- so likely record execs though if they could get a mainstream radio hit they could better the numbers. At the time it was in the insipid, sappy power ballad. Well, Dio wasn't going there thank goodness. I wonder if they tried to get him to write one?
The pop metal "Hungry For Heaven" had appeared on a movie soundtrack ("Vision Quest") and achieved heavy airplay on Rock radio. If ever there was a Dio song (along with "Rainbow In The Dark") that should've made the Billboard Pop chart it was this but no dice. It's just appalling that utter crap like Twisted Sister could get a pop hit but Dio couldn't. Actually, it's to Dio's credit- he was just too metal and history now looks back with disdain on TS and bands like Quiet Riot while the Dio albums still get respect.
That's the U.S. In The U.K., Dio was charting but it was a different single, "Rock And Roll Children", that was the hit. It managed a #26 placing on the pop chart. So, yeah, "Sacred Heart" and the following album "Dream Evil" were the closest Dio ever came to the cliche' "selling out". So perhaps there was more keyboard and more melody but that is not selling out. Just think of how nauseating Poison was/is and you'll release that Dio never strayed that far from his signature sound. He always had a sense of melody, not just songs with memorable guitar riffs (like the overly-esteemed "Iron Man" from Ozzy/Sabbath days)
Initially, this slightly more polished strategy worked as this became Dio's biggest selling album worldwide. But, for some reason Dio's fanbase began to dwindle shortly after it exited the charts. It wasn't grunge, which killed metal's popularity years later. It wasn't that Dio's songwriting skills wen't bankrupt ("Dream Evil" was a step up from this album). It's true the EP, "Intermission", wasn't well received but that's not it. What was it then? MTV's parade of photogenic Hair Band "Rock" bands plain and simple. Crappy bands like Poison, Winger, Warrant, Europe took up all the air space until Nirvana put an end to glam metal the way punk crushed disco.
It was back in 1982 that one of the greatest vocalists and personalities of heavy metal, R.J.Dio, was practically kicked out of Black Sabbath after being their singer for two excellent albums, Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules. Shortly after he formed his own band and his answer to Sabbath were two, also great albums, Holy Diver and The Last in Line.
Having found a steady line-up, Dio released another album in 1985, called Sacred Heart. All the members of Dio, referring to them as a band and not as a single person, were very good musicians with great skills, so this release was awaited by metal fans with big expectation. And even though it did not come-up to the standards of Holy Diver, they were not let down.
Dio’s style hadn’t changed and Sacred Heart followed the footsteps of The Last in Line. Ronnie James’ abilities as a singer were not questionable and indeed, the short man with the magnificent voice is once again in great form. His unique vocals are a match for only a few other singers. He also wrote all the lyrics himself. The only problem of the album is that, not all compositions are of the same quality.
In here there are some heavy metal diamonds such as the opening track, King of Rock and Roll. A perfect introduction to the album that rocks your ass with a beautiful riff line by Vivian Campbell. Many rock fans know him from Def Lepard but his playing in Dio was superb. There is also the, known to all, metal hymn Rock ‘N’ Roll Children. The melodic keyboard lines add a wonderful feeling to the song. They are accompanied by the excellent drums of Appice and the strong bass performance of Bain.
One step below, are the songs Just Another Day and Another Lie. The first one is a fine piece of genuine hard rock/metal. With a little more than three minutes in duration, it is probably the fastest track of the album. The familiar vocals of Dio and the beautiful guitar solo place it among the top moments of the album. Another Lie is somewhat slower in speed but equally good. It has a nice break somewhere in the middle and an exploding finale. These two tracks complete, what we can say, the better half of the album.
The other half is filled with more mediocre though not bad songs. The self-titled song is the longest one, with six and a half minutes of playing time. A typical Dio melody is what you’ll find in this one. It could be useful if you wanted to make a compilation of Dio’s best songs but nothing more.
All the remaining tracks are there to fill the album. Stuff that you have heard in the releases prior to Sacred Heart. They are not horrible but it seems as if they begin to lose their inspiration as time goes by. Especially the last song, Shoot Shoot could have been left out. You can listen to them if you are doing something else at the same time but not if you want to be excited.
In general, Sacred Heart is a good album that has its great, good and bad moments. I was not disappointed but not thrilled either. I am sure that they didn’t make new fans with this one and on the other hand their old dedicated fans did not lose the faith in this great band’s abilities.
Dio’s Sacred Heart is an improvement over The Last in Line in terms of overall album cohesiveness though it does lack as strong standout tracks. Sacred Heart is played in the same manor as Dio’s first two releases containing the more traditional/classic metal vibe, with the occasional more speed metal oriented songs. The reason why I said Sacred Heart is an improvement over the Last in Line is because it’s based more on the album as a whole then the individual songs. Filler is less prevalent but the standouts suffer because of this they are weaker than on Holy Diver and The Last in Line.
The band’s performance is top notch, especially Vivian Campbell’s (this being Vivians last album with Dio). Filler is present but every Dio album has at least some filler present. Keyboard usage is even more prevalent than on previous outings. The choruses are weaker too, and it seems that Ronnie wanted a much more guitar-oriented feel to Sacred Heart and it worked. Sacred Heart could have used a change of style or some new elements added which would have increased the entertainment value of this album. Finally the production is well done as usual, though it would have been nice to hear one of Dio’s semi ballads on Sacred Heart.
Sacred Heart while nothing special is certainly a solid album with some very memorable parts to it. Almost forgot about the lyrical approach is the usual fantasy oriented trademark Dio lyrics with a usage of metaphors. The best songs are King of Rock and Roll, Sacred Heart, Rock ‘N’ Roll Children, and Just Another Day, Hungry For Heaven is also a standout because it has the best chorus of the album. I recommend this album to fans of Dio and traditional metal only.
-6 Some filler is present
-8 Standouts are weaker than usual for Dio
-3 No new elements are added to the album
This album marks the end of Vivian Campbell’s tenure as Dio’s guitarist, and the sound of the band has obviously not been the same since. His contributions to this album are quite exceptional, though looking back at the other 2 albums it almost seems that his efforts had tapered off a bit since the beginning. Analyzing the differences between the other guitarists is quite intriguing, as Ronnie has obviously eyed up differing talents over the years, but part of me does long for Vivian to give up his lackluster job as Def Leppard’s rhythm guitarist and do something spectacular again.
This album sees the ante upped in terms of production and songwriting, the keyboard tracks are becoming more and more ambitious, as is the style of songs being written. Some songs are melodically obvious and tend towards mainstream 80s rock while others are adventurous and delve into more complex forms. Sometimes this album comes off as a bit inconsistent, and this is probably due to the deteriorating relationship between Vivian and Ronnie.
The individual performance of the musicians is a little less extravagant than in the 2 previous albums. Ronnie is at the helm with his amazing vocal performances, stealing the show as any lead vocalist would. Vinnie Appice’s drumming isn’t quite as complex and advantageous as it was before, and Jimmy Bain’s bass playing is the usual set of ostinato drones. Claude Schnell’s keyboard lines are stepping it up a little, but the lack of risks taken by the others is still highly noticeable. Now let’s take a look at the individual tracks.
King of Rock and Roll (9/10) – Good energetic album opener, excellent guitar riffs with some superb vocal hooks. Though I don’t think that Elvis ever rocked this hard, this would be a fitting tribute to any King of Rock and Roll. The lyrics are pretty much the glorification of the rock star (playing off the individualistic side of Dio’s metal worship) and the subject definitely fits the music.
Sacred Heart (10/10) – Excellent Dio epic, tons of fantasy based symbolism at work here in the lyrics, but the overall message of it seems to be Ronnie’s constant philosophical message of “be an individual, and dare to dream”. A great effort on the part of Vivian also, 2 very exceptional guitar solos go to his credit in this gem.
Another Lie (8/10) – A lower tempo rocker that sounds like more of the Deep Purple/Rainbow influenced rock that we saw on the previous two albums. Lyrics are pretty much straight forward, and the song tends to drag a bit.
Rock and Roll Children (10/10) – Commercially this was one of Dio’s biggest hits and its music video was, in my opinion, the best that the band put out. The lyrics really hit home for me, being someone who has tried to make music on my terms with the same “conform or else” response from society. Great guitar on this one as well, the solo is a bit simplistic but it conveys a very powerful feeling of both sadness and rebellion.
Hungry for Heaven (8/10) – Catchy rock ballad that bears a strong resemblance to “Mystery” on the Last in Line album, consequently it gets a similar rating from me. The only thing that I would argue that would suggest this song is superior is the guitar solo, which is well done.
Like the Beat of a Heart (9/10) – Hard, mid-tempo rocker that is somewhat comparable to “Straight through the Heart”. Interesting use of the bass drum to literally sound like a heart beat. Not quite up to par with the song that it tends to sound like, but it gets the job done, particularly the vocals.
Just Another Day – (10/10) – This is probably the most underrated song ever released by Dio, I don’t think it was ever played live and few ever mention it, but all I can say is wow. The guitar riffs are crazy, the lyrics are excellent, and their description of a person whom stubbornly refuses to think differently is quite telling of the way things often are in life. Five stars!
Fallen Angels (7/10) – Bah, this is clearly the weakest song on the album, musically this just doesn’t work for me. Sadly, there is a song on a classic Dio album that I will occasionally skip over. It’s not horrible, but despite its intriguing lyrics, it often bores me and strikes me as mediocre.
Shoot Shoot (9/10) – After a mild slip up, Dio recovers with a decent closer. Basically a song that sticks it to the man, daring the person with the power to do their worst, conformity isn’t an option. Good guitar work, good all around band effort, and an excellent vocal delivery.
In conclusion, this is the end of an era for Dio, and also the end of the stability that had magically been established for the first 3 years of this band. Unfortunately Vivian Campbell was a major self-doubter, and that is not the kind of musician to have tearing up the fret board for one of the greatest acts of the 80s. I recommend this album to Dio fans and Metal fans alike, it’s not quite as good as the previous 2, but it’s still excellent.
Dio really slipped and fell on this one. The production is thin compared to the legendary first two records, the songwriting is entirely hit or miss and the overall feeling is one of a cliched band that just happened to claim an amazing frontman. Needless to say, Dio showed his first-ever signs of weakness on the CD. It's not without it's merits, but compared the storied first-half of his career this record is a shocking dissapointment.
There are at least four killer tracks on this CD. "King of Rock and Roll" has some great riffs and melodies, the title track bears an epic feel, and "Just Another Day" stand out well enough...but the rest sounds weak and uninspired. Dio was often the best of the best, here he represents the most predicatable of the most predictable. Where he should have taken the reigns from Ozzy as the "king of metal" he released a record that put metal back at least five years.
Dio is a great musician but his solo career has been riddled with constant missteps and backslides into being in a total state of befuddlement as to what is his best and what is his worst. Often times he becomes so "out of touch" with his gifts that a record like this will appear and shock the world with how lifeless it is. This also marked the first time that sales for the Dio product would decline, as fans also noticed this lack of quality.
Dio will always be "the man"...but one has to screen his many albums carefully before he invests his hard earned dollar. If you're a Dio fanatic...the few excellent songs will be enough to keep you happy. If you're just a casual fan or a lover of 80's metal this might not do it. I'd even say "skip it" and pick up "Holy Diver" and "Last in Line" as those are vastly superior to this piece of partial-junk.