REVIEW: Dio – Holy Diver (deluxe edition)

DIO – Holy Diver (2012 Universal deluxe edition, originally 1983)

Ronnie James Dio often said that the best Dio album was the first.  Fans will always have their own favourites, but there is no denying that Ronnie was right about Holy Diver being a special album.  Dio had always had a knack for rallying talented people around him.  Just look at that lineup:  Ronnie and Vinny Appice had recently fled Black Sabbath.  Jimmy Bain had worked with Dio in Blackmore’s Rainbow, an integral part of that band’s lineup in the Rainbow Rising period.  On guitar – Vivian Campbell, from little known New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Sweet Savage.  A shredder he was, able to compete with the hot flashy players of the 80’s.

Very few people do speedy metal songs better than Ronnie James Dio.  “Stand Up and Shout” is the prototype of such Dio songs.  Youthful and rebellious, “Stand Up and Shout” was exactly what fans in 1983 were craving.  The band got to show off their chops a bit, with Vinny Appice leading the way via a hell of a drum performance.  Then it’s Vivian’s turn to shine on one of the speediest solos laid to tape.  “You are the strongest chain and not just some reflection,” sings Ronnie, inspiring the masses with his positive message of self-belief.

For the first four albums, Dio always put the title track second.  If this holds some special meaning, I do not know.  “Holy Diver”, with its ominous opening, still remains upon  the lofty peak of the best songs Ronnie has ever written.  The riff, written solely by Ronnie, is iconic.  Perhaps it is not recognized on the level of immortal riffs such as “Whole Lotta Love”, but among metal fans, it is held in high regard.  “Holy Diver” is the shiniest jewel in the crown, a massive track that just has everything.  Bain and Appice formed a tight rhythm section with the exact right amount of heft.  The song is flawless…shiny diamonds indeed.


Like the eyes of a cat in the black and blue, something is coming for you.

“Gypsy” is a knockout.  Ronnie belting in full voice with a solid mid-tempo song behind him is always a pleasure.  This is Vivian’s first writing credit on a Dio album.  The guitar solo could use some focus, but I think the directive here was “just shred”.  One of Dio’s most pop moments (in terms of melody only) is “Caught in the Middle”, one of his catchiest, most concise and direct songs.  Even Vivian sticks to point on the solo.  But “Caught in the Middle” is soon eclipsed by an even more exciting song:  “Don’t Talk to Strangers”.  The acoustic fake-out intro is a trick Dio pulled again later on “The Last in Line”, but when the song really starts, it’s friggin’ frantic.  It’s like the wind.  These guys had so much energy, it is remarkable.   “Straight Through the Heart” has balls to it, it’s a groovy tune.  I loved Halestorm’s cover of it immensely.  I think they really caught and emphasized what is great about the song.  Lzzy Hale is one of very few people who can do Dio justice vocally.

The slow intro to “Invisible” reminds me of a 1987-era Whitesnake ballad.  This is another trick!  It stops and abruptly turns into another Dio stomper of high quality.  There is very little letup on this Dio album.  The momentum is maintained by the stunning single “Rainbow in the Dark”.  That’s Ronnie on keyboards, by the way.  I have a story about this song.

Our local rock station, 107.5 Dave Rocks, has a 3:00 contest called the Tedious Tiresome Trivia in the Tri-Cities, or the TTT in the TC.  What makes it so tedious and tiresome are the callers.  Craig seems to attract the…how should I say this? The most “interesting” callers.  The most notorious of these is “Bore-linda” who has a legion of haters who can’t stand her perky tone.  (She’s actually a very nice lady in real life.)  Craig Fee would receive emails from annoyed listeners saying, “Hang up on Bore-linda!  Play some Dio!”  So that’s exactly what Craig did, and he chose “Rainbow in the Dark” as the song.  And Bore-linda calls in a lot.  And Craig hangs up a lot.  For a while, “Rainbow in the Dark” was played almost daily between 3 and 4 o’clock.  And you know what?  It never got tiring.  Every single time it came on was a fist-pumper.

Holy Diver deserves a dramatic ending, and that would be “Shame on the Night”.  Copying the template of a song like Sabbath’s “Lonely is the Word”, it occupies the same kind of slow-paced dark metal space.  Vivian’s guitar intro is very cool, but the song just pounds.

The bonus CD is chock full of Dio goodness.  Deluxe editions should always present a complete set of B-sides.  This has the three from this era, including the studio cut “Evil Eyes”.  This excellent, cruisin’ tune was re-recorded for The Last in Line, and the B-side version has remained obscure until now.   Vivian has a lot of different solos on this version, and they are all cool.  Then, essential cuts “Stand Up and Shout” and “Straight Through the Heart” are both live B-sides, every bit as electrifying as the originals.  They are simply more raw, probably a little faster, and there is nothing more powerful than Ronnie James Dio’s voice live in the raw.

The balance of the disc is fleshed out by six live songs recorded for radio by the King Biscuit Flower Hour.  They sound excellent, thanks to King Biscuit.  You get “Stand Up and Shout” a second time, but the rest of the live songs are not repeats.  In the mix are some Sabbath (“Children of the Sea”) and some Rainbow (“Man on the Silver Mountain/Starstruck”).  Of the two, “Children of the Sea” fares better from the Dio band’s interpretation.  To be fair, I think Tony Iommi and Ritchie Blackmore both have so much personality, that it is daunting to cover them no matter who you are.  I think Vivian’s style works less well on the Rainbow song than it does with Sabbath’s material.  The rest of the songs (“Holy Diver”, “Rainbow in the Dark”, “Shame on the Night”) are all quality Dio tracks.  Although the market is now inundated with live Dio packages, it is still a delight to have these early recordings on CD.

I needn’t divulge that this deluxe edition is loaded with cool liner notes and pictures.  You have come to expect that from a good deluxe edition.  And Holy Diver is quite good indeed.

4.5/5 stars

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22 comments

  1. Oh yeah, fantastic review Mike pumped ya got DIO on the radar. Timing is right too as only just dragged these out again last week to much fanfare (eldest daughter has fallen in love with the title track \m/) and couldn’t have said it much better myself and bang on with yer rating!

    Good read and tell us ya gonna run through all of the Deluxe releases through to Dream Evil and Magica also yeah? (sorry if have forgotten any those if they have already gone up), really looking forward to The Last In Line which would IMO get that extra half mark to round out a perfect score hmmm!? ;)

    Bloody well done Mike, well done indeed…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I pledge to you Wardy that I WILL do Last in Line, and the rest of the deluxes. I don’t have a timeline — as I mentioned in another comment, I have to give a deluxe its proper due. I can’t just phone it in. I have standards I have set for myself!

      Now the thing is, my old highschool buddy Andy wanted to co-write some of these reviews with me (him doing the album, and me doing the bonus disc) so I want to give him the opportunity to come up with something too.

      Good for your daughter! That is awesome.

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      1. Cheers, will be interesting to get both yours and Andy’s input then :)

        On a side not can you Mike, or anyone else here give comparison in sound at least between this Deluxe and the Rock Candy re-issue/remaster from 2005?

        I have that RC issue and it sounds good although have read it’s often not so popular with the audiophiles out there. Reckon the 2005 RC issue wins in the liner notes department though, just a nice effort all around (albeit lacking a touch in the photos and extras of course).

        !?

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  2. Great review…. Dont forget that Holy Diver is blessed with that unmistakeable perfect drum sound artists were getting out of the hallowed walls of Sound City. One of the greatest sounding drum albums ever.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review, Mike. I only own this, Dream Evil and a compilation, but this is my favourite. Also the first Dio album I heard in ‘metal class’! I wasn’t so sure I would enjoy it due to my lack of ‘metal education’, but I’ve grown awfy fond of it (the non-deluxe edition).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That was my highschool buddy Andy who drew that to my attention. There are lots of patterns in the first 4 Dio albums. Each one has a title track and it’s always second. Each one also has two lines from a lyric printed on the sleeve…always from the first song. There is always a reference to a Rainbow (can’t remember if that is on a specific song # or not). If I remember correctly, Andy had an older brother who was a total Dio-head. Wouldn’t let anyone borrow his Dio videos! And Andy got all this knowledge from his big brother.

      Andy is supposed to co-review a bunch of these Dio’s with me, and I hope he does, because his love for Dio is DEEP…he can write a review this size for each SONG.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. DIO. Yes. 10/10 for me(5/5 on Lebrain Scale). I was the one that had Craig play the Dio when Belinda would call to ease the pain. I asked for Dio, any Dio(Rainbow, Elf, Sabbath etc.) He chose Rainbow in the Dark. I wish he had mixed it up because even though I agree it was awesome, others may have thought it repetitive. I knew the writing would be on the wall and it would be a lot of Rainbow in the Dark daily for a while then nothing. I can’t remember now the last time I heard any Dio on the radio. I think if the mighty Lebrain would call in for some, then they would do it. :)

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Good call Mike, I love this album. There’s always something touchingly silly about the man’s lyrics (enough with the gypsies, Dio!) but you really have to LOVE that voice. I’m a Dream Evil fan too.

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