DIO Holy Diver (Back On Black)
It might not be exactly to my taste, but I wouldn’t argue against the opinion that Dio’s debut is commercial heavy metal of the highest order, and at least as good as fellow Sabbath survivor Mr Osbourne’s blizzard of a first album. All the requisite squealing lead guitar breaks and fantasy-inspired lyrics (just on the right side of Täp-esque parody both) are present and correct, the tunes are distinctive and memorable and the entire band sing and play their respective parts off. It’s a bit of a stretch to discern the Stones influence RJD claims for “Gypsy”, but it’s not at all difficult to trace a line between the synth sheen of “Rainbow In The Dark”, a tune its maker held in so little regard he almost took a razor blade to the master tape, and “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”. Admittedly, operating in a genre that exists so far outside fad and fashion helps, of course, but “Holy Diver” is as close to timeless as any album from 1983 I can think of right now.
Usefully, Back On Black (not to be confused with Universal’s generally hopeless Back To Black reissue series) have done a really good job with this release. Pressed on 180 gram red vinyl (rather giving the lie to the label’s name) it sounds crisp and loud (in a good way). It’s also accompanied by an audio interview apparently conducted in 2005, in which Ronnie, a personable and remarkably ego-free and self-aware interviewee, describes the genesis of both band and album. It adds a useful level of understanding of the work, although all traces of the interviewer, including the questions posed, have been weirdly expurgated.