Dio – Holy Diver

Any online test or deep look into my collection of albums may tell you that I am a “nerdy” fellow. I don’t deny this allegation, and in fact put it to the general public that ownership of a blog such as this that is not designed to make money, friends, or even sense only further highlights that point. I’m a nerdy guy and there’s no denying it, especially when, on this day in June of 2009, I intend to proclaim my everlasting love for Dio’s Holy Diver album:

The world's raddest paint-by-numbers

It became popular, after Tenacious D made it so, for nerds to proclaim that “Dio rocks!”, possibly without even knowing who he is or what his music actually sounds like. Indeed, I didn’t want to pass any sort of judgment on the matter myself until actually hearing at least one of his albums, and this is the one. I absolutely agree that Dio rocks, perhaps in a different way than one might expect, but a way that perfectly syncs up with my nerdy sensibilities. Of course, his prowess as an actual singer and his band’s abilities to totally rock out are beyond reproach, no matter how snobby you are about music.

The album starts off nice and fast, which is what I like to hear in my metal albums. Indeed, one can get behind an idea like “Stand Up And Shout”, but these lyrics:

It’s the same old song, you’ve gotta be somewhere at sometime
They never let you fly
It’s like broken glass, you get cut before you see it
So open up your eyes

You’ve got desire
So let it out
You’ve got the fire
Stand up and shout-shout

This is one of those rare instances where I will forgive the rhyming of “desire” and “fire” (at least, this is the internet’s opinion on the lyrics, I swear he’s saying “power”). Anyway, the lyrics are quite clever in that way that you kind of wonder if he’s joking or if he’s being totally serious about this. Dio’s not a metal act about pain and death and degradation, he really wants you to succeed, through the power of metal.

This is also evident in the song’s title track, which is preceded by a long overture of really 80’s sounding synthesizers and wind blowing. In fact, the frequency difference between that and the first beat of the song kind of makes me jump if I’m paying attention, because it’s so abrupt. A cheap trick, but oh well.

“Holy Diver” is just one of those songs. I think everyone hears it at some point in their lives, and not one of them have made sense of the lyrics yet, despite Dio’s insistence that he’s making sense:

Holy Diver
You’ve been down too long in the midnight sea
Oh what’s becoming of me

Ride the tiger
You can see his stripes but you know he’s clean
Oh don’t you see what I mean

Gotta get away
Holy Diver

If you know exactly what’s going on here, please get in touch. I’d like to know where you’re getting  your “stuff”.

The lyrics aren’t all that’s going on with this song, Dio’s little “LOOK OUT”, “NO NO”, and more amusingly, “JUMP JUMP” are national treasures in and of themselves. I don’t care how seriously you want to take this song or not, I genuinely love it. I really wish metal was still like this, not taking itself too seriously, just grinding away at this crunchy guitars and beats and super-slick guitar solos and just being awesome. It’s too bad hair metal had to come along and ruin all of this so that the only way to go was towards the horrible metal we’ve got nowadays where everyone’s covered in dirt and roaring about who even knows. Thanks a lot, 1980’s.

Anyway, we then get “Gypsy” which is also great in its own little way, though the vocals remind me too much of AC/DC for my liking. “Caught In The Middle” is more like it, with a nice stuttery guitar part backing up some really cheesy clean vocals. It’s good vocal work, great even, but yeah when the harmonies start up, you’ll either go along with it or look around to make sure no-one’s watching, then go along with it.

We then have the deceptively good “Don’t Talk To Strangers”. I say “deceptive” because when the woodland acoustic guitars start up and Dio whispers “Don’t Talk To Strangers”, you will chuckle aloud if indeed there is any laughter in your heart. The lyrics indeed are kind of hilarious but when the actual rock portion starts, it all fits together and makes perfect sense, so do make sure you see this song through.

“Straight Through The Heart'” is another really good one, particularly for the instrumental work. It does that one thing that I really like in metal, where all the instruments drop out and let the drums have all the fun every once in a while. Seriously, this is some fantastic drumming, I can’t even think of anything else to say about this song. Drums.

“Invisible” starts out with our friend, the Phase Shifter, and kind of jazzes around a little bit like a damn girly Progressive Rock song, but things are soon set right. The song starts rocking at about the minute-and-a-half mark, and even though the song is about a girl, it’s considerably less girly from here on out. This song also possesses one of my favorite guitar solos on the album, which is not to take anything away from the other guitar solos, this one is just so damn fast and all over the place.

Another contender for “favorite song title ever” goes to “Rainbow In The Dark”, because that is just excellent on so many levels. I am not sure the same can be said for the little flutey keyboard part that comes in every now and then on this song, what is that? The song was doing just fine without you, keyboards! I don’t know, at this point on the album, just about anything can happen and I’ll be ready to accept it. You know, I might have to relinquish that crown from “Invisible”‘s guitar solo and give it to this one, it’s a hard decision now that I listen to them again.

Finally, we get “Shame On The Night”, another winning title, with its kind of wimpy sounding wolves howling in the background. I think that part cracks me up harder than anything, they’re such flaccid wolves! Anyway, this song actually does rock, and it’s possibly the only part of the song that counts as a “slow song”, but only because it’s not quite as fast as all the other songs. Most of all, I just love the lyrics, he tries to shame the night for taking away the day. I know it’s all metaphorical and all, but I can’t help but love taking these lyrics literally.

Anywhat, that’s Dio’s most famous album.  Though it’s the only one I’ve heard so far, I think I can safely say that, if there are nerds out there who dig Dio just for existing and haven’t yet heard his albums, well right on, you’ve pretty much captured the spirit of Dio. He doesn’t really have to do anything, the dude looks like this:

Dio shows you the improper way to handle a salad butter knifeHe gave us the Devil Horns (that hand-thing everyone does at every single live show whether it deserves it or not, you know the one), he is mother-lovin’ Ronnie James Dio and you don’t even deserve to hear his albums, but somehow or another, they are right there, ready to enrich your very life. Now go and get a copy of Holy Diver and, as Dio himself would say:

You are the driver
You own the road
You are the fire

EDIT (05/16/10): Thanks to everyone who has stumbled across this old article. For some reason it’s been my consistently most popular write-up despite being written in half an hour in the middle of the night, and since writing it I have become quite the Dio fan. I’ve now listened to most of his albums and connected with many people over the man who is undoubtedly the raddest guy in metal.

Sadly, Ronnie James Dio passed away today after 6 months of fighting stomach cancer at the age of 67, and at no point did he ever stop rocking. This is the only time I’ve felt the need to add anything to any of my blog entries after the project was finished, but I felt it needed to be said. If you’ve come across this article because Dio is a hero to you like he is to me, then keep on rocking! To the rest of you who may fall into the category of not quite knowing who Dio is and thinking just another dude has died, I encourage you to listen to this and all his other albums, and you’ve got quite a ride ahead of you, my friend.
Rock In Peace, Ronnie James Dio \m/


11 Responses

  1. I tried listening to some of the songs on blip.fm. I just couldn’t dig it, no matter how “cool” Dio is or was ever supposed to be.

    • Well, FB is full of tribute to Dio today. It may not be my style of music, but he was a huge player in the genre. So, just cause I don’t dig the music, doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the fact that he inspired others to get into music. R.I.P.

      • It’s good to see your very fair take on Dio’s contribution to music. Refreshing honesty.
        Me personally, class of 1986,
        This album literally saved my non conformist-lack of clique-Just done with school by my junior year ass.
        The lyrics are somewhat goofy to look back at. However I was able to roll them into a ball I could fit into my……um OK, brain.
        I cant say I was suicidal, but with the distractions of what I thought I was relating to with dio, was healthy.
        Peace 2 u my friend.

  2. Sorry to hear it, it’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. I think you have to have an appreciation for ridiculous music to see through well you know.

  3. Dio is actually one of my favorite all time metal bands. I agree with Rainbow In The Dark, it could do without the keyboards.

  4. its just great music either u get it or u dont it comes out at the right time it will live on forever dio was great an everything b4 it had its tune he will be missed he is a true metal God (RIP) +R J D+ :(——–

  5. JustinP8, maybe had you grown up in San Antonio,Tx where heavy metal was and still is huge, you’d feel different. I used to go to concerts all the time back then at the Hemisphere Arena; I remember that heavy metal bands always toured South Texas. Austin always got the Duran Durans, David Bowie’s, and the major mainstream stuff. We got Dio, Scorpions, Ozzy, Judas Priest, Krokus and Van Halen. I still dig the sound to this day and he had this enormous voice and presence that I will always remember. The genre was huge back in the early to mid 80’s. I’ll miss the man, but the music will always live on. R.I.P. RJD.

  6. I agree I will also miss the man. Yes, what a voice and presence. It was on the Holy Diver tour that I first saw him in Hull, England. I will never forget how delighted I was that he simply pointed me out in the crowd and warmly smiled at me. For a 15 year old schoolboy that was a big deal. A very brief connection with a very inspiring talent. Best wishes to his family.

    • wow i wish i could have at least gotten a chance 2 see him play live. and now i never will have tht chance. =( ur lucky dude.

  7. damn i was totally hoping he would get over his cancer…i never rlly looked up to ne one b4 or viewed ne one as a hero of my own. but its funny how i see some one i have never met as a hero. his songs are so much more then just songs. R.I.P Dio & rock on! his body might b dead but his soul lives on.

  8. […] of you may remember that I’ve been something of an outspoken opponent of Metal, with some notable exceptions. I really can’t say that’s as much of the case nowadays. Oh sure, I’m still not a […]

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