Last time, we set the stage and talked about the first three songs of Dio’s Holy Diver. Let’s talk about the rest, now!
Caught in the Middle
This song is oddly hypothetical. It speaks to us directly again, which makes it very immediate even as it drifts further away from us. We could do a lot of things, like sail away, burn up in the sun, or see someone. We feel things, like a physical rush, the thrill of city life. If we’re “caught in the middle,” then, it seems to be between various kinds of sensations.
There’s another image of freedom: we need to let the river in us flow. Many of the songs already show us images of freedom, of letting go and erupting. If we’re caught between sensations, that implies we need to choose one. But I wonder if the song is a kind of puzzle: what if we’re supposed to accept them all? I think Dio has an interesting undercurrent of opening up and accepting experience. That doesn’t mean we’re passive, but we’re allowing input, new and old. There’s a lot of active calls to adventure, but — in this song at least — Dio refuses the idea of going out just to avoid something present here. Feel that and then feel the other. Do it all, but don’t avoid pain or happiness or fear by looking for different stuff.
Who called that one, huh? In this card, a crowned nude woman stands behind a lion that looks protective. But the woman looks like she can fuck you up herself if she needs to. The tree line from the previous card returns, scattered around. These two are out in the woods, not just near them. The line work on the lion’s tail makes everything look strong and stable, secure, while the woman’s curving lines and the hill behind them both provides a counter-point, a sense of fluidity. This card usually refers to the strength to deal with things, not to impose things on others. So both fluidity and stability are “strength,” in this case. The song is about being strong, not weak. It’s not about conquering anyone, or fighting anyone at all — excepting, of course, one’s self. I think a lot of Dio’s songs are like that. In the time and place he wrote this album, in the genre he was working in, it’s remarkable how few of the songs are about fighting, even in the way something like, say, “Battle of Evermore” is. This song is about adventuring, but in the sense of traveling and feeling new things. The song calls on us to have the strength to experience life, to welcome that rush rather than flee it.
Don’t Talk to Strangers
This is most certainly the song I would have pointed to if you asked me, last week, what my favorite Dio song is. It may still be, but “All the Fools Sailed Away” is just one of many that jostle for attention.
Anyway. This song represents that evil voice in your head, the one that helps you avoid pain by avoiding life. The album has already dug deep into that idea, and this, the end of side A, is certainly a culminating argument. It dramatizes those fears we have. Possibly the most powerful image, to me, is the fear of writing in starlight, because it could make our words real. We tend to think our words have a reality of their own. In our minds, of course, they do. But for many of us, the idea that they could be binding, that they could be as real as our bones, is frightening (for others, of course, it’s exciting — see the idea of performative utterances, most of postmodern magical practices, and a significant number of fantasy novels). But, ultimately, the dictum of the song is, naturally, to avoid strangers. They can break out shells, you see. They can open us up and let the light in, so the little dark pissing moaning voice dries up and floats away.
Nine of Swords
The nine of swords depicts suffering; like many of the swords, the suffering is self-wrought. In the Alchemical tarot, this card shows a person trying to dodge swords dangling from the ceiling by strings. In the Waite-Smith, the card depicts a woman weeping in the night with the swords behind her, visually symbolizing dark thoughts keeping her awake. Here, the the swords seem to drop from heaven, and the victim weeps while standing waist-deep in water. I have to assume the water is the accumulated tears. And so, given my thought about the Alchemical (which is, “why doesn’t that person just leave the room full of swords?), my thought about this card is that the person could get away from these swords if they weren’t swamped by their inner turmoil and overwrought emotions. Sometimes pain is just there. It’s not always because you’re weak or small. But sometimes we all indulge in the pariah complex, or we call ourselves the victim of life. I say these things because I absolutely did that, and in some of my bad moments, I still do. The song, like the card, definitely recommends getting up and getting out of ourselves. Talk to those strangers!
Straight Through the Heart
Here’s a song I hadn’t heard before this post series. Beginning side B, this song is the start of the paroxysm. The speaker has suffered — we have suffered — but now we will all transform, transfixed by something. The listener is hanging from cobwebs in their own mind, and the fall is dangerous. We want to avoid that fall, of course, but it’s the only way out of our predicament. What else are we going to do? Are we going to hang there forever, until the webs give out and we fall anyway, but after we’ve exhausted ourselves? Better to let go now, if we’re able to.
The idea of hiding behind the real in a make-believe world is startling. Mixing truth and lies, or blending reality and fantasy, sounds to me like the artist’s credo. So I guess what’s piercing us through the heart is the music itself. I’m all for that.
Page of Pentacles
I’ll be honest here. I was definitely expecting the Fool or the ten of wands here. That’s fine, of course, it all makes sense someway, somehow. But I like to point this stuff out, since I think part of the fun here is educational.
So according to the website I use to get these images, the Page of Pentacles is about reinvention. The artist’s description, in the Golden Thread app, says the “card indicates that you are on the brink of giving life to a new venture or opportunity…” That certainly jives with the reading of the song above. The song is about the moment of change, or perhaps the moment just before it. Pages are the dreamers of the tarot, or at least that’s how I think of them. They’re fascinated by the possibilities of their suit. We’re all like that sometime, right? I remember being in undergrad and being totally fascinated by a few things, like mythology and symbolism and estrangement. In grad school, I was fascinated by a series of literary theories, and wandered through many possibilities for my dissertation before I landed on one. So those can all be seen as “page” phases. The page of pentacles is fascinated by the power of reality, the power of stone and bodies and blood and soil. People fascinated by those things grow very good crops and tend bodies very well… if they get up and act on their studies. The risk of any page is that they may not do anything but think about their ideas.
The risk is very low with the page of pentacles, but it’s still there. So, finally, this song is about the moment of thought before the big change. The piercing idea is in us, but we haven’t moved yet.
This album is only nine tracks long, but we’re running on three days to finish it! I just have that much to say about it! Join me next time for what I assume will be the conclusion!