RIP Ronnie James Dio
By Staff Writer Adam Rauf
To metal maniacs, Ronnie James Dio [or just known as Dio to his fans] was one of the most important figures in metal. His stage presence was of a man several times bigger than his 5’4 height, and he’s often considered the father of the original “metal horns.”
The man has been in countless bands, and is often copied and cited as an influence for young and old alike. Ronnie’s career spanned approximately six decades, which is far more than most musicians these days, especially in the metal genre. But the man was recording albums as most recently as 2009, and still winning awards to boot! He claims to have never taken any vocal lessons either, but rather claims that his training really came from learning to play the French horn.
Many consider his status to be legendary, citing his amazing work with bands like Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and of course, Dio. But his most recent project, Heaven and Hell, showed that he could still rock as hard in his 60s as he did when he was in his 20s. His vocal range is absolutely astounding, and his powerful performances can be felt on classic songs such as “Rainbow in the Dark,” “Neon Knights,” “Mob Rules,” and lest we not forget “Holy Diver.”
It’s odd that so many Sabbath fans think that after Ozzy Osbourne left following the flop that was Never Say Die!, the band just disintegrated. There was a lot of turmoil as the band kept trying out various singers to fill the void over the next two decades, but Mob Rules and Heaven and Hell are absolutely phenomenal records. The funny thing is, even though the songs that featured Ozzy are the most memorable, Ozzy did not have the best range. Not to say that the Dio-era of Sabbath was better, but you must take a step back and let it stand on its own. Ronnie’s lyrics coupled with the better production values and monster riffs from Tony Iommi have a distinctly different yet satisfying feel. Revisit those classics if you haven’t familiarized yourself with them.
One of the best things that my friends and I found with Dio is that with an extreme genre like metal [not talking about power metal of course], it’s almost encouraged to be screamy and yell a little bit to match the intensity of the music. Dio was able to transform that very notion, singing operatically with some of the heaviest riffs ever put to tape. But he wasn’t like Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden or Rob Halford of Judas Priest; he knew when to get raw, channeling the styles of singers like Iggy Pop and let the energy be felt by the listener. It’s such an important contrast and a delicate line he treads across, yet it works so well.
He was able to use fantasy themes with dragons, castles, and princesses without being too cheesy. He was able to show raw power while singing beautifully. And he was able to bring out the best of those around him.
Rock on, Ronnie. You will be missed.
A side note: Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab released a remastered version of the essential record Holy Diver by Dio. It’s absolutely astounding to hear it with such crystal clear sound coming from the original master tapes and is worth grabbing not only for it’s historic importance for metal, but also because it’s better than the remasters that came before it. Of course, if you can track down a pristine version of the original recording on vinyl, you’ll be much better off, but if you can’t, MFSL’s version will do the trick.