Friday, May 21, 2010

Grieving A Legend (Day 5)

Before I get to the Sabbath/Heaven and Hell stuff, I wanted to get some video game things out of the way.  Believe it or not, there's a video game called Holy Diver.  It was made for the Famicom in Japan and was almost brought to the States for the NES.  It's kind of a cross between Castlevania and Mega Man.  You play some sort of sorcerer, fighting demons, guys with executioner's hoods... the typical stuff you'd find in your standard horror action game or heavy metal video.  Here's a peek at the first stage.

Now you may be wondering if this game is, at all, based on Dio's song or album.  To that, I would say not likely.  It might have been inspired by the song, but that's probably as far as the similarities go.  However, that doesn't stop me from pretending that you play as Ronnie James Dio, fighting demons with your magic.  I mean, Holy Diver does have all the trappings of, what could be, a Dio video game.  The only thing missing is the music from the album.  Well, some people have already made 8-bit versions of Dio's classic songs.  Just insert them into the game and, shazam, instant Dio game.

Don't believe me?  Take a listen.

This version of "Holy Diver" comes from 8bitsbrothers, which, if you can't tell by the note they left on the video, you can download this song.

This 8-bit version of "Rainbow in the Dark" came from kylerpoo.  It's amazing how good these sound.

[Update: I did a little more digging and found some evidence that sheds more light on this video game.  Here's some screenshots of the ending of the Famicom Holy Diver.

Notice any references?  First off, there's mention of the prog rock band, King Crimson.  Then there's the hero's name.  It may look like "Ranay," which could be seen as a corruption of Ronnie, but it turns out that it's actually Randy.  At first, I wasn't sure what the reference was there (maybe they pronounced it "Ron-dy").

Then I looked at this image and everything became clear.  It mentions Zakk W. and Randy R., which points to two famous guitarists who played with Ozzy in his solo career: Zakk Wilde and the late Randy Rhoads.  So the game was not only inspired by metal musicians, such as Ronnie James Dio, but is also a tribute to their music.  The game depicted a world of heavy metal, something no other video game would do for another 20 years, when Brütal Legend was released.  Now, if only the music in the game was more appropriately metal.  That's one thing Brütal Legend definitely got right.

By the way, if you're interested in trying out the game, here's a link for it on the flash based NESCafe system.  It's kind of tough, but a pretty good Famicom game.]

Now that I've made you want to play a Dio video game, let's talk about Heaven and Hell.  In the late '70s, Black Sabbath had lost a lot of their luster.  Both Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die! were poorly received, as the albums were handicapped by Sabbath's myriad issues.  In between the two albums, Ozzy quit the group.  The rest of the band decided to carry on without him, working with different vocalists.  Eventually, Ozzy came back, asking to return to Sabbath, but refusing to sing the material that the rest of the band worked on while he was gone.  On top of that, rampant drug use had crippled their productivity in the studio.  Eventually, Ozzy wasn't contributing any ideas and the band was going nowhere, so they fired him in 1979.

While Ozzy eventually forged his own successful solo career, Sabbath took a suggestion from, what may now seem like, an unlikely source: Ozzy's future wife.  Sharon Arden told Tony Iommi to look up Ronnie James Dio as a replacement to Ozzy.  Dio joined the group and, in 1980, they released Heaven and Hell, which gave Sabbath a new lease on life.  It was around this time that Dio made the "metal horns" gesture a popular trope in the metal community.  Dio's creativity and input in Sabbath was a breath of fresh air that brought the band back into the spotlight after nearly crashing and burning.

Of course, both versions of Sabbath have reunited at some point.  When Dio got back together with Sabbath in 2007, they decided to differentiate themselves from their tenure with Ozzy and, instead, took the name of their first album together.  Heaven and Hell saw a resurgence in interest for the band's music with Dio.  Before Dio's death, the band was working on doing a European tour with Iron Maiden, which was cancelled, due to Dio's health issues.

Dio's time with Black Sabbath marked a distinctive era in Dio's career.  While Heaven and Hell still carried Dio's dark fantasy undertones that could be found in both Rainbow and Dio, it was the collaboration with Iommi and Butler that gave the music its own identity, just as collaborating with Ritchie Blackmore gave Rainbow its individual sound.  It's interesting to look at the major bands that Dio has been in and notice both the individual styles from these different bands and the consistent quality that Dio has infused into them.

But I'm talking too damn much.  Let's see some videos.

First, because I know my cousin-in-law would enjoy this, here's some "Neon Knights" from 1980.

Finally, some tour footage from 2007, with the band working some "Voodoo."

Tomorrow, we're going to get some insight from the man behind the microphone with some great interviews.

Kaiser out

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