Paul Gilbert announces surprise Ronnie James Dio tribute album, releases Holy Diver cover as lead single

Paul Gilbert
(Image credit: Vladimir Artev/Epsilon/Getty Images)

Paul Gilbert has announced The Dio Album – a fully fledged Ronnie James Dio tribute album, which will be released to honor the legacy of the late heavy metal great.

Covering multiple eras of Dio’s legendary career – from his Rainbow and Black Sabbath days all the way to his solo work – over the course of 12 tracks, The Dio Album is set to arrive April 7 via Mascot Label Group.

A Dio tribute album from Gilbert comes as pretty big surprise, given that Gilbert’s own melting pot of fusion styles, both with his groups Mr. Big and Racer X and his own solo material, is a drastic contrast to the music that Dio championed and is remembered for.

Having said that, Gilbert’s versatility and ability to adapt to any musical setting is in a league of its own, so there’s no doubt his tribute to Dio will be non-stop full-throttle metal and heavy-hitting solos in memory of the late vocalist.

To prove this point, Gilbert has also shared the record’s lead single, a mesmerizing cover of Holy Diver, which is lifted from Dio’s debut studio album of the same name from 1983.

The concept of a Dio tribute album, according to Gilbert, was born after an incredibly minor yet memorable experience: while driving, he saw a baseball cap with the word “Dio” printed on the front. Apparently, witnessing said cap “made his heart start beating faster in a moment of unexpected, unadulterated joy”.

In the aftermath of the drive, Gilbert decided to put together an entire album of Dio tracks that could capture that same “raw energy and excitement” – though he knew the task would be an especially tricky one, given the difficulties he’d face attempting to translate Dio’s commanding vocals into instrumental guitar.

Such translations took place by dissecting Dio’s melodies phrase by phrase, and line by line, in a bid to faithfully tap into the original tracks’ energy and emotion.

In fact, the challenge to harness Dio’s idiosyncrasies and nuances proved to be so demanding that it forced Gilbert to unlearn some of the razor-sharp technical precision that is most commonly associated with his playing.

Paul Gilber The Dio Album cover

(Image credit: Press)

“Playing all these metal riffs like Stand Up and Shout, Neon Knights and Kill the King gave me serious chills,” reflected Gilbert. “The guitar parts of Ritchie [Blackmore], Tony [Iommi] and Vivian [Campbell] brought no small number of goosebumps.

“These amazing riffs are the steel girders of the songs, upon which everything else rests,” he continued. “It had been a while since I’d been this deep into metal rhythm guitar playing, and it felt like I was digging up gold nuggets of fire with a magic platinum shovel.

“The guitar solos in these songs came screaming from distant mountaintops. Ritchie, Tony, and Vivian set the standard breathtakingly high.”

Engineered by Zach Bloomstein, The Dio Album sees Gilbert perform all instruments on the album, save the drums, which were supplied by Bill Ray.

As for what tracks will feature on The Dio Album, notable inclusions include the title track from Dio’s 1984 solo effort The Last in Line, Black Sabbath’s Lady Evil and Country Girl, and Rainbow’s Kill the King.

A full tracklist for The Dio Album can be found below.

  1. Neon Knights
  2. Kill The King
  3. Stand Up And Shout
  4. Country Girl
  5. Man On The Silver Mountain
  6. Holy Diver
  7. Heaven And Hell
  8. Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll
  9. Lady Evil
  10. Don’t Talk To Strangers
  11. Starstruck
  12. The Last In Line
  • The Dio Album is available to preorder now ahead of its release on April 7.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.