Def Leppard – “Def Leppard” (earMusic)
Well, this is big news on all fronts – my first ever Def Leppard album to review, their first studio release in seven years and a self titled one at that! Back in 1980 I grew up with Leppard when they released “On Through The Night” and as a young kid immediately found affinity in this youthful band who could bang heads along with a cool appreciation for melody in delivering their goods. As the band grew more commercial and further away from the NWOBHM scene that had nurtured them, many labelled them as sell outs, and when they did by releasing the gargantuan “Pyromania” 1983 few in the UK would forgive them, although millions the world over instead took their place. As the years went by Def Leppard forged their own destiny as one of rock’s greatest stadium bands but it seemed that any association with the UK always brought in the bad luck with Rick Allen’s horrific car crash and later Steve Clark’s tragic and untimely death. As such it didn’t surprise me that Leppard too seemed to shun the UK only doing the odd date here n there, if anything just so the band could come back to see their families. In time I soon forgot them too. However, at Hellfest 2013 they were one of the surprise acts and I for one (of many) wondered how this now AOR band would fare at this up n coming festival built on a reputation for extremity and diversity? Over the course of their close to 2 hour set, Leppard delivered their hits like a string of rockets along with a moving montage that I will never forget. It certainly brought back the memories and judging by the roaring approval of the crowd, they proved what they’d learned rocking out all those stadiums over the years. Nevertheless, we’d now all grown up and it was also reflected in the new material: much more mature, more refined and well, less sex n shagging on Sunset Boulevard! Still, when I heard opener ‘Let’s Go’ I really – I mean really – thought Leppard had gone back to the days of ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ cos it could be right offa “Hysteria” circa ’87 with its big guitars, awesome rock melodies and massive drum sound – proof the Leppard still has it’s claws! Things continue on ‘Dangerous’ and later ‘All Time High’ with those familiar layered harmonies and the dual guitars of Phil Collin and Viv Campbell putting in some cool hooks to an all too familiar sound showing that even after all these years the band haven’t forgotten their signature sound. Like the many spots on their namesake animal, the 14 tracks are a mixed bag of funk sex rock with ‘Man Enough’, southern rock n roll in ‘Sea Of Love’ with some blinding guitar from Phil Collin, the acoustic cow rock of ‘Battle Of My Own’ and the pure rock n roll of ‘Broke ‘N’ Brokenhearted’. Occasionally they mix it like on the stadium meets the country of ‘Wings Of An Angel’ and just to keep to their roots the classic psychedelic rock of ‘Blind Faith’ that gives a nod to the band’s own inspirations of Queen, The Beatles and Pink Floyd. Whatever they’re playing though, Leppard make a show of it, reflecting their skills as veteran musicians and composers with an ocean of live experience. Reputedly as spontaneous in its making, the title says it all with the band expressing themselves like never before, reflecting a challenging diversity, yet with the assurance that somehow it all still sounds unmistakably Def Leppard in every way.