By: Adam McGovern
January 12, 2024

One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of metal records from the Eighties (1984–1993, in our periodization schema). Series edited by Heather Quinlan. Also check out our MÖSH YOUR ENTHUSIASM playlist at Spotify.


DIO | “INVISIBLE” | 1983

Remembered as the monarch of mythic knights ’n’ wizards metal, Ronnie James Dio’s songs were actually among the most verité in his genre. Magic quests and spiritual stakes mostly floated as a metaphor for how far down to earth his protagonists were. The epitome of this was his eponymous band’s very first album, Holy Diver, where his opening gesture was to try and set his subjects free.

The songs make quiet desperation loud, and are meant to help you shout it down. The misfits seeking solace are “rainbows in the dark”, not “letting the rivers inside them flow”; many metal bands both feed on and fuel their listeners’ feelings of alienation, but Dio is among the few that, rather than stoking the surface rage, speak to the inner pain. And instead of rallying a cohort of like-minded followers, the music calls on you to find out who you are.

The POV characters of “Invisible,” a possibly suicidal teenage girl and a gender-ambiguous teenage boy, for me have always been the poster children for this ethic of definitive yet distinctive metal.

Delicate of gesture and vocally ferocious, Ronnie pulled off the most androgynous persona in hard rock, with neither camp, pretension, nor any evident need to explain. We’ll never know how much he may have been trying to tell us with all those songs about “looking inside of yourself and seeing someone you don’t know,” but in any case “Invisible” opens with one of his alternative selves, the melodious balladeer, singing a mournful, almost devotional intro before the crunch kicks in.

He wants us to meet the woman who “had thirteen years of teenage tears/Never a helping hand” and who’d have “fourteen more of rain before/She saw the sight of land,” and the young man who “was just eighteen and in between/A lady and a man,” and was “daddy’s girl in momma’s world/And that was when he ran.” A band like Judas Priest (whom I also love, for much different reasons) would exhort its audience to join them and “Take on the World”; Dio’s listeners, as dramatized here, will be happy just to make it through the day.

But there’s light on the other side, and in every sense Dio’s music doesn’t quit. Leaving their compliant confined worlds, the girl’s and boy’s true selves come into view for them, not by going invisible for real, but taking themselves out of pictures they never belonged in. There’s a third character, Ronnie himself, who also disappears from the norms he was born into, in this version of his origin story by heeding “a single word that I’d just heard/From the two that came before: The only way to really stay/Is to walk right out the door.” The same guy who’s admitting that your youth is not the wonderland you’re told it’s supposed to be, and is advising you that in time you will make it out, is also taking your own insight and resilience as his example, which is what I find most trustworthy and encouraging of all.


MÖSH YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Heather Quinlan | Crockett Doob on Metallica’s ENTER SANDMAN | Dean Haspiel on Mötley Crüe’s HOME SWEET HOME | Jack Silbert on Poison’s TALK DIRTY TO ME | Adam McGovern on Dio’s INVISIBLE | Mariane Cara on Faith No More’s EPIC | Heather Quinlan on Blue Öyster Cult’s SHOOTING SHARK | Steve Schneider on UFO’s DIESEL IN THE DUST | Carlo Rotella on Primus’ JERRY WAS A RACE CAR DRIVER | Erik Davis on St. Vitus’ BORN TOO LATE | Greg Rowland on Motörhead’s ACE OF SPADES (remix) | Kathy Biehl on Twisted Sister’s WE’RE NOT GONNA TAKE IT | Nikhil Singh on G.I.S.M.’s GAS BURNER PANIC | Erin M. Routson on Metallica’s ESCAPE | Holly Interlandi on Helmet’s MILQUETOAST | Marc Weidenbaum on Celtic Frost’s I WON’T DANCE (THE ELDERS’ ORIENT) | Amy Keyishian on Living Colour’s CULT OF PERSONALITY | Josh Glenn on Scorpions’ STILL LOVING YOU | Alycia Chillemi on Danzig’s SOUL ON FIRE | James Parker on Godflesh’s CHRISTBAIT RISING | Miranda Mellis on The Afflicted’s HERE COME THE COPS | Rene Rosa on Type O Negative’s BLACK NO. 1 | Tony Leone on Slayer’s SOUTH OF HEAVEN | Christopher Cannon on Neurosis’s LOST | Brian Berger on Black Sabbath’s HEADLESS CROSS | MÖSH CONTEST-WINNING ENTRY: Tony Pacitti on Metallica’s THE CALL OF KTULU. PLUS: CONTEST RUNNER-UP: James Scott Maloy on Accept’s MIDNIGHT MOVER.




Enthusiasms, Music