Metal legend Ronnie James Dio was a member of number of noteworthy bands, including Elf, Rainbow and Black Sabbath. But for this list, we're concentrating on the music from the band Dio. The group's catalog spans 10 albums across the span of just over two decades with stories full of magical places that can be seen as a safe haven for any metalhead. Despite numerous lineup changes, the body of work is unbelievably strong and proves that Ronnie James Dio was a catalyst for greatness.
Ronnie's lyrics came from a place of wisdom and wonder. He brought us tales from a world of fantasy and made it real. Only he had access to this world, but his imagery gave us all a place to escape and enjoy together. The words all came with a sense of advice and a warning against evils and his ageless voice took the meaning of consistency to staggering new heights that may never be reached again.
Some of the band Dio's work gets lost in conversation due to the monstrous shadows cast by Ronnie's previous records, contributing to three landmark albums to both the Black Sabbath and Rainbow names. With Holy Diver and The Last in Line getting much of the credit, not that it is undeserved, the rest of the catalog seems to take a back seat. Here the aim is to dig a bit deeper and let the Dio band shine! Now, "Look out!" as we count down the 10 Best Dio songs!
'Killing the Dragon'From: 'Killing the Dragon' (2002)
"Killing the Dragon" is the title track that opens up the album with a true horns up rager. The galloping pace has a distinct Iron Maiden feel, which is certainly a treat for any metal fan. Dio's world of fantasy would not be complete without a dragon. Its good against evil again with the age old theme of slaying a dragon. What's not to like about that other than it took Ronnie nearly 20 years into the Dio career to make it happen?
'Evil on Queen Street'From: 'Lock Up the Wolves' (1990)
"Evil on Queen" street might not be a fan favorite, but it showcases a rarely seen side of Ronnie's voice crooning over some dirty blues. Only 18 years old, Rowan Robertson makes his leads cry and his riffs cut through a humid haze. The song is an emotionally aggressive one about the evils of women, one of Ronnie's reoccurring lyrical themes.
'Rock 'n' Roll Children'From: 'Sacred Heart' (1985)
One of Dio's best traits was his ability to turn something potentially cheesy into something majestic. Give any other singer these lyrics and they could be laughable, but somehow it rings triumphant in the Dio catalog. Claude Schnell's keyboards give the song a childlike charm and couldn't be more fitting given the song's story. "Rock 'n' Roll Children" sounds like the feature song on a soundtrack about a show or movie about these young headbangers.
'Evil Eyes'From: 'The Last in Line' (1984)
"Evil Eyes" is a speed demon that picks up the tempo following the romping "One Night in the City." The vocal phrasing in the verse is some of Ronnie's finest, letting his range soar over the rest of the song. Rarely is a verse greater than the chorus, but there are no complaints considering how well the verse dominates the song. Rather than trying to overshadow it, the chorus sticks simply to "I've got evil eyes!"
'All the Fools Sailed Away'From: 'Dream Evil' (1987)
"All the Fools Sailed Away" is a song that borders on being called an epic, largely due to the structure and theme, but has a lot of the fixings of a 70s rock ballad. The song opens up with an echo-laced clean picked guitar part with Dio's dream inducing voice setting up the rest of the narrative. The song remains largely mid-tempo throughout its 7 minute journey, much like the pace of a ship as it just sets out to sea.
'We Rock'From: 'The Last in Line' (1984)
The opening song off Dio's sophomore album kicks things off with a roar. "We Rock" leaves little to the imagination. The song is a first person perspective from the band about playing a show every night and seeing the delighted envy on the face of every fan. A bit of an ode to the fans as well as a stroke of the ego, "We Rock" often closed out Dio's sets on a sizzling high.
'Rainbow in the Dark'From: 'Holy Diver' (1983)
Leave it to Ronnie to continue making rainbows one of the most metal things around, or at least within the realm of his body of work. The '80s keyboard lead is instantly recognizable as "Rainbow in the Dark" and only acceptable due to how well it integrates with the passion and fire spewed forth from Dio. Always singing about good and evil, the song ultimately is about one person shining and radiating colors in a world blanketed in darkness. You might be alone, but you've got the most hope of anyone.
'The Last in Line'From: 'The Last in Line' (1984)
It is said that Ronnie took the opening hook of "The Last in Line" from the horns he heard one time at a renaissance fair, which shouldn't surprise anyone. Another song shrouded in a thick haze of mystery, it matches the strange aura of the album's glowing cover. In this anthem, everyone can feel like a part of what's going on and join in. Unity was another common theme across the Dio discography and it translated perfectly considering the metal community's undying admiration for Ronnie.
'Don't Talk to Strangers'From: 'Holy Diver' (1983)
An obvious piece of advice is transformed into a ripping Dio classic with "Don't Talk to Strangers." After the soft opening with the angelic crooning, the song splits apart with Ronnie letting out a scream to set up the speedy riffing to come. The chord progressions in the chorus acts as if they finish off Dio's words to complete the thoughts. The live staple is another fan favorite that rose to the top despite not being released as a single.
'Holy Diver'From: 'Holy Diver' (1983)
"Holy Diver" tops our list of the 10 Best Dio songs in expected and inarguable fashion. Between the iconic riffs that breaks the near silence and the wondrously delightful and confusing lyrics, this song is one of metal's most cherished anthems. Though no one is sure just what any of this all means, it does not matter. Metalheads all over the world know all the lyrics and sing them aloud like they were the most important words ever spoken.
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