The legendary voice that belonged to Ronnie James Dio was so much more than you’d expect to come bellowing out of a five-foot-four frame. With endless range, a suggestively evil tip, and passion for days, Dio’s vocals practically defined “classic” heavy metal from his 1970s heyday with Rainbow until his untimely passing from stomach cancer in 2010. On “This Is Your Life,” several Dio acolytes, friends, and even former bandmates carry his studded torch beyond Valhalla on a tribute album that’s anything but misty-eyed. This is a devil-horned celebration.
Some of the tracks are by-the-numbers, yet no less steel-fisted in sonic character, like Anthrax’s cover of the Dio-era Black Sabbath track “Neon Nights;” Anthrax’s Joey Belladonna is eerily close to achieving Ronnie’s trademark vocal soar on a cut that represents the album (“Heaven and Hell”) on which Dio rescued the then sinking ship that was Sabbath in 1980. Likewise, Adrenaline Mob’s take on “Mob Rules” is spot-on, with vocalist Russell Allen snarling like a teased lion – the sheer heaviness of the track makes for one of the most intense listens on this collection.
There are also the unexpected reads, as on Tenacious D’s cover of “The Last in Line.” Vocalist Jack Black tunes his tongue-in-cheek, faux-comedic vocal to cover a wide area of dramatic license for this one. Black is a capable singer, but his somewhat mocking tone is an acquired taste. Still, the track is a decent spin on one of Dio’s most notable cuts. Rob Halford’s flattened take on the Rainbow classic “Man on the Silver Mountain” is worthy of inclusion, yet it fails to really gain steam as one would expect. As one of the few vocalists on the album that could match Dio toe to toe, we keep waiting for Halford to break through the glass ceiling, but the moment never comes.
The real teeth on the album are bared with the nine-minute Metallica medley called “Ronnie Rising,” a mashup of Rainbow tracks “A Light in the Black,” “Tarot Woman,” “Stargazer,” and “Kill the King.” The thrash abandon with which Metallica treats these songs is enough to make up for their own recent clinkers and can’t help but make you think that some of their pre-1991 fight may still be left within them – they channel raw aggression Dio style. One of the other real highlights is Slipknot/Stone Sour vocalist Corey Taylor grabbing for the brass ring on “Rainbow in the Dark,” his sandpapered grit revealing an irreverent attitude that, no doubt, Ronnie would have appreciated.
The magnitude and subgenre diversity of the artists involved on this tribute fully reveals just how much Ronnie James Dio influenced all things metal. This is one tribute that is united in bringing the message of its namesake to the masses and carrying on his mystically metallic legacy.
Various Artists ‘Ronnie James Dio – This Is Your Life’ Rating: W W W W V