Plans to erect a giant statue of late Motörhead frontman Ian 'Lemmy' Kilmister in the Staffordshire town where he was
VERSUS: Blizzard of Ozz vs. Holy Diver
Welcome to another edition of Versus, the series where we look at two albums in metal history, and compare them to each other and see which one was the better record.
In this edition, we are tackling two of the most iconic debuts in heavy metal history. Both releases launched these front men's solo careers into stardom, after both singers left one of the most iconic bands, credited for forming heavy metal music as a whole. After both singers left the legendary Black Sabbath, they would create popular solo careers and have some of the most memorable songs in heavy metal history. This is going to be a divisive and tough match up in this battle I’m calling “The Battle after The Sabbath”.
In this corner, we have Ozzy Osbourne, with his 1980 debut Blizzard of Ozz. His first release since his firing from Black Sabbath in 1979, Ozzy had a lot to prove and show he can deliver great heavy metal music without Black Sabbath. This would also mark the debut of the late Randy Rhoads in Ozzy Osbourne’s band, who co-wrote the record along with bassist Bob Daisley and drummer Barry Screnage. This album would be a huge success for Ozzy, going multi-platinum and launch a successful solo career, cementing Ozzy Osbourne’s place in heavy metal history. Let’s break down this album and see what the “Prince of Darkness” brings to this matchup.
Opening the album, we have “I Don’t Know”, a brooding ambient build before the galloping-style guitar playing of Rhoads kicks in with Ozzy’s vocals accentuating the driving rhythm section of the band. With an almost power ballad/southern rock feeling bridge section, showing a softer side before the driving guitar comes back, and Ozzy’s singing transitioning into Rhoads’ guitar solo is such a good blend. A great decision in the song’s structure. Followed by “Crazy Train” and that iconic “All Aboard” yell and laugh from Ozzy is one of the most legendary intros to a track I can think of in metal history. With that memorable riff and thumping bass over the verse is such a classic song, with accented little guitar solo sections on the chorus is such a nice touch. Rhoads shines on the guitar solo at the halfway mark, showing how great of a guitarist he was.
The album slows down with “Goodbye To Romance”. A beautiful, slowed down ballad with Ozzy’s vocals delivering a sad and sorrowful feeling of loss with accented electric and acoustic guitars. Showing a somber side, giving off a feel that he would later bring on another future Ozzy classic “Mama, I’m Coming Home”. The track delivers somber emotion and sadness, but with the sound of a classic rock or even a hint of power ballad. Followed up by the acoustic instrumental piece “Dee” continuing the emotional feel and lost romance delivered in the previous track.
The heaviness comes back with “Suicide Solution”, with Ozzy doing his classic wailing vocals with some deeper vocal delivery, that almost sounds like future guitarist and Black Label Society front man Zakk Wylde in the opening verse. The song, about the alcohol-related death of late AC/DC singer Bon Scott, the song brings a driving guitar of classic 80’s heavy metal and a great rhythm section by drummer Lee Kerslake. The thumping bass riff of Bob Daisley, matched with the reverbed and cavernous wailing guitars of Rhoads at the end brings dynamics and the band knowing when to match or accent the other’s playing.
“Mr. Crowley” starts with a classic keyboard piece matched with ominous atmosphere before Ozzy’s vocals kick the song off and the riff continues to match the aura and feeling that Ozzy delivers in the vocals. The album’s closer, “Revelation (Mother Earth)”, starts with a beautiful acoustic guitar piece with church bells and a grittier, muddier guitar tone, almost reminiscent of a lost track from Black Sabbath. With that unique instrumentation and the addition of piano is a nice touch to the song and brings this record to a dark and melancholy close to this debut album.
In the other corner, we have Dio, with his 1983 debut Holy Diver. Following his departure from Sabbath in 1982, Dio would direct his focus to his debut solo record. With his legendary voice matched with a strong band lineup of drummer Vinny Appice, bassist and keyboardist Jimmy Bain, and guitarist Vivian Campbell, Dio built a band that could carry and accentuate his vocal talent and musicianship. His legendary debut featured some iconic heavy metal classics like “Holy Diver” and “Rainbow in The Dark” that launched Dio into the upper echelon. Making Dio a force to be reckoned with in the heavy metal landscape. Let’s dive into Holy Diver and see what makes this record so good.
The album opens with a driving metal classic “Stand Up and Shout”. Vivian Campbell’s opening riff starts the record off strong with Dio’s booming vocals accenting & accentuating the force that the band brings on this album. The following track, “Holy Diver”, starts with its calming, ominous and building ambient intro before the legendary guitar riff kicks in and is a constant headbobber throughout the entire track, with the vocals drenched in reverb on the song’s title during the chorus.
“Gypsy” gives off a unique vibe that the band is able to pull off, a metal song that sounds like a heavier Fleetwood Mac song. Not just a cover, like in the veing of Judas Priest with their cover of “The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown)”, but making the song channel that style and feel, but still heavy in the way only Dio can deliver. Songs like “Caught in The Middle” give off a nostalgic feel to classic 80’s heavy metal with tinges of Van Halen in the music, but with a more prominent and powerful vocal delivery. Then the album’s other single, “Rainbow in The Dark” opens with that famous keyboard opening, making a diverse and unique instrumentation on the album. Dio’s vocals are on point and in it’s prime on this track. The ferocity and delivery in them are just awe-inspiring, with so much power in the delivery, he doesn’t need any vocal effects. Closing out the album is “Shame on The Night”, which is a great closer to this monumental album in Dio’s discography.
After all is said and done, and both singers have laid all their cards on the table, which had the better debut? In my opinion, Dio wins this battle with Holy Diver, but by a VERY CLOSE margin. Diver is a consistent and strong record overall. The band, and Dio himself, are on point and delivering a classic, driving guitar record, with a great rhythm section and a fantastic start to Dio’s career as a solo artist. Blizzard of Ozz is a strong record, with the standout being late guitarist Randy Rhoads’ impressive guitar playing and riff creativity. He would appear on the follow-up, 1995’s Diary of A Madman, before tragically passing away in a plane accident in 1982. Ozzy showed on this record that he could be a great front man and singer. That he could carry on without Sabbath behind him and with the right band, he could be a legendary icon in metal history, which he would become. Both singers have amazing discographies and you should definitely do a deep dive for yourself to see the legacy these two singers delivered in heavy metal.
Do you agree with my decision? Who do you think should have won this battle? Leave your comments in the comments section below and your suggestions who you think should step in the ring next. I’m Justin, your friendly neighborhood metalhead, for This Day in Metal and this has been Versus.