The more I think about it, the more I believe 1983 was the greatest year for metal. Dio's debut release Holy Diver only helps me back up that opinion. Shortly after leaving Black Sabbath, Ronnie James Dio formed his own solo project, with former Sabbath drummer Vinny Appice, bassist Jimmy Bain, and young guitarist Vivian Campbell, creating The Band of Eclectic Names…a.k.a. Dio.
As soon as you set eyes on the cover art, you know you're in for one wild ride. (Being a hardcore atheist, I found it cool seeing a priest getting dunked.) This is confirmed with the quick guitar work in the opening track "Stand Up and Shout." From there on, we're treated to some of the greatest metal to ever come out of England.
Campbell is truly a great guitarist, coming up with some of the most memorable riffs ever using a combination of power chords, scales, and the occasional pinch harmonic for kicks and giggles. Appice's drumming is top-notch. The bass is no Geezer Butler, but does its part well. However, the greatest thing about this record is Ronnie James Dio himself. His voice is so controlled. He hits the crescendos perfectly, and his range is completely astounding. In my opinion, the second greatest vocalist in the world, topped only by the Air Raid Siren (I'm sure the Ozzy purists will be e-mailing their outrage any time now).
The album is chock-full of great metal hits. From the hard-rocking "Straight Through the Heart" to the slower, anthem-y title track (which is my favorite Dio song to date). While all of Dio's "mainstream" hits are on this album ("Don't Talk To Strangers" and "Rainbow In The Dark"), this album has many tracks which have been unfairly overlooked. "Caught in the Middle" comes to mind here. With heavy drumming, and a catchy (albeit simple) guitar pattern, and with Dio's ascending voice leading into a powerful, sing-a-long chorus, it's the perfect song to listen to any time.
The lyrical content on here isn't as Dungeons & Dragons as some of his other releases, but still contains his fantasy-esque hallmark. (I'm sure Hansi Kursch has a few copies of this in his basement).
By far Dio's best recording, this album is a must-have for all hard rockers / metalheads. With its lyrical brilliance, powerful riffing, and…..are you still reading this? Go buy it, now!