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DIO’s Metal Masterpiece ‘Holy Diver’ just turned 35!

Holy Diver is the seminal debut album by the band DIO, released May 25, 1983. Vocalist Ronnie James Dio had just quit or been kicked out Sabbath (depending on who tells the story) and he took drummer Vinny Appice with him to put together his own band. He then recruited bassist Jimmy Bain, whom he played with in Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow and then hired 20-year-old unknown Irish guitar whiz Vivian Campbell (now in Def Leppard) and the rest as they say was hard rock or heavy metal history! The album was recorded and self-produced by Ronnie at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, CA and has been hailed by music critics as Dio’s best work and a classic staple in the heavy metal genre. Holy Diver literally kicks ass from beginning to end, with the opening adrenaline-charged fist pumper “Stand Up and Shout” to the darker, slow cooking closer “Shame on the Night”! All killer and no filler, full of epic rockin’ DIO classics!

“Holy Diver” was released in August of ’83 as the lead off single from the band’s debut album of the same name. Although it only reached number 40 on the Mainstream Rock chart at that time, today it is one of Dio’s most popular songs. Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the song was placed on the list of post-9/11 inappropriate titles. However I don’t think KILO ever stopped playing it! The cheesy music video for “Holy Diver”, directed and edited by Arthur Ellis, features Dio as a hairy barbarian adventuring through a desolate church striking down enemies with a sword! (Hey it was the 80’s!) Sadly this video has since been removed from YouTube and other online sources due to some sort of copyright claim by Warner Music Group.

“Rainbow in the Dark” was the second single released by the band Dio, taken from their Platinum-selling 1983 debut album, Holy Diver. Assisted by MTV, it reached #12 on Billboard’s Album Rock Tracks. It was #13 on VH1’s “Top 40 Greatest Metal Songs”.

Dio’s imaginative and narrative lyrics struck a chord with the fantasy and role-playing generation, who were thrilled by Ronnie’s numerous references to dragons, magic and mystery. More than any other metaphor, though, the rainbow stood out as one of the record’s most powerful symbols, one Dio had used before as early as his blues band Elf and of course with the Rainbow as well.

“A rainbow is a natural phenomenon that is so awesome and so seldom seen, that it never fails to draw a response from us all,” he told Let it Rock in 2005. “Rainbows have always made me realize how insignificant we can be in the grand scheme of things.”

“Rainbow In The Dark” was covered by Corey Taylor, with support from Steel Panther guitarist Satchel, Stone Sour drummer Roy Mayorga, plus touring buddies Jason Christopher and Christian Martucci for the 2014 Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life – Tribute album.

The iconic album art for Holy Diver depicted the band’s devil mascot, Murray, standing behind a mountain, wielding or spinning a silver chain that’s also tightly wrapped around a man, who appears to be a priest, in the water below, giving the appearance that he is drowning him. The sinister image fueled rumors that Ronnie James Dio was a Satanist, and some thought the “Dio” logo read “Devil” when turned upside-down (Dio dismissed the interpretation as coincidence). He was quick to argue that appearances are misleading, that it could just as easily be a priest killing a devil, or being saved by him, wanting people to not rush to “judge a book by its cover”.

Holy Diver would achieve platinum status by the end of the Eighties, and serve as an influential touchstone for everyone from Killswitch Engage to Tenacious D.! In the end if Ronnie James Dio hadn’t been outed of Black Sabbath due to an ego battle that took place during the mixing sessions for the band’s 1982 album Live Evil, one of the hallmarks of pounding commercial metal, Holy Diver, might never have surfaced from the depths!

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