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Shame on this Album's Fanbase - 75%

Superchard, April 15th, 2018

After releasing one masterpiece after another, it was about damn time Ronnie James Dio got his own solo band in 1983. All the way up to this point it was just a relentless barrage of classic albums from the Ritchie Blackmore led Rainbow to the heavier leanings of Iommi's Black Sabbath. He even did doo wop in the late 1950's and 60's. DOO WOP. Seriously, what other heavy metal singer can you say has done that, and done it within the context of its relative time frame? I wouldn't be surprised if Holy Diver ended up becoming Ronnie James Dio's hottest selling album. Over time, this album has been hyped up to the legendary status that every heavy metal enthusiast should get their hands on.

And it deserves the praise that it gets, Holy Diver is a decent album from start to finish, with only a few flaws. For one, Dio's solo band, generally speaking has always had this tendency of playing it safe and this album is no exception to that rule. There's nothing but classic hit after classic hit here, but it's all pretty radio friendly and ends up feeling really stale to my ears. The songwriting is fine tuned, perhaps too fine tuned. I can only handle so many songs that fade out at the end without any proper ending to them, I can only handle so many cliche guitar riffs and solos, I can only handle so much treading on the beaten path. This album straddles the line between pop and heavy metal and unlike something along the lines of Judas Priest's Screaming for Vengeance, I just can't help but come to terms with the hard pill to swallow that Dio's Holy Diver just doesn't hold up.

Which brings me to the other critical flaw of Dio's solo band in general. Vivian Campbell sucks. I know, most of you reading this are already foaming at the mouth and going red in the eyes before I can even explain myself. For Holy Diver specifically, I can only cherry pick so many good guitar riffs because the majority of what I hear from this guy, as I said before just sounds so cliche. The opening track is the same cliche riffing you've heard as the opener for every Saxon album ever made, "Holy Diver" has a catchy riff, but gee, I wonder what inspired this riff. Black Sabbath's "Heaven and Hell"? Oh, who am I kidding? It's practically blatant plagiarism. Case in point, Vivian Campbell couldn't write an original guitar riff to save his life, and has time and time again let me down. He may have the dexterous prowess to masturbate his guitar, but I'm not impressed by it.

So we're left with an album that offers very few evocative moments, in all honesty, I can only say that "Rainbow in the Dark" does it for me. There's this jarring poppy keyboard melody blaring over everything. I hated it at first, but the song has grown on me the most and become my favorite on the album. The album may have started off weak with the pitiful "Stand Up and Shout" but it does at least close off well with the sleek and bone chilling "Shame on the Night". This is one of those tracks where the bass kicks in and directs the song, and in a live setting it could go on for over 15 minutes if the band really wanted to stretch it out to take beer or piss breaks. "Don't Talk to Strangers" is a fun metal ballad, albeit implementing a fairly underdeveloped acoustic intro only serving as a starting point to create a dynamic shift when the distortion switches on and takes the song to hell and back. This is one of the few times we get to hear acoustic guitar on the album and it's nothing but lost potential, there's no acoustic guitar solo, no melody laid on top of it, no layering, hell, there's not even a single embellishment! Remember when I said Vivian Campbell sucks? He lacks any imagination whatsoever.

Holy Diver never strays too far from pop metal. It's unfortunately too linear for my blood. There's plenty of good songs here, but the album becomes a boring listen as it goes on with too few interesting moments spread too far between one another. To be fair, Vivian Campbell isn't the only one responsible for this, the rest of the band are truly at fault here too. He certainly puts more effort into this work than Vinny Appice is. Vinny, are you even there? There's the occasional drum fill here and there but for most of the album he's on autopilot. Don't expect everything here to be as good as the marching fury of the title track, or the moment where the imaginative light bulb goes off for "Rainbow in the Dark". Holy Diver is by far Dio's most overrated work in his entire career. If you're new to Dio, I'd recommend any of his albums with Black Sabbath or Rainbow over most anything his solo band has ever put out, but if you want to dig into his solo discography, this isn't a bad record by any means; give it a spin, enjoy it, and grow tired of it months later when you finally realize just how painfully dull it is.