April 1st marked the release of the highly anticipated Dio tribute CD. The album honors the life and achievements of the late Ronnie James Dio, who passed away in 2010. It includes an all-star cast, a who’s who of metal paying their respects to this incredibly talented and immensely missed icon of Heavy Metal.
Dio was a true metal musician, never shying away from the Heavy Metal label. Too often, artists downplay their heavier music calling it ‘hard rock’, but not Dio! He lived it, from his days in Rainbow, to the throne of Black Sabbath, to his solo career, and his creation of the Devil Horns! No one is more metal than Dio. Such is the reason he is so revered.
There are a lot of tribute-type albums out there. As such, I wondered what this new release would sound like. I tend to enjoy covers that sound similar stylistically to the originals, not far-fetched experimentation with songs I hold sacred. Wendy Dio, Ronnie’s wife and manager produced this album. Bet your ass she wasn’t going to let any nonsense or half-hearted music on this album.
There are 13 songs on this release. Some are by established bands, such as Metallica, Anthrax, Doro, Halestorm, Scorpions, and Killswitch Engage. Others are performed by one-time collaborations, temporary super groups if you will. The CD closes with the title song from this album.
The album opens with Neon Knights, performed by Anthrax, who did a great job as one would expect. In fact, there are no bad performances on this album and certainly no bad songs. This is more about how different types of bands pull off a particular song. Being intimately familiar with a song from the original artist, it’s always interesting to see what others will do. Anthrax stayed right on par with the original Black Sabbath version. It’s nice to hear Joey Belladonna singing this, as he does it justice.
Tenacious D performs The Last in Line. I think they did a pretty good job, though I personally don’t feel this band should have been included on this album. They seem more of a satire band than anything. I can appreciate their humor, but at the same time I do not feel this band is suited to properly honor Ronnie’s legacy. That being said, the solo originally recorded on guitar by Vivian Campbell was played on what sounded like a flute or similar instrument. It made me think of Sherwood forest.
Adrenaline Mob covers Mob Rules. They do a great job; it is very powerfully played, loud and proud! I do believe this song, as well as Doro’s, were previously released and putting them on this album was defiantly a great idea.
Next up, the first collaboration effort featured Cory Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour), Roy Mayorga (Soulfly, Stone Sour), Satchel (Steel Panther), Christian Martucci (Thousand Watt Stare, The Strychnine Babies), and Jason Christopher (Black President). Cory again shows he is a pretty versatile vocalist; he really belts this song out and can truly sing Dio! One simply cannot phone in a Dio vocal performance. Much like John Bush, Cory can indeed deliver.
Halestorm performs the classic Dio song, Straight through the heart. The band does a great job on this song and it is pretty evident Lzzy Hale was reaching deep to nail her vocal part.
MotorheadRainbow classic, Starstruck, with the help of Biff Byford of Saxon on vocals. It’s strange to hear Motorhead without Lemmy howling. In fact, I probably wouldn’t even have realized it was Motorhead, had I not be previously aware. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but it’s Motorhead, and that’s all we need to know!
The legendary Scorpions perform the wonderful song, Temple of the King, and in doing so, have made it their own. Out of all the bands on this CD, the Scorpions are the only band to take liberties and make the song sound uniquely their own. They managed to blend the original Rainbow track into their style and sound, a very difficult thing to do, though it’s no surprise the Scorpions were able to pull this off.
Doro Pesch, metal queen and former lead singer of Warlock, contributed with her cover of Egypt (The Chains Are On). I know this song from a previous release. This is perfect for her with the slow and brooding tempo. Doro kills it, as always, and I feel having someone of her stature in the metal world is befitting this album.
Killswitch Engage covers Holy Diver. Being one of Dio’s best known songs, I wonder if there was a lot of clawing to be the band who recorded it? Killswitch modernized the song a bit, with a more current metal sound, without destroying it, though the groove from the original recording is totally lost. Just goes to show that heavier is not always better and all the gain and guttural screams in the underworld can’t make up for feel and groove.
Catch the Rainbow is what I feel to be the standout gem of the album. The band on this track is actually Dio band lineup at the time when Ronnie passed. Vocals are handled by the great Glenn Hughes. Glenn’s delivery and extreme soulfulness on this recording bring a really strong emotional feel. He actually sounds more like an R&B singer here and, for once, that is not a bad thing! The band played the hell out of this, in fact it made me go back and listen to the original Rainbow recording just to be sure.
The massive song I gets a really bad ass treatment from the likes of Lynch Mob vocalist, Oni Logan, along with longtime Dio bassist, Jimmy Bain, Brian Tichy (Billy Idol, Foreigner, Whitesnake), and Rowan Robertson (Dio, DC4). They perform the song in a way true to the original version from the incredible, but oft forgotten Black Sabbath album, Dehumanizer.
Man on the Silver Mountain features the metal God himself, Rob Halford. Again, we find more Dio alumni in Vinnie Appice, Jeff Pilson, Doug Aldrich, and Scott Warren. It’s interesting to hear Rob do a Dio song in the same way it was to hear him perform with Black Sabbath live. Some singers are just perfect at what they do, but unable to properly cover other bands. I feel Rob is about the best Metal singer out there, but I don’t feel he is right for the vocal style Ronnie was known for. That’s not to say this is a bad version; it kicks ass. However, even as a Judas Priest fan, I can say it somehow just doesn’t seem quite right.
The final cover track is called Ronnie Rising Medley performed by Metallica. It features a medley consisting of A Light In The Black, Tarot Woman, Stargazer, Kill The King. There isn’t much that can be said for Metallica… I leave it to you the listener. Perhaps they should follow suit with Motley Crue.
The closer is the album title track, This is Your Life. It is the studio track off of the album, Angry Machines, featuring the piano and vocals of Ronnie James Dio himself. There will never be a voice like this again. Power, grace, emotion, and most of all, honesty.
The proceeds from the sale of this CD offered by Rhino Records will be donated to The Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund, co-founded by Wendy Dio, is a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable fund dedicated to supporting cancer-prevention research, raising awareness, and educating the public about the vital importance of early detection and prevention when dealing with this deadly disease. R.I.P.