Having just passed the tenth anniversary of Ronnie James Dio’s death. it feels right that we shine a light on the bands that have paid tribute to the great man. His back catalogue contains three landmark records, all recorded with different bands; Rainbow’s Rising, Heaven And Hell by Black Sabbath and Dio’s 1983 masterpiece Holy Diver, possibly the definitive album from metal’s definitive voice. Here are the artists that did their best to recreate that voice.
Stand Up And Shout – Destruction
The opening song of Holy Diver is this classic, fist pumping anthem. When a song is this anthemic it’s hard to imagine anyone fucking it up, and German thrash legends Destruction certainly didn’t on their eleventh studio album Day Of Reckoning. A dose of double kick drum and a harsher sounding Teutonic bark from bassist and vocalist Schmier gives the song a proper kick up the lederhosen.
Holy Diver – Killswitch Engage
Killswitch Engage were riding high on the back of their fourth album As Daylight Dies back in 2006, but surely nothing could have prepared them for the outpouring of love that came from their version of Holy Diver’s title track that was added to the albums bonus re-release. This is a truly superb effort, that almost certainly introduced Ronnie’s work to a whole new generation of metal fans, and became the closing number in the bands set for many years.
Mad as it sounds, no one of note has ever covered Gypsy. Which seems like a huge oversight on plenty of bands part, as it is a great heavy metal song. So can someone just do that? With its big riff, mysterious lyrics and huge chorus, Ghost, we’re looking at you!
Caught In The Middle – Sweet Savage (Straight Through The Heart)
We're stretching the rules here, but bear with us. It’s fair to say the members of Belfast NWOBHMers Sweet Savage – who included future Dio guitarist Vivian Campbell in their ranks - would feel pretty weird at the idea of their song Straight Through The Heart being called a cover of Holy Diver track Caught In The Middle considering that they actually wrote and recorded it first. But the core of the song went on to be reused by Campbell when he joined Dio and turned into a significantly better song. Confusingly, Holy Diver features another song called Straight Through The Heart, which is nothing to do with this.
Don’t Talk To Strangers – Blind Guardian
There aren’t many bands that are equal to Dio when it comes to dealing out pure, old school heavy metal thrills, but German power metal legends Blind Guardian are one of the few that arguably could. Formed the year after Holy Diver was released, Hansi Kursch’s crew have flown the flag proudly for metal ever since, so it’s obvious that they were never going to stray too far from the blueprint that makes Don’t Talk To Strangers such a behemoth of a song.
Straight Through The Heart – Halestorm
When it came to picking bands to contribute to 2014’s This Is Your Life tribute album to Ronnie, Halestorm seemed like an obvious choice for inclusion. Not only were they one of the most exciting and fast rising bands in contemporary metal, but they also possessed the incredible vocal talents of Lzzy Hale, one of the only singers in the game that could actually tackle Dio’s range and power and come close to similar results. Her performance on Straight Through The Heart here is jaw droppingly fantastic.
Invisible – Last In Line
Last In Line are here mainly due to the fact that they are essentially the Holy Diver-era line up of Ronnie’s band, but with vocalist Andrew Freeman stepping into those godlike shoes. Drummer Vinnie Appice, guitarist Vivian Campbell and bassist Jimmy Bain (before his tragic passing in 2016) got together with the idea of celebrating the life and work of Dio back in 2012. The band have released two studio albums, but the real thrill is seeing those men play the music that they made their name from live, as this version of Invisible proves.
Rainbow In The Dark – Corey Taylor
You may not be aware, but 90’s wimps Deep Blue Something – they of Breakfast At Tiffany's fame – actually covered this song. we haven’t heard it, but, jeez, what a horrible idea that is! So we’ve picked another cut from the 2014 Dio tribute album instead. This time Slipknot and Stone Sour frontman Corey Taylor ropes in the likes of Steel Panther guitarist Satchel, former Soulfly drummer Roy Mayorga, Prong and Ministry bassist Jason Christopher and Black Star Riders guitarist Christian Martucci for the anthemic Rainbow In The Dark. We get a pretty faithful musical reinterpretation, but with Taylor’s unmistakable rasp replacing Dio’s soaring croon.
Shame On The Night – Jorn
They may not be a household name over here in the UK, but Norwegian hard rock band Jorn have been chart regulars in their home country. This cover of the closing track on Holy Diver might make a few of you keener to check them out, taken from the Dio album of 2010, this is a belting cover that aims for the power and bombast of the original, and gets mighty to its levels of greatness.
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