The Dio Years celebrates the union of Ronnie James Dio (RJD1) and Black Sabbath with a little over 79 minutes of some of the best heavy metal ever made. If there were any differences to detect between the first and second eras of Sabbath, it could be described as this: while there were signs of political and social discussion in the Ozzy era, it was the dark side of life, and the heaviness of Iommi’s guitar work, that gave them their trademark sound. Ozzy also had his share of vocal limitations, in fact every album after the first would feature Ozzy’s vocals heard at a slightly higher pitch. The Dio era, on the other hand, could be described as going through the doom and gloom, but with a sense of optimism to move forward in life’s journeys. Dio has the vocal ability to walk through the valleys and reach the mountain tops, bringing a sense of mystique and power that made those Black Sabbath songs become mental movies for the troubled soul.
These qualities were first heard on the Heaven And Hell album, represented by “Die Young” (the only song from the album to get a push from MTV in the early days of the cable network), “Lonely Is The World” (where Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler briefly touch on their jazz influences that they hinted at a few times during the Ozzy era), “Neon Knights,” “Lady Evil,” and the moving title track. The second album with Dio, Mob Rules, may not have been as much of a success sales-wise as Heaven & Hell, but it was a solid work from start to finish, with such tracks as “Falling Off The Edge Of The World,” “Voodoo,” “Turn Up The Night,” and the anthemic title track. The original album featured an Iommi guitar interlude called “E5150,” which built up the anticipation of what was to come as it made its way to “Mob Rules” (depicted beautifully in that famous scene in the animated film Heavy Metal). “E5150” isn’t on here, but as soon as the song begins with the guitar riffs coming through, Dio screaming “oh, come on!” followed by drummer Vinny Appice crashing in with the drums, it’s as if those hidden monks on the album cover came to life and you too wanted to Kill Ozzy (see the blood drippings on the Mob Rules cover for references). The one song from the album I would have liked to have heard is “Sign Of The Southern Cross,, and its omission here makes the compilation less than perfect, if only slightly.
The success of the two studio albums would lead to the great double live album, Live Evil, and in “Children Of The Sea” you get to hear the power of the band on stage. The mystique and majesty of Dio’s voice goes to a higher level in a live setting. Dio delivered the unholy scriptures of the real world, and we were their disciples.
Dio would leave to form a band using his own name, creating an influential legacy that is still being measured today. The Dio Years also features three tracks from their 1992 “reunion” album, Dehumanizer, released at the height of grunge but showing their children where some of those low-end riffs originally came from. The compilation also features three brand new songs from a band whose members are well into their 50’s (with Dio to celebrate his 65th birthday this year), but still sounding as bright and strong as they did when Dio joined them. Now performing as Heaven And Hell due to a legality, the Dio-lead version of the band are on tour this year, making it possible for the offspring of the disciples to experience the sight, sound, and inspiration of the almighty Sabbath, Mach II. The CD features songs that not so much gave the band a second life, but put life back into the heart of something that came close to having an attack.