’98′s Best: Dio Delivers Decibels On Live Double-Disc

Ex-Black Sabbath frontman's live album celebrates two decades of his career.

[Editor's note: Over the holiday season, SonicNet is looking back at
1998's top stories, chosen by our editors and writers. This story originally ran on Thursday, June 11.]

When it came time to pick the tracks for the first live Dio album, singer Ronnie
James Dio knew that some fan favorites would be left out.

But the former Black Sabbath frontman forged ahead undaunted, just as he has
throughout his metal-laden career.

“It’s always hard to select tracks for a live album,” the 48-year-old Dio said. “In
the great history of Dio alone, we could have done a couple double [albums] for
that. We tried to pick the things that were absolutely necessary, like ‘Rainbow in
the Dark’ and ‘Holy Diver.’

“We knew we were going to disappoint some people along the way,” Dio
added, “but we tried to get a good balance of the hits and things we haven’t
done in five or six years.”

The result — the recently released double-disc Inferno: Live In Line
should satisfy most hard-core followers of the veteran heavy-metal singer who
first emerged in the mid-’70s with Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, filled Ozzy
Osbourne’s frontman spot in Black Sabbath for the albums Heaven and
Hell
(1980) and Mob Rules (1981) and formed Dio in 1983,
generating such fantasy-metal hits as “Holy Diver” and “Don’t Talk to
Strangers.”

The album’s 18 tracks — culled from a pair of performances at Jackhammer’s in
Schaumbert, Ill., and a Bremen, Germany, show on Dio’s 1997 Angry Machines
World Tour — reflect the past 20 years of Dio’s career as a performing artist.

His operatic vocals are unleashed on such Sabbath-era songs as “Heaven and
Hell” and “Mob Rules,” such Rainbow-originating matter as “Man on the Silver
Mountain” and “Rainbow in the Dark,” and more-recent Dio tunes.

And, of course, there are the requisite track-long drum and guitar solos.

Paula Hogan, director of publicity for Dio’s Mayhem Records label, said the LP
– recorded with the quartet’s latest lineup of former Sabbath drummer Vinnie
Appice, bassist Larry Dennison, guitarist Tracy G. and keyboardist Scott Warren
– will give veteran fans a long-hoped-for concert album while introducing
newcomers to the Dio experience.

“We’re really excited about this. There’s never been one before outside a small
EP [Intermission],” Hogan said. “This collection has never been
available. It’s something that will stay in stores for a long time. People who
happened to hear about Dio just now will have a chance to learn about what he
sounds like live and get an idea of what his charismatic performances are like.”

Although Dio said he stays abreast of current music, citing Tool and now
defunct Soundgarden as a couple of his favorite bands, the live LP doesn’t find
his outfit pillaging riffs and lines from the young lions of today.

“Rock ‘n’ roll is young people’s music. When you’re old and you’ve done it for a
long time, it’s hard to be on the cutting edge of anything,” he said. “But we’re
incredibly consistent, and sometimes with these shows you really get a
diamond set in pewter. We’re progressive, but we listen to what younger bands
are doing without jumping on the bandwagon. It would be false, and I’m
adamant about being pure about what we do.”