Ronnie James Dio has a way of making a first impression. He dazzled listeners when he joined up with Richie Blackmore in Rainbow and then rejuvenated Black Sabbath’s career with “Heaven and Hell.” The man had a lot to live up to when going solo and he did not disappoint with “Holy Diver.” The album is widely regarded as a classic and must have for any metal head and for good reason. This album, along with “The Last in Line” and “Sacred Heart” has recently undergone the deluxe treatment from the Universal Music Group and is loaded with some nice extras. Along with the original album, “Holy Diver” includes some live b-sides and also a live concert from the King Biscuit Flower Hour.
The main upgrade from the original release and as well as the 2005 re-release is the improvement in the sound department. Listening to this deluxe version almost felt as if hearing the album for the first time again. The instruments have a strong clarity and Dio’s voice shines like a bright ray of sun. Vivian Campbell’s riffs have an extra burst and the bass provided by Jimmy Bain have the edges rounded on and is clearly established within in the songs. The classic, iconic songs like the title track and “Rainbow in the Dark” sound just as fresh as they did in 1983.
As for the other tracks, there is not much more to say then what has already been said. Dio has a way of making the listener feeling empowered with his lyrics. No song embodies that more than the opener, “Stand Up and Shout.” Filled with a rich, up-tempo riff, this song is the essence of making even the most pessimistic fellow to rejoice and raise your fist in the air.
The deeper cuts are also done very well as “Straight Through the Heart” shows Dio at his most demanding with a mean riff that slices to the bone. The final track, “Shame on the Night” has some doom qualities and ends the album on a much darker note.
There is only one tune that does not live up to the billing at that one is “Gypsy.” It is the least inspired and has by far the weakest vocal line and guitar playing. After the one-two punch of “Stand Up and Shout” and “Holy Diver”, “Gypsy” drops the bar down.
The second disc of the deluxe edition is where things become interesting. There is an alternative version of “Evil Eyes”, which would appear on the next album, as well as some live b-sides. However, the extras to sink your teeth into are the concert from the King Biscuit Flower Hour.
This concert is the Dio band in its truest form. They are young, hungry, with Dio trying to establish himself as a solo artist. “Shame on the Night” sounds just as devilish as the studio version and serves as a calming effect after an energetic opener with “Stand Up and Shout.” As the band was still in its fledlging stages, Dio dived into his past ventures with “Children of the Sea” and “Man on the Silver Mountain.” The latter stands out because the band breaks into “Starstruck” in the middle and features impressive drumming by Vinny Appice. “Children of the Sea” is my favorite Dio-fronted Black Sabbath track and Campbell does a stellar job capturing the somber spirit with his guitar work.
Besides the concert are the song “Evil Eyes” and two live b-sides in “Stand Up and Shout and “Straight Through the Heart.” With “Evil Eyes”, there is not much difference in the version that would appear on “The Last in Line.” There is a little more run time with the riffing on this take, but overall there is not much being missed. The live tracks are steady versions with “Straight Through the Heart” retaining its nastiness and “Stand Up and Shout” is similar to what is heard from the concert provided here. This is luckily such a great song that it is not an annoyance hearing this song twice on the same disc.
This is the definitive version of an iconic album and is certainly deserving of having a deluxe edition. The advancement in the sound and the live concert are enough reasons to warrant a purchase. “Holy Diver” is a classic for a reason and this edition is the perfect opportunity to re-experience this great album.