Words cannot even begin to describe what the legend Ronnie James Dio meant to metal. From his time to Elf to Rainbow to Black Sabbath to Heaven and Hell to Dio, he was the anchor putting out quality music throughout his lengthy career. The man practically invented the horns and he lived and breathed metal. When you think of metal, the first person that should come to your mind should be Dio.
Many compilation albums have been recorded celebrating the legend’s career with the latest being A Light in the Black: A Tribute to Ronnie James Dio.
The album opens with a solid cover of the title track from Dio’s third solo album, Sacred Heart. Crystal Ball handles the opening cover and they do a fine job with it. As expected, the vocals do not rival Dio, but the guitar work adds a few little intricacies that add a punch to the rhythm of the song. Crystal Ball also handles “The Sign of the Southern Cross” exceptionally well.
Another notable cover is Messenger’s rendition of “Kill the King” loaded with its various guitar leads. It simply comes off as a fun cover. Gun Barrel has a nice cover of “Evil Eyes” if not only for the reason that the band took a song that Dio has not played live since the 80s and performed that track.
The Order’s cover of “I Could Have Been a Dreamer” was a great track to cover. At the time of its release, this was a rather popular song, but Dream Evil was released at a time when true metal was falling from grace.
Metal Inquisitor does a noble job of covering “King of Rock and Roll” from Sacred Heart, but the vocals are the roughest part of this track. Circle of Silence takes on the challenge of covering “One Night in the City” from The Last in Line and does a decent job of it. The riffs from Dio’s first two albums are so intense. Vivian Campbell was one hell of a guitar player back in the day before joining Def Leppard and disappearing from the metal scene. Iron Fate does a nice job with “Light in the Black” and makes it one of the better tracks on the album.
LOVE.MIGHT.KILL covers “Hungry For Heaven” and adds a few subtle twists and turns into their rendition to make it yet another fun cover. One of the greatest metal anthems ever written is Dio’s “The Last in Line,” and I shudder every time I hear someone cover it, but The Order does a very nice job with it. While the vocals are a bit over the top, the song is still as jamming as ever so the vocal performance does not detract too much.
I have to admit that I am typically not a fan of a lot of these compilation cover albums because it ends up being a label’s bands covering the most popular songs from the band being focused on. I applaud the bands that dig into a lesser known song like Gun Barrel did with “Evil Eyes” and Crystal Ball did with “Sacred Heart.” People may think that these are well known songs for those of us who followed Dio’s career like hawks, but I am so tired of hearing covers of Holy Diver, Heaven and Hell and the like. While they are truly great songs, I have always felt that covers should be a band putting their spin on a song and it is preposterous to think that a band should mess with a song like “Heaven and Hell.”
With A Light in the Black: A Tribute to Ronnie James Dio, I hope that it opens the eyes of a younger generation to how great Dio’s career really was. Even the times when people said that Dio was in a tailspin, he was still releasing quality music.