There is an old saying that I'm fond of using: The third time's the charm.
Too bad for Ronnie James Dio that it didn't apply to Sacred Heart, the third album by the band he led, and the last to feature guitarist Vivian Campbell. Taking the same formula which he had used for almost his entire career, Dio tried again to copy the success he had with such albums as Holy Diver, only this time the results sound tired.
did experience some popularity in its day, thanks to the singles "Hungry For Heaven," "Rock And Roll Children" and "Shoot Shoot" -- but nearly 20 years after this album's release, the sad fact is that these have not aged well at all. That's really a shame, since I remember absolutely loving "Rock And Roll Children" back when I was 14 -- and other works by Dio from around this same time frame still sound as fresh today as they did when he recorded them.
Part of the problem is that Dio teeters far too close to the edge of self-parody on numbers like "King Of Rock And Roll" and the title track. In a sense, these tracks have the vibe that Dio is just taking himself far too seriously. Part of the problem, too, is Dio's constant reliance on the Dungeons & Dragons theme which has almost always been present in his music. Sure, it worked for a while, but after a while, even your favorite food becomes tiresome if you eat it three meals a day. That same logic is applied to Dio's songwriting efforts -- there's only so much you can write about lurking evil, dragons and whatnot without treading over the same paths time and time again.
Even the playing is not quite up to snuff. Campbell was, undoubtedly, the best guitarist that Dio has ever recruited into his fold, but even his work sounds haggard on Sacred Heart. Whereas there were some guitar solos on Holy Diver and The Last In Line which easily burn their way into your memory, Campbell's work on Sacred Heart dares to be atypical of the metal genre of that time, and doesn't do anything to separate itself from the pack. That's truly a shame -- and maybe was a sign that Campbell was looking towards spreading his musical wings in short time.
Dio's music has always been wrapped up in a fantasy world, but Sacred Heart is more of a pipe dream for Dio and a nightmare for the listener, starting what became a slippery slope for Dio in terms of popularity. To declare this one as a must-own would be a sacrilege.
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