Album Review: Ronnie James Dio - This Is Your Life [Tribute Album]
In the annuls of heavy metal, when all is said and done, I continue to believe that Ronnie James Dio will endure as the greatest hard rock and heavy metal singer of all time. From his early days in Rainbow, until his last recordings with Heaven & Hell, there was no denying the force of nature that was Ronnie James Dio. He was everything that was great about metal; a caring, intelligent man who loved nothing more than the power of music. Throughout his illustrious career, Dio's voice became synonymous with metal, his voice the soundtrack of countless lives. Few could match his power, and none his versatility. Simply put, Ronnie James Dio was one of a kind, and it would take a legion of singers to fully replace him.
In a sense, that's what we have here, as countless artists have come together to pay tribute to Dio, and to help raise money for his foundation. The roster of artists on this compilation is staggering, and shows just how much respect those who know what it takes had for Dio.
The album kicks off with Anthrax covering “Neon Knights”, the opening number from the classic “Heaven & Hell”, quite possibly the greatest heavy metal album ever made. Anthrax knows what they're doing, so much so that Joey Belladonna's voice is the only way to tell it isn't the original recording. Their ability to hone in on the sound of the original is amazing, and greatly helps the song feel like a proper tribute.
We then jump straight into Tenacious D covering “The Last In Line”, which is a straight-faced salute, but I can't help but think a version of their own “Dio” with new lyrics might have been a more fitting ode. Still, Jack Black does his best to conjure his inner Dio, but hearing him struggle only goes to show how remarkable Dio was in that regard. In fact, one of the few singers in the world who possess that kind of talent follows on the next track, Russell Allen of Adrenaline Mob, who powers his way through “The Mob Rules” with the gusto and flair of Dio in his prime. I may not always enjoy the musical choices he makes, but no one can deny that the man is, along with his sometimes partner in crime Jorn Lande, the closest thing we have to a new Dio.
Corey Taylor provides a heavier, more modern take on “Rainbow In The Dark”, but I can't help but miss the cheesy keyboard line that drove the original song. It provided a needed dose of levity. Halestorm tackles one of the lesser appreciated Dio songs, “Straight Through The Heart”, with Lzzy giving her all to live up to the legend. She comes close, which is a testament to her talents. Motörhead and Saxon frontman Biff Byford tackle “Starstruck”, a song that has always been unfairly overshadowed by the rest of the classic “Rising” album.
The Scorpions provide a suitably melancholy rendition of “Temple Of The King”, another classic that has often been overlooked. They change the tone from medieval to somber, which works well for the song. Klaus Meine is a singer who, much like Dio, hasn't lost much as he has gotten older, and he sounds great singing Dio's melody. Doro sounds excellent as well, but her take on “Egypt (The Chains Are On)” sounds so much older and dated than the rest of the performances, which is a shame. As could be considered Killswitch Engage's cover of “Holy Diver”, present here, still as polarizing as ever.
Glenn Hughes joins a lineup of the Dio band for “Catch The Rainbow”, one of the more emotional songs in the Dio canon. I hate having to say so, but it's not a song well-suited to Hughes vocal talents, which are immense in their own right. Rowan Robertson plays “I”, sung by Oni Logan, a faithful rendition that can't match the vitriol Dio put into the original. Rob Halford joins more Dio alumni for “Man On The Silver Mountain”, which is a far more restrained performance than I would have expected.
The collection finishes off with Metallica providing a nine minute medley of Dio's work with Rainbow, which shows how ahead of their time Rainbow was at their peak. It also shows that there are at best a handful of people who have ever been able to properly sing “Stargazer”. We finish with Dio himself singing the title track, which came from the “Angry Machines” album, a period of his career which is often overlooked. With just Dio's voice and a piano to back him, the song is a poignant epilogue to a retrospective of a remarkable career.
There are two things I take away from this compilation, both of which I already knew. Ronnie James Dio has a legendary catalog of music he was responsible for, which is as much the story as was his voice. Along with that, there are few singers who can sing one of Dio's songs and do them justice. Everyone contributing to this collection tries their best, but even they struggle to live up to Dio's standard. It's just a fact of life. Don't let that discourage you, though. These are still fine and fun renditions of some of Dio's classic songs, all done for a worthy cause, so any criticism I have is inconsequential.