The vision never dies: Dio’s ‘Holy Diver’ turns 40

Warner Records/Rhino

Dio‘s debut album, Holy Diver, was released May 25, 1983 — 40 years ago Thursday.

Ronnie James Dio founded his namesake band after his stint in Black Sabbath replacing Ozzy Osbourne. He brought along then-Sabbath drummer Vinny Appice, and they began working on a riff that would become the main guitar part of the song “Holy Diver.”

“That was the first inkling of a song,” Appice tells ABC Audio. “I think we auditioned some guitar players with that riff, just because we didn’t know much more.”

Eventually, the Dio lineup was completed by guitarist Vivian Campbell and bassist Jimmy Bain. With the creation of a new band outside of Sabbath, Appice says Dio felt a lot of creative freedom recording Holy Diver.

“With a first album, you don’t have to worry about repeating the way you played or songs sounding similar to the album you did before that,” Appice explains. “It was, like, anything goes, ’cause it’s a new band, it’s not Sabbath, and let it rip. So it was easy to have crazy ideas, and we did it.”

Holy Diver spawned metal classics including the title track and “Rainbow in the Dark,” and is now certified double Platinum by the RIAA. In addition to its musical impact, Holy Diver was also famous for its album cover, featuring a giant demon — later known as Murray — swinging a chain over a terrified priest.

“That is an absolute brilliant album cover,” Appice says. “If you see it and you don’t know anything about Dio, you’d wanna buy the record and check it out. What a brilliant cover.”

Dio would become Ronnie’s longest-running project. The group released a total of 10 albums before disbanding in 2010 following Ronnie’s death from stomach cancer. He was 67.

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