As we close in on four years of living in a world no longer blessed by the presence of one of metal’s greatest voices, we wake today to the release of a new tribute album in honor of the late, great Ronnie James Dio. This is the all-star affair known as “Ronnie James Dio – This is Your Life.”
Even four years later I still feel the loss of Ronnie sharply every time I hear one of his songs (so, all the time.) But when I listen to “This is Your Life” I cannot help but smile about all the metal greats who came out to show their appreciation for Ronnie’s body of work.
The album opens with a brilliant version of “Neon Knights” performed by Anthrax. I gotta say, with Joey Belladonna back in the band, everything Anthrax touches is fucking gold now, and this is no exception. The guys tear the music up and Joey’s vocals are bloody brilliant. This is a great opening track.
Next up is “The Last in Line” performed by Tenacious D. Tenacious D is of course the comedy rock duo of Jack Black and Kyle Gass. These guys normally take the bizarre and comedic path with their music and I love them for it. I was mildly concerned that having them on the tribute would be a bit like having Spinal Tap on board. I would have been ok with that too I suppose, but you know, people can get touchy about things like tributes. I was moved and extremely impressed that the guys played it completely straight and fucking owned the song. Bravo, gentlemen.
The quality jams continue with Adrenaline Mob’s take on “The Mob Rules” and Corey Taylor’s “Rainbow in the Dark.”
This brings us to the only song on the album that I don’t really care for: “Straight Through the Heart” by Halestorm. I love the Dio version of course, but I have never been (and likely never will be) a fan of Halestorm. Halestorm is not a metal band, however they choose to brand themselves. The best I can give them is that they are a radio-friendly corporate hard rock band. To each their own, but that just isn’t for me. Whatever my opinion, it’s great that they wanted to pay tribute to Ronnie.
Moving on we have Motorhead with Saxon’s Biff Byford on vocals doing “Starstruck.” No complaints there. Then the Scorpions do a beautiful rendition of “The Temple of the King.” This leads into another of my favorite tracks on the album. My first lady of metal, Doro, performs a killer version of “Egypt (The Chains Are On).”
I understand that it makes sense to include Killswitch Engage’s cover of “Holy Diver”, but this version has been around for years; I think it actually predates Ronnie’s passing. So while it’s a cool version…meh, it kind of feels like filler.
I’m going to jump over the next two tracks for the sake of brevity, but both “Catch the Rainbow” and “I” sung by Glenn Hughes and Oni Logan, respectively, sound great as well.
Now we get to the song that I was very curious to hear; Rob Halford singing “Man on the Silver Mountain.” The intro started very bluesy and different which started to worry me, but then Rob’s amazing voice kicked in and I was quite pleased. I was listening to Judas Priest’s “Sad Wings of Destiny” last week and noted how much I loved the sound of Rob’s voice on “The Ripper.” Rob is known for his incredible range and high piercing vocals, but songs like “The Ripper” and, in this case “Man on the Silver Mountain”, remind us that Rob also sounds amazing in a lower range as well. I wonder if we will get a taste of that lower range on the forthcoming new Priest album.
What metal tribute would be complete without a Metallica medley? I think Metallica’s motto is “So much metal, so little time,” because these guys seem to really like cramming a bunch of songs into one. Live they often perform medley’s of their own songs, and on “Garage Inc.” they did a Mercyful Fate medley comprised of “Satan’s Fall”, “Curse of the Pharaohs”, “A Corpse Without A Soul”, “Into the Coven” and “Evil.” The Fate medley was wonderful, and so too is this one. Called “Ronnie Rising Medley” this track consists of pieces from “A Light in the Black”, “Tarot Woman”, “Stargazer” and “Kill the King.” I cannot think of another metal band that has released cover versions of so many songs, and consistently done so well with so many. I’m not aware of a single Metallica cover song that I haven’t enjoyed.
The coda to the album, the track from which the album takes its name, is the song “This is Your Life” sung by the man himself, Ronnie James Dio. Taken from Dio’s 1996 album, “Angry Machines”, this is a fitting and poignant closer for an album that pays majestic tribute to a man who entertained fans for so many years, while obviously influencing his musical peers and those who would follow him. Thank you Ronnie, and many thanks to the artists who contributed to the album.
Listen below to hear the opening track, “Neon Knights” by Anthrax.