Good day all,
If I were to ask you who the greatest heavy metal singer of all time is/was who would you choose? Would it be Ozzy, Bon Scott or Brian Johnson, David Coverdale, Rob Halford or maybe Vince Neil or Wednesday 13, perhaps even Johan Hegg? It is a tricky question due to the fact that there are so many different genres of music and everyone’s taste is a bit different. My buddy Rick would tell you that the guys who sing in Six Feet Under and Dying Fetus are the best singers in metal. Is he wrong, I don’t know, but it goes to show that there really is a singer out there for everyone.
For me I think that you have to consider someone like Ronnie James Dio as the most likely voice of heavy metal. Besides what he was able to do in his own band Dio, the atmosphere his voice creates on its own is one of the sounds that will never again be duplicated. What Dio could do with just his voice and make a song sound eerie and spooky is just amazing. Not unlike Ozzy whose own voice could arguably be in this same conversation, when you hear Ronnie sing for the first time it truly is a thing of beauty. Also unlike Ozzy’s voice which I think if you have never heard him sing is a voice you may have to get used to, where Ronnie’s smooth and almost velvety tone allows one to accept his voice more immediately.
Now, we all know that Ronnie and Ozzy are not the only great heavy metal singers, but what truly makes a great singer in this music, especially today? I sometimes wonder when I hear bands today, especially the metalcore bands, that heavy metal is starting to lose the really great singers and going in the direction of the screamer, which is fine if you like it but isn’t there still a need for a singer who can actually carry a melody of a song? Power metal is rife with this type of singer and Ronnie James Dio could probably take the credit for helping to create the power metal genre, his voice is the voice of those dragon and imp slaying songs of the new power metal age. Bands like Kamelot, Eluveitie, Symphony X, among others owe a great deal to what Dio was able to create 10, 20, almost 30 years before.
Think of your favorite Black Sabbath album, is it a Ozzy album or a Dio album? Most people are going to pick Ozzy and rightfully so, he was with Sabbath from the beginning, and created eight albums with the band. Dio on the other hand was brought in as the replacement to Ozzy (not an enviable position) and recorded only two albums with the band. But again the question is were those two albums as good as anything that Ozzy did with the band? Maybe, maybe not, but it seems interesting to me that Tony Iommi was always coming back to Dio to record new material under the Sabbath banner. It even worked when Dio and the boys from Sabbath got back together to record the Drehumanize album in 1990.
Additionally, when you think about the popularity of Dio to the Sabbath fans, he only made three albums with them but was able to sell out a tour when they reunited and toured under the Heaven and Hell moniker and recorded a new album. By far equal to, if not just a little better than Ozzy was with the band as even with eight Sabbath albums under his belt what albums do we really remember from the Ozzy era Sabbath? And do we really remember Ozzy era Sabbath albums or just Ozzy era songs? We all know Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, War Pigs, Iron Man, Sweet Leaf, Paranoid, but do fans really know the songs from the albums in-between those songs? I am not so sure.
Now, do the fans know the Dio era songs outside of the ones we all know like Mob Rules, Neon Knights, Children of the Sea, Heaven and Hell? I think they do, why, because when you look at a Dio era Sabbath album the songs are more memorable than the Ozzy era and that has everything to do with the power of the Ronnie James Dio voice. The opening chords of Black Sabbath may have created heavy metal as we know it, but what Ronnie James Dio did with the music was make it unmistakably heavy metal.
At the beginning of this post I asked a question about who you thought is/was the greatest singer in heavy metal, and I am still interested in your thoughts on that even though I have pretty much showed you that my answer is Mr. Ronnie James Dio. It really is a shame that Dio had to die as I think it is possible that his greatest music was yet to come. With the current resurgence of heavy metal in the mainstream I think that Dio would have ridden this wave either to another epic Dio album or possibly another Sabbath (or Heaven and Hell) album. One thing is for absolute certainty and that is when you hear Dio’s voice you know it is heavy metal. We should all thank our gods (whoever they may be) that Dio didn’t decide to take the trumpet up professionally or we may have never even had the almighty “metal horns” (although in various interviews he denies being the first to use them) and we may never have appreciated the nuances of heaven and hell.
I didn’t want this post to come down to a discussion about Dio versus Ozzy but I think when you have two of the most unique voices in heavy metal and they both were the lead singers of the same band there isn’t much of a choice. For me and for many Dio will always be the voice of heavy metal. you could turn on any Dio song whether it be from his solo albums, Sabbath years, Rainbow years or even the short-lived Elf years and anyone could say that is the voice of metal.
Song of the Day: http://youtu.be/VUjUIP2ugG4
Until Later, Peace!