There aren’t many singers, let alone metal singers, who have left such a huge and influential legacy as Ronnie James Dio. A singer since the 1950s, Dio fronted several bands and, if nothing else, sang on three bona fide classic rock albums, namely Rainbow‘s “Rising”, Black Sabbath‘s “Heaven & Hell” and his own “Holy Diver”. Has his career stopped with those three albums that would have been a catalogue worthy of note but there were many more great albums the little man with the big voice recorded before his untimely death in 2010, and “Ronnie James Dio – This is Your Life” is as potent a tribute to the singer as you would expect from the high profile contributors.
The album kicks off as “Heaven & Hell” does with ‘Neon Knights’, which sees a re-energised Anthrax giving it all they’ve got as that familiar chugging riff is given some muscle. Joey Belladonna‘s powerful pipes hit all the right notes i all the right places and although the song doesn’t veer too far from Sabbath‘s original, it sets a high bar for everyone else to reach for.
Adrenaline Mob‘s ‘The Mob Rules’ and Killswitch Engage‘s ‘Holy Diver’ have both been around for a while and their inclusion feels a little lazy, but bringing some freshness to the party is Halestorm‘s ‘Straight Through the Heart’, who prove that Dio‘s operatic vocal style wasn’t just limited to influencing male singers. Saxon‘s Biff Byford joins forces with long-time touring partners Motörhead for a meaty run-through of Rainbow‘s ‘Starstruck’, which makes you wonder why the two hadn’t joined forces before (but hopefully will again), and Scorpions go for the obvious with a mediocre ‘Temple of the King’.
As with most tribute albums there are groups of individual musicians collaborating for several heavy hitters, the most interesting being Slipknot/Stone Sour frontman Corey Taylor backed by Stone Sour drummer Roy Mayorga and guitarist Christian Martucci, Steel Panther guitarist Satchel and former Stone Sour bassist Jason Christopher doing ‘Rainbow in the Dark’. One of the band Dio‘s most recognisable anthems, Taylor really stretches those vocal chords and delivers a more-than-worthy interpretation, adding a bit of gravel to those melodic choruses.
Elsewhere, Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford teams up with former Dio/Black Sabbath drummer Vinny Appice for a strong cover of Rainbow‘s epic ‘Man on the Silver Mountain’ – a riff that never gets old – but the real curiosity for most fans is Metallica‘s contribution, a medley titled ‘Ronnie Rising’ and including ‘A Light In The Black’, ‘Tarot Woman’, ‘Stargazer’ & ‘Kill The King’. Sensibly, Lars doesn’t attempt Cozy Powell’s busy drum intro to ‘Stargazer’ but otherwise the song really hammers home the influence that Ronnie James Dio had on the musicians that followed in his wake, even the more extreme metal bands who took Dio‘s epic songwriting style to its natural conclusion. It must also be said that if Metallica could put some of the fire (and production/mixing values) on display here into their next album then they may actually have something to back up their status as a globe-straddling metal band, but that’s another discussion for another day.
Ending with the man himself singing ‘This is Your Life’, this tribute album achieves what many tribute albums try to but usually fail and that is capture the spirit of the subject musician and not just have a selection of has-beens blindly throwing out straight covers that give you nothing about the music or where it came from. “Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life” has variety and affection within its thirteen cover versions that show where Ronnie James Dio‘s influence reached, and it may be a bit of a cliché to say it but the music really will live on. And if you need another incentive to go and buy it, proceeds from the sale of the album go to the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund, so everyone’s a winner. Go raise those horns!