Nope, this is not the debut solo album from our favourite metal singer, the late Ronald Padavona aka Ronnie James Dio and this is not some unreleased material that his record company dug up to milk the last juices out of Ronnie’s career. No, this is a tribute album to Ronnie. “How unusual, a tribute album”, you probably think now and rightfully so. Yes, everybody and their mother has a tribute album and in later years the whole reason for releasing tribute albums seems to be for musicians that aren’t hot anymore to make a fast buck. Nothing wrong with a band like Mr Big at all – quite the contrary, Mr Big are and has always been a brilliant band, but it’s not like they have changed the face of music history. And still there is a tribute album for them. Mötley Crüe, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard… C’mon already. But this is a whole other situation, in my opinion. This is out to pay tribute to a legend that left us too early. Ronnie James Dio wasn’t done yet, not by a long shot. So that a tribute to Dio is in order isn’t even under discussion – of course, there should be a tribute to him, everything else is be sacrilege. But – and this is really important – when a tribute to an important legend such as Ronnie James Dio is made, then it is of extremely importance that it is done right and in the best possible way, something like this isn’t to be taken lightly. So have they managed to do justice to Ronnie’s originals? On most songs, yes, even though nothing on this album is as good as the originals, of course. Many of them are really great to hear, but on some, not so much. Anthrax has never been a favourite band of mine, but their version of “Neon Knights” from Black Sabbath’s Mob Rules (1981) is a killer. It’s very heavy and it’s really close to the original and Joey Belladonna really rules here – well done! On the other hand, Tenacious D completely ruins “The Last In Line” from Dio’s 1984 album by the same name. It starts out pretty good, but the song is soon destroyed by a pretty shitty performance and a stupid flute solo. Listen, I get their drift, but this is a tribute so don’t mess things up – this is not a joke album. Tenacious D however is a joke band. I mean, Jack Black can sing real well, but he really should stick to acting. Adrenaline Mob covers – of course – “The Mob Rules” and they do it real damn well. Russell Allen completely nails this – what a singer! “Rainbow In The Dark” features a made up band that consists of Slipknot / Stone Sour singer Corey Taylor and Steel Panther guitarist Sachtel and they make a decent cover of it, but it doesn’t go all the way – I don’t think they did the song justice.
“Straight Through The Heart” is one of my favourite Dio tunes ever, taken from the fantastic Dio debut album Holy Diver (1983). On this Halestorm is kicking up dust with it. At first it sounds a bit weird to hear the song with female vocals, but Lzzy Hale really beats the hell out it, singing with a lot of heart and soul and then add passion and attitude to it. Halestorm’s version is really good and the band is tight as well. Biff Byford from Saxon fronts on “Starstruck” (Rising, 1976) with Motörhead backing him up and the Motörhead groove is very upfront. I think they nail it well. Scorpions takes hold of “Temple Of The King” (Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow, 1975) and the song fits them like a glove. The Scorps version is a bit more uptempo than the original and it actually does justice to the song. Also, Klaus Meine sings fantastic on it, I can’t remember when I heard Meine sing this great. German power mouth Doro Pesch and her band takes on “Egypt (The Chains Are On)” from Dio’s The Last In Line album. There’s nothing really wrong with her version apart from Doro herself. Yes, I know that the woman can sing, but I have issues with her voice and her accent. “Holy Diver” is a song that Killswitch Engage released as a single some years ago and it is as horrible today as it was then. The beautiful Rainbow ballad “Catch The Rainbow” (also from Rainbow’s 1975 debut) puzzles me. It’s done by Glenn Hughes (lead vocals), Simon Wright (drums), Craig Goldy (guitar) and Rudy Sarzo (bass) and that song has all the perfect elements for Glenn Hughes to sing. But for some reason, Hughes really makes this turn sour. I really don’t what went wrong here, only that something obviously did. This version falls flat and doesn’t work at all. One song that does work brutally well is “I” from 1992’s Black Sabbath reunion album Dehumanizer. It’s done by Oni Logan (ex Lynch Mob, vocals), Jimmy Bain (bass) Rowan Robertson (who played guitar on Dio’s 1990 album Lock Up The Wolves) and Brian Tichy (Whitesnake, S.U.N., drums). It’s heavy as f**k and Logan just nails it. Another piece that doesn’t work is “Man On The Silver Mountain”, here done by Rob Halford (vocals), Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake ex Dio, guitar), Jeff Pilson (Dokken, bass) and Vinny Appice on drums. I love Halford’s voice and I’m a big Judas Priest-fan, but this just sounds wrong.
Metallica hasn’t done much right on their own lately, but on this album, their medley “Ronnie Rising Medley” that features a medley of “A Light In The Black”, “Tarot Woman”, “Stargazer” and “Kill The King” and cover-medleys seem to be something Metallica is really good at, thinking back on their brilliant Mercyful Fate medley from their Garage Days album. This medley is just amazing as well. I don’t think I have ever heard James Hetfield sing as well as he does here. Hell, even Lars Ulrich sounds good! The album ends with the title track, “This Is Your Life”. Originally, it lies on Dio’s worst album ever, Angry Machines (1996), there as a forgettable version, to put it mildly. But this stripped down version with only Ronnie’s voice and keyboard player Scott Warren’s piano is just beautiful – it doesn’t even sound like the same song. There are also some Japanese bonus tracks that needs to be mentioned. Stryper makes a killer version of “Heaven And Hell”, but that is taken from their cover album The Covering (2011), The Dio Disciples makes a pretty good version of “Stand Up And Shout”, but it is a band called Jasta, a band I have never heard of before, whose version of “Buried Alive” from Dehumanizer that makes me go “WOW”! The song is heavy as hell, but what a brilliant version. Should be on the original version for the whole world to hear. This album is a great initiative as Ronnie James Dio sure deserves a tribute album and I’m sure all of the artists involved did their best, but it doesn’t matter as this album is somewhat uneven. The songs are sometimes great, sometimes not great at all and it’s a shame because this album really should have been all great. However, there are more good songs than bad songs and even though I’m not that big on tribute albums, this one really feels like a must. I’m sure Ronnie smiles while listening to this on the other side.
Jon Wilmenius (7/10)
01. Neon Knights – Anthrax
02. The Last In Line – Tenacious D
03. The Mob Rules – Adrenaline Mob
04. Rainbow In The Dark – Corey Taylor, Roy Mayorga, Satchel, Christian Martucci, Jason Christopher
05. Straight Through The Heart – Halestorm
06. Starstruck – Motörhead with Biff of Saxon
07. Temple Of The King – Scorpions
08. Egypt (The Chains Are On) – Doro
09. Holy Diver – Killswitch Engage
10. Catch the Rainbow – Glenn Hughes, Simon Wright, Craig Goldy, Rudy Sarzo, Scott Warren
11. I – Jimmy Bain, Oni Logan, Rowan Robertson, Brian Tichy
12. Man On The Silver Mountain – Rob Halford, Vinny Appice, Doug Aldrich, Jeff Pilson, Scott Warren
13. Ronnie Rising Medley (featuring “A Light in the Black”, “Tarot Woman”, “Stargazer”, “Kill the King”)– Metallica
14. This Is Your Life – Dio