Written By Jason Voorhees
In this week's edition, we will tackle one of the most quintessential artists of heavy metal history...Mr. Ronnie James Dio.
While RJD carved out his legacy during his early years in Elf, Rainbow, and Sabbath, it was during his solo career where he truly earned his stripes. During his stellar career, DIO created one of the most extensive catalogs that the metal genre has ever seen. While many people celebrate his work in those high-profile gigs, some forget how truly magnificent his solo efforts were.
Over that same solo career, his band saw many lineup changes while suffering many ups and downs. One thing always remained constant, though, and that was Ronnie's vision. No matter what style of music, no matter what themes of choice, no matter who was playing the instruments, one could always recognize that the music was DIO. And that, my friends, is what makes this guy one of the legends of heavy metal. Simply stated, hes a rock god.
Opinions are widespread on where his albums stack up when ranked to each other. Once again, a challenging project to undertake; nonetheless, one that we are ready to take head-on. So don't be the last in line as we lock up the wolves on this journey down these very strange highways!
10. Angry Machines (1996)
Unfortunately, this album, which was released during the height of the grunge movement, was probably set up to fail before it ever began. While you could hear a much different tone with elements of industrial and grunge present, the band still tried to stay true to its roots. Although this record comes in as the last on the list, it certainly is not a terrible effort. I would venture to say it's probably the band's most underrated. The piano ballad 'This Is Your Life' became a smash hit after his passing and encompassed Ronnie's brilliance in songwriting. Tracks like 'Hunter of The Heart,' 'Black,' and 'Stay out of My Mind' still inject that Sabbath doom and gloom flavor that we all have grown to love. It is an undervalued album that grows on you the more that you listen...an aggressive assault on the senses.
9. Lock up the Wolves (1990)
With an entirely new lineup in the saddle, it was time for a clean slate at the dawn of a new decade. 18-year-old prodigy Rowan Robertson was ready to take the world by storm on this release. While anticipation was high, the results were a mixed bag of praise and criticism. Many fans were disappointed as the album took on a different style than they had grown accustomed to. Lacking the star power of a genuinely stand-out track, the record is sometimes labeled dull and uninspired. Unfortunately, the expectations were not met on the album, so it ranked close to the bottom. However, die-hard DIO fans will tell you that it's just misunderstood. Tracks like 'Hey Angel,' 'Evil on Queen Street,' and the title track continue to invoke the signature sound we all know. Good but not great.
8. Strange Highways (1993)
After another Sabbath reunion came suddenly crashing down, Ronnie James Dio and Vinny Appice were once again left holding the bag. However, the controversial split would not mean the end, but instead a rebirth for the two stalwarts. The band added Tracy G on guitars and Jeff Pilson (formerly of Dokken) on bass. The result was Dehumanizer 2.0. Although the album did not match the success of its Sabbath predecessor, it certainly sounded like a reboot. One of their most underrated pieces, 'Strange Highways' brings that signature doomy sound and style. Slow eloquent tempos with a mixture of grooves, bends, and hooks. Plenty of hidden gems and not much filler on this one. While the title track firmly stands out, it's the sleepers that genuinely define this album among the best.
7. Sacred Heart (1985)
The third album for DIO was a bit of a step down from their previous efforts. As the saying goes, "The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry." Sometimes going to the well one too many times can be detrimental, and that's precisely what happened on this album. That's not to say that the album was a failure because that would be a flat-out lie. It was just too much of the same as the favorite recipe had become stagnant. With that being said, the album was still catchy, and some tracks hit the nail. The title track remains one of the band's most fantastic overall tunes to this day. In retrospect, the sound production probably hurt the record's overall success. In a cruel twist of fate, this would mark the end of the road for Vivian Campbell in the band. Substandard for DIO, but still pretty solid.
6. Master of the Moon (2004)
Sadly this would be the last album for Dio, but what a swan song it was. This was a solid album that featured frequent collaborators from the band's past. RJD's vocals aged like fine wine as he could still belt out lyrics with ferocious tone and synergy. And the rest of the band was able to match that intensity resulting in an epic finale of success. Consistent and focused, there is not one terrible track on the album with little to no filler. Beginning with the opener 'One More For the Road,' the record hits hard. Other standout songs include 'End of the World,' 'Shivers,' 'The Man Who Would Be King' and 'Death by Love,' as well as the title track. While the classics overshadow the album, there is a place at the top for die-hard fans. It's always nice to go out on top, and this record fits that narrative.
5. Magica (2000)
How could Dio's legacy be complete without a concept album? RJD's love for the dramatic is encompassed entirely in this conceptual thriller. Record sales do not tell the story for this one as they tanked. However, the album is littered with all of his most beloved musical trademarks and traits. The album has since gained a cult following among die-hard fans and heavy metal analysts alike. A stellar mixture of heavy dark energy and soft ballad melodies make this one of their most underrated works of art. Of course, the plan of a conceptual trilogy would never come to fruition, so we may never fully understand the story's ending. Nonetheless, this fantasy-laden record sends chills down your spine. Pop it In and take a spin, be prepared to be blown away.
4. Killing The Dragon (2002)
This was a throwback to the classical era of Dio. This version of Dio featured Doug Aldrich on the ax, and he did not disappoint. Crisp and tight musicianship that featured inspiring riffs and hard-hitting basslines. The band went away from commercialized mainstream style as they tried to emulate their roots. The finished product was a traditional metal album that fans would love. It's almost like Ronnie jumped into a time machine back in 1983 in one fell swoop. The lyrics were once again more focused; the songs had more energy, the sound was more polished. This album was released way after its time, but yet one could have followed the big 2. One of my personal favorites and definitely top of the list-worthy. One of Dio's finest hours.
3. Dream Evil (1987)
Removing star guitarist Vivian Campbell from the lineup could have spelled doom for any other band. Not Dio. Adding Craig Goldy ignited a fire in the band, and the result was an epic blast of heavy metal destruction. The newfound energy enabled the band to produce an A-list record. The album once again featured top-notch songwriting and elite musicianship. The band was back to the formula that helped them rise to the top of the metal food chain. The band's new guitarist embodied some similarities in style to Ritchie Blackmore, which paid homage to Rainbow on a few tracks. The opener 'Night People' is a speed metal eulogy that features an epic solo. Other stand-out songs include 'Dream Evil,' 'Sunset Superman,' 'All the Fools Sailed Away,' and 'I Could Have Been a Dreamer. Excellent album from a fantastic band.
2. The Last In Line (1984)
So much for the sophomore jinx. There was no slumping on this album. Dio was in it to win it, and there was no turning back. As their breakout debut became one of the greatest debuts of all time, you could probably say that this one ranks among the best of sophomore metal lore. The album featured all of the classic Dio characteristics, including themes of fantasy and mysticism. Far from a reboot, though, it had its attitude, which sets it apart from its predecessor. The title track is the most notable, but the true sleeper is the epic finale 'Egypt (The Chains Are On),' which once again features Vivian Campbell's dominance on the ax. Another prototype masterpiece for Dio would further cement their place at the Mount Rushmore of Metal.
1. Holy Diver (1983)
This might as well have been titled the Holy Grail. The seminal album of Ronnie James Dio's career marked the apex for the band album-wise. Not only is this Dio's top album, many consider this as one of the leading heavy metal albums of all-time history. Definitely one of the best debut albums of all time as well. Simply a masterpiece in every way. The record featured every aspect of a great heavy metal album. Awesome musicianship. Top-of-the-line songwriting. Multiple mega hits. Plenty of relevant substance. Zero Filler. All the marks of an excellent album. Dio struck gold on this one, and the record lives on forever. Raw and edgy but to the point. Lyrically and stylistically elite. The top of the food chain for Dio and one of many metal fans all-time favorites, no doubt. Bow to the King of Rock n' Roll!
Once again, we hope that you enjoyed this edition of the top album lists. Dio is one of the all-time greats, and it was a treat going back in time to chronicle their catalog. Of course, as always, this is a matter of opinion, and hopefully, you will share yours. We will continue to bring you the best of top album lists, and we challenge you to request your favorite bands to cover them in the future. As always, we hope that you will join Kevin Law and Johnny E every Thursday from 7 PM-9 PM as they pound out the best of metal, old and new!!
And in closing, we wish you continued safety during these unchartered times. As we close, please enjoy this special from Holy Diver!!! Rock on, Mates!!
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