Best Dio Albums

The late, great Ronnie James Dio had a long and successful career. He was in bands back in the '60s and started gaining success with Rainbow in the '70s. He joined Black Sabbath in 1979 and recorded 1980's outstanding Heaven And Hell album with them.

After leaving Sabbath, Dio formed his own band in 1982. In addition to Ronnie on vocals, Dio's lineup included guitarist Vivian Campbell, bassist Jimmy Bain and drummer Vinny Appice. The band ended up releasing 10 studio albums and had numerous line-up changes. Their final studio album was 2004's Master Of The Moon, though some live albums have surfaced since Dio's passing.

When it came to putting together a list of Dio's best albums, the perfect choice was Martin Popoff, the author of the book Dio: Light Beyond The Black, a fascinating behind the scenes look at Ronnie James Dio and the making of each Dio album.

It's told mainly from the perspective of Dio, his bandmates, and those that were there during that time. After delving so deeply into Dio and their discography, which albums does Popoff think are their best? Here are his top 5 Dio albums:

01
of 05

The Last In Line (1984)

Dio - The Last In Line
Dio - The Last In Line.

Bold and magical and temporally relevant like Holy Diver, this one’s just better all around in the detailing. The Last In Line is the work of a band on fire, slaying all comers, building on a grand surprise entrance and blowing the doors off the competition.

Recommended dark horse tracks: “Eat Your Heart Out” and “One Night In The City.”

02
of 05

Dream Evil (1987)

Dio - Dream Evil
Dio - Dream Evil.

Sort of the belligerent doppelganger to The Last In Line, Dream Evil saw Ronnie writing with a new guitarist in Craig Goldy, who somehow captures the magic of vintage Viv while cloaking the proceedings in a malevolence and quiet desperation, which sums up the Dio band at this point.

Fans of the first two much more celebrated records would do well to revisit “Naked In The Rain,” “Faces In The Window” and “When A Woman Cries.”

03
of 05

Holy Diver (1983)

Dio - Holy Diver
Dio - Holy Diver.

Sure, you’re shocked I didn’t put this first or second, but I find a certain simplicity and rawness to this record that detracts, compared to the note density and layering of The Last In Line.

Still, Holy Diver is wall-to-wall classics, an expertly sequenced, lively record that showed Ronnie could stand up and fight after two hard luck personal and personnel situations in Rainbow and Sabbath.

04
of 05

Killing The Dragon (2002)

Dio - Killing The Dragon
Dio - Killing The Dragon.

Ronnie bounces back from years of thick, slow songs with Killing The Dragon, his rock ‘n’ rolling flash man record.

Of course, jammin’ along with Doug Aldrich certainly helps, the man’s ‘70s-vibed fireworks bringing spring to a band that for quite a while was leaden in its approach and stormy stance.

05
of 05

Angry Machines (1996)

Dio - Angry Machines
Dio - Angry Machines.

An odd choice to be sure, but I like the way Ronnie’s lyrics are a little more real life here, plus Tracy G is writing quite aggressively and uptempo, at least in comparison to the records around this one.

This was Dio as an angry (and semi-indie) ‘90s band, his embattled snarling through a collection of songs built on roughshod riffs and violent deliveries.

Dio's Legacy

Ronnie James Dio left behind an unbelievable body of work with numerous bands along with collaborations with other artists. After his death in 2010 of stomach cancer, the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund was established. Every year numerous events are held to raise money and build awareness about cancer along with celebrating Ronnie's life.