Dire week for metal

Wed May 19 2010

Devil horns up: you owe that iconic rock and roll gesture to Ronnie James Dio, who passed away this week after a prolonged battle with stomach cancer.  Metal purists lament the ubiquity of the hedonistic sign language, but it’s only a thumb away from love anyway.  You can thank/blame Dio for much of what has happened in metal since the mid-70s.  With Rainbow, he sowed the seeds of hair metal.  He rescued Black Sabbath from an early grave following Ozzy’s collapse.  With Dio, he established himself as a brand name, and endured for the rest of his life as both a legend and a punchline, embracing the entirety of his legacy with humor and class.

I am not a Dio fan; the style of music he gravitated to just ain’t my bag for the most part (exception being the excellent Heaven And Hell album).  But the guy had an incredible voice, the most influential of all time in metal, from Bruce Dickinson and Rob Halford to Dave Mustaine and Geoff Tate to Cedric Bixler-Zavala and legions of followers to come.  And there’s no denying that he tirelessly injected the spirit of heavy metal back into pop culture over and over again throughout his life.  He cared about it as much as anybody ever has, if not more, and for that he has my undying respect and gratitude.

More sad news today: Isis is calling it quits.  This is the band that forcibly evolved metal with the untouchable Oceanic album in 2002.  I’ve already gone on and on about the swarm of imitators that flooded the market with post-metal in its wake.  I haven’t been impressed with the band’s last couple of albums, although I have to admit that last year’s Wavering Radiant isn’t as bad as I initially thought.  I was just beginning to hope that Isis was on the upswing.  Maybe the kiss-off EP that’s in the works will be the crowning achievement.  Either way, it’s a bittersweet ending, a legend carved in stone: far and away the most influential metal band of this young century.

So, thanks for changing the course of music forever, guys.  That was awesome.  Please add a Chicago or Milwaukee date to your tour in between L.A. and Bonnaroo!  You will be missed.

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