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Sorry lads, Dio for me anyday! - 29%

Crank_It_Up_To_666, May 1st, 2008

Well then. This has irritated a fair few people hasn’t it?

Dio’s ‘Holy Diver’ is a heavy metal classic – that’s a point that no-one, fan or not, can argue otherwise, so important the song is to so much heavy and extreme metal. So the mere thought of Killswitch Engage, already viewed with great (and not unwarranted) scepticism by faithful metallers, covering this sacred anthem is guaranteed to piss said metallers off. Those who don’t understand this would do well to remember just how close to the heart metalheads hold classics such as this, and hearing it being given a once-over by a band many do not even consider a metal band is like a kick in the teeth. Metalheads are not ‘ironic’ emo kids or scenesters – we place value on these classics, unlike those who will no doubt view this cover as a throwaway piece of pop culture instead of an affront to what metalheads hold most dear.

But it’s hardly fair on the Engage boys to denounce their rendition of Dio’s classic before hearing it – something many a metalhead has been all too eager to do, something that’s just as infuriating as the scenesters who would tell us that the original is irrelevant simply due to it’s age. So, what have the Killswitchers manage to bring to the legendary ‘Holy Diver’?

Well, to be honest...fuck all.

To be sure, this cover is by and large very faithful to the original, with most of the musical aspects remaining intact – the legendary opening main riff is repeated in faithful exactness, and the band even permit guitarist Joel Stroetzel to have a try at Vivian Campbell’s always memorable solo. Drummer Justin Foley puts a bit of extra effort in, replicating some of those awesome Vinny Appice fills rather than sticking to his usual abysmally bland, double bass dependant style. Howard Jones mostly stays true to Dio’s own vocal stylings, forgoing the incessant and irritating screaming to make more use of clean vocals that remain mercifully free of the wavering dramatics many metalcore vocalists indulge in.

Sounds good doesn’t it? Read on and be very disappointed...

Ultimately what ruins this little cover is KSE’s utter inability to exorcise their hardcore leanings for just a few minutes. That wonderful bridge from Dio’s original (“There’s a truth as hard as steeeeeeeeel, yeah!”) that sounded like the musical equivalent of a phoenix rising is, to put it bluntly, mauled here by the band, who re-work the section into yet another bloody chugga-chugga breakdown, with Jones deciding that hitting the high notes is too much bother and instead falling back to his perpetually annoying screaming. Despite favouring clean vocals throughout, this tendency to let a few of his metalcore shrieks slip in occurs just a few times too often.

While Stroetzel does, as mentioned, attempt to do the solo justice, ultimately his rendition comes across as depressingly dull and lifeless, almost as though it’s been thrown in at the last second for the sake of satisfying those who would complain with even more vociferous force if they had forsaken it. Mike D’Antonio’s bass is best ignored, his playing lacking so much in variety, and following the guitars so closely, it simply becomes an uninteresting chugging noise in the background. And of course, KSE’s indomitable urge to include a squeal between every single riff can be found here, and still capable of pissing everyone off from ridiculous overuse.

In short, this is a masterpiece of metal being reworked for a culture of listeners entirely separate from metalheads, and there is little denying that Killswitch Engage have dumbed down more than a few aspects for the sake of setting modern ‘hardcore’ kids limbs a’ flying in the pit.
Whether or not this is your kettle of fish is up to you, but be assured that there is little that KSE has done with this cover that will impress the average warrior of steel. Especially not while Dio’s original still rings out as hard and as heavy as it has ever done.