November 23, 2015 Def Leppard – Def Leppard (Album Review)
For the last thirty-eight years, Def Leppard has been a seminal band on the Rock scene, weathering the pratfalls and tragedies that have fallen others. The English band formed in 1977 with friends, Rick Savage, Tony Kenning, and Pete Willis, calling themselves Atomic Mass. Joe Elliott met Willis, and auditioned for a guitarist spot, but wound up getting the lead singer gig instead. Soon after Elliott’s joining, the guys voted to rename the ban Def Leppard, a name for a band Elliot thought of in his school days while giving a nod to Led Zeppelin.
After blowing up in their hometown in the UK and joining the upper echelon of the British Heavy Metal genre, Def Leppard struck a deal with Phonogram/Vertigo in the UK and Mercury Records in the US, also joining a chance tour supporting AC/DC. Then, the band released On Through the Night, their debut album, March 1980 with new manager, Peter Mensch (AC/DC, Red Hot Chili Peppers). With the album, came a bit of controversy with the track “Hello America.” It was rumored that Def Leppard was trying to sellout to America. However, it was not until 1982 that the band started getting American notice with the video of “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” from their second album, 1981’s High ‘n’ Dry, getting good play on MTV despite the album’s lackluster success. This was followed by tour opening for Ozzy. Then, Pyromania dropped the beginning of 1983, and Def Leppard blew up with the single, “Photograph.” Thirty-two years later, Vocalist Joe Elliott, Guitarist/Vocalist Phil Collen, Guitarist/Vocalist Vivian Campbell, Bassist/Vocalist Rick “Sav” Savage, and Drummer/Vocalist Rick Allen are back with their eleventh album after the longest break between albums in the band’s history, aptly self-titled. It was produced at Joe’s Garage in Dublin, Ireland for Bludgeon Riffola/earMUSIC Records/Mailboat Records in the US on October 30th.
Def Leppard is an eclectic 14-track journey that covers everything from Disco, to power ballads, to all out Metal, beginning with the light rocker, “Let’s Go.” This opener begins with Elliott’s voice swooping in on a voice distortion followed by Allen’s heavy drums and Vivian’s riff in. This piece feels textbook Def Leppard that listeners have come to expect in this anthemic piece, declaring the band is back and ready; “Welcome to the carnival/Welcome to the party/Welcome to the edge of your seat.” Kicking up the tempo is “Dangerous” with a smooth layered riff as the drums fill in the space with small, but easy flowing beats as Elliot sings about a toxic relationship he cannot resist; “’Cause you’re/Dangerous/I’m addicted to your poison.” The funkified “Man Enough” features Sav’s bass with the guitars chiming in to fill. The drums finish the retro vibe in this track of calling out a girl to be with the guys; “When you’re moving to the music you got voodoo in your hips/And the devil would approve it so the question on my lips…”
Changing things up is “We Belong” with its power ballad melody with easy drums and guitars soaring like fluttering hearts; “The end of the rainbow/Is waiting for you/So tell me I’m right/Cause this can’t be wrong/Not if we belong.” Sav’s bass brings in another anthemic track with shades of the Ramones in the opening of “Invincible,” a light riffed, drummed piece of fortitude because of love. Bringing back the Funk in a Joe Cocker-esque flavor is “Sea of Love.” This song feels like it would be a fun roadhouse bar song with its classic Metal/Funk guitar and drum drive as the guys sing of taking caution to the wind for love. Moving onto “Energised,” love is on the mind with a sexy, intimate melody that opens up with the chorus before returning to the intimacy. The Kiss-esque “All Time High” rocks with energetic, playful drum work and riffs in this piece of being high on love. The industrial country-feeling “Battle of My Own” has a heavy acoustic start with some nice vocal harmonizing before the band builds to a hard rock statement, “I gotta battle of my own.”
Tapping classic Metal, “Broke ‘n’ Brokenhearted” is a high-tempo piece showcasing why Def Leppard are the legends they are with nothing overly complicated, just clean playing with a message of karma; “I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll/Blow your playhouse down.” Playfully, “Forever Young” comes in with a short, hard-hitting bit about keeping love despite the world. The band brings on the sentimentality with “Last Dance.” This song is vocally rich with stripped down instruments as the guys sing of days gone by. The mystical “Wings of an Angel” is another traditional rocker that asks for a message from God with riffs weaving throughout that ends in a wail that fades out; “Gabriel lay your hands on me.” Closing Def Leppard is “Blind Faith,” an introspective piece of questioning is faith enough to get us through the unknowns of life, which begins light, and opens up towards the end, then, comes full circle.
Eclectic would be the word to describe Def Leppard with a look towards maturity and a bit of thought towards mortality. Although, not overtly stated, the album plays like a concept album with the central theme of faith. All this proves, that after almost forty years, Def Leppard are still one of the best Rock-n-Roll bands around. CrypticRock gives Def Leppard 5 of 5 stars.