Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life

Metal’s A Team get together to honour the king

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Although it’s been four years since Ronnie James Dio died, the great man’s absence is still keenly felt. His posthumous activities show no signs of letting up, however, specifically in the case of the Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund run by his widow, Wendy Dio. This album of Dio, Rainbow and Black Sabbath covers raises money for said charity, and features an array of musicians of a startlingly high calibre, revealing just how fondly he was – and is – regarded by his peers.

This Is Your Life is also a clear reminder of how amazing a songwriter Ronnie was – and, of course, a stark illustration that when it came to the art of heavy metal vocals, he was unequalled. That said, the singers here have a damn good go at matching the man’s superhuman voicebox. In terms of natural warbling skills, only Glenn Hughes and Joey Belladonna of Anthrax have anything close to Ronnie’s unearthly pipes, and both golden-larynxed fellows deliver the goods in fine style on Catch The Rainbow and Neon Knights respectively.

But hold on – here’s Corey Taylor, accompanied by musos such as Steel Panther guitarist Satchel and Stone Sour drummer Roy Mayorga, delivering what has to be the vocal performance of his career on Rainbow In The Dark. Corey wails so operatically on this song that it’s hard to believe it’s the same guy who barks out all those guttural Slipknot tunes.

Metallica, easily the biggest commercial name here, give Dio’s back catalogue the same treatment they gave Mercyful Fate back in 1998, bolting together A Light In The Black, Tarot Woman, Stargazer and Kill The King, and calling it Ronnie Rising Medley. This heads-down moshpit stuff is a timely reminder that Ronnie’s music wasn’t all about wistful atmospheres and soaring melodies: at times, it was heavy as fuck.

The sense of respect that runs through the album is profound. Killswitch Engage have been playing Holy Diver for some years now, but their version never gets old, with its precise riffing and widescreen vocals. The same goes for Adrenaline Mob’s The Mob Rules and Doro’s Egypt (The Chains Are On).

Halestorm’s Straight Through The Heart is an indicator that the youth value Ronnie’s output as highly as the older, longer-established artists, too. Two veritable supergroups team up for the occasion, with Jimmy Bain, Brian Tichy and crew tackling I and a Rob Halford-fronted quintet delivering a splendiferous Man On The Silver Mountain. But in case this all sounds a bit sombre, be reassured that there’s room for humour here too, with Tenacious D bringing a mockingly earnest cover of The Last In Line to the table.

Ronnie himself closes the album with the beautiful This Is Your Life, the strings-heavy piano-and-vocals song which signed off Dio’s largely unliked Angry Machines in 1996. ‘What if the flame won’t last forever?’ he sings. The lesson? This Is Your Life is a poignant reminder that singers may die, but that great music is immortal.

Joel McIver

Joel McIver is a British author. The best-known of his 25 books to date is the bestselling Justice For All: The Truth About Metallica, first published in 2004 and appearing in nine languages since then. McIver's other works include biographies of Black Sabbath, Slayer, Ice Cube and Queens Of The Stone Age. His writing also appears in newspapers and magazines such as The Guardian, Metal Hammer, Classic Rock and Rolling Stone, and he is a regular guest on music-related BBC and commercial radio.