On May 16th 2010, the rock world lost one of its true legends and icons. The man credited with flashing the horns first, who managed to cope with Ritchie Blackmore’s eccentricities in Rainbow, filled Ozzy’s shoes in Black Sabbath and fronted his own band, Dio, lost his battle against stomach cancer. As a performer he had few peers, and his recorded output helped to cement the legacy of Ronnie James Dio.

Universal have released Mightier Than The Sword, and as the tagline states, it truly is a look at all the great frontman’s entire career. Starting with the bluesy ‘Carolina County Ball’ by Elf, and leading into some classic blues-rock/hard-rock/heavy metal tracks with Rainbow, two things are apparent. First of all, Dio had such a unique and incredible voice, able to apply it to many different styles. Secondly, as a song-writer (and not just a lyricist as he co-wrote many Rainbow tracks with Blackmore), there are few better. Yes, there is certainly an element of fantasy to his lyrics, but that helps to add even more to the great little man’s legend.

CD1 of this two CD compilation concludes with three tracks from the classic Black Sabbath album ‘Heaven and Hell’. Dio joining Sabbath after Ozzy left could have led to issues, but the album that they produced was an absolute classic. The end of CD 1, ‘Die Young’, ‘Heaven and Hell’ and ‘Children of the Sea’ are three of the best tracks that album, and a true sign of the legend that Dio was to become.

CD2 starts in much the same vein, three tracks from the ‘Mob Rules’ album. Then follows the track that many claim to be Dio’s true calling card, ‘Holy Diver’. What is truly incredible about this song is the absolute freshness that it still has today, despite there being many covers of the song itself, most notably by Killswitch Engage. Dio’s voice is so powerful throughout. If nobody has heard any other Dio songs, they will almost certainly have heard this, and they will instantly name the vocalist as Ronnie James Dio.

The rest of CD2 highlights the best of the Dio band, ‘Rock and Roll Children’ another chilling highlight. There are a couple more Black Sabbath tracks, including a live version of the classic ‘Neon Knights’ that almost does justice to his, and the band’s, live reputation. Concluding with the last single released in his lifetime, Heaven and Hell’s ‘Bible Black’, CD2 contains perhaps the best known performances of the Dio-era.

Ronnie James Dio was without a doubt a hard-rock/heavy metal legend. The sheer volume of his back catalogue means that a 2 CD compilation perhaps doesn’t do him justice. Often, when a band breaks up a best-of record is released and it does nothing for their reputation whatsoever. This however, isn’t a best-of compilation of Ronnie James Dio – rather, this is a collection spanning the entirety of his career. A perfect way to introduce those who may not have heard the classic voice, seen the classic performances to Dio himself. There’s something in here for everyone, and credit to Universal for releasing a career-spanning compilation that somehow manages to add even more to an already illustrious back-catalogue. Essential listening.