As we celebrate the Holy Diver 40th anniversary, I’m forced to admit that I had Ronnie James Dio all wrong for too long.


Released on May 25, 1983, Holy Diver was Dio‘s debut studio album and the first solo effort of Ronnie James Dio. Fresh off his stint as Black Sabbath lead singer, Dio assembled a veritable Murderer’s Row of metal. The band featured Sabbath bandmate Vinny Appice on drums, bassist Jimmy Bain (who played in Dio’s first band, Rainbow), and young guitarist Vivian Campbell, best known at the time for his work with new wave of British heavy metal band Sweet Savage.


Impressive, right? Not to me.


My introduction to metal took place outside of the Galvin Middle School in Wakefield in 1987 or thereabouts. While we were waiting for the bell to ring and the school day to begin, some hesher kid in a denim jacket came up to me and said I had to hear what he was rockin’ on his Walkman. It was “The Number of the Beast” by Iron Maiden and I hated it. Around that same time, my friends were going hard into Metallica and Guns N’ Roses. I didn’t like them either. By the time Dio was on my radar, I had decided that I disliked all metal.


Damn, was I wrong. And was I ever missing out.


‘Holy Diver’ 40th Anniversary: a New Appreciation for Dio

In hindsight, I now realize I just wasn’t ready for heavy metal at such a tender age. It wouldn’t be too long before I fell in love with punk, then industrial. Those styles of heavy music eventually unlocked metal for me. And for that, I’m grateful. Because Holy Diver is a near-perfect moment in heavy metal history. Dio truly is one of the greatest vocalists in all of metal, and he truly did surround himself with transcendent talent. And the theatrics, which once struck me as corny, now make me wanna throw the goat. Let’s look back together.

  • "Holy Diver"

    The title track was the albums lead single. I recently showed the music video to my 14-year-old, and he agreed: sure, it’s kinda silly. But it absolutely rules.

  • "Rainbow In The Dark"

    Maybe if that hesher kid had played this for me things would’ve gone differently. This song is pure mid-’80s metal perfection. The synth riff is unfuckwithable.

  • "Caught in the Middle"

    Credit Dio for recognizing the talent in a young Vivian Campbell. Vivian recycled the riff from the Sweet Savage song “Straight Through the Heart” to great effect.

  • Live in 1983

    Here’s the band live in The Netherlands, just weeks before the album dropped. Magnificent.

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