It’s quite fitting the new DEF LEPPARD album has been dubbed “Def Leppard” as the contents can only be described as sounding like, well, Def Leppard.
In keeping with recent Leppard history, this is again a pretty diverse album, but perhaps not quite as diverse as Songs From The Sparkle Lounge.
I’m likening the flow of the album to that of X; that is – more melodic in the front and heavier, more experiential in the back end.
Song wise we have a very strong set of tunes. Far superior to those on Sparkle and amongst the most consistent for what fans want since Hysteria/Adrenalize.
However, I can’t say the best album since Hysteria, as I’m one of a minority that continue to rate X very highly indeed.
The first half of the album is very traditional Leppard. It also carries a unique moody feel that is played out with some very melodic choruses.
The second half is a little more experimental and varied, featuring some stuff I haven’t heard before from the band and a mix of 70s, 80s and today’s sounds.
What we have here is an album that is classic Leppard without actually honing in on any one album or era. There’s parts of Hysteria, Adrenalize, Euphoria, Slang, X and even Sparkle on here. In other words, its “Def Leppard”.
Fans can get excited though, no matter what era of the band you favor. Because at the heart of it, this is the most authentic Def Leppard album in two decades and features a monster production and beautiful mix, where harmonies and guitars rule the day, but the rhythm section and vocalist Joe Elliott are all equally showcased.
Track By Track:
1. Let's Go is quite simply, classic Leppard. Yes, it’s Pour Some Sugar Mk2, but it’s produced to the nines, features a catchy chorus and layers of Leppard harmonies. It gets better with age, which is something some of the tracks from Sparkle didn’t do.
2. Dangerous has been compared by the band to Photograph. I agree the chorus is a similar, fast flowing hands in the air singalong anthem, but the verse has its own identity. The rhythm guitars are quite meaty and have a modern sound while the lead guitar is more traditionally Leppard. Whatever the comparisons, it’s classic fast moving Def Leppard anthem and will be the most favoured song on the album by many I’m sure.
3. Man Enough is this album’s most left of center tune. It’s a cool tune – think Slang meets Queen’s Another One Bites The Dust. It’s bass heavy and very sparse apart from the short chorus where lead guitar delivers a cool riff. It is probably the track traditional DL fans will have the most trouble with, but it does have its charms. However, I do think it’s a tempo killer after the awesome Dangerous and a little too experimental for its position at track 3.
4. We Belong is something quite wonderful. This is one of the most genuinely heartfelt songs I’ve heard from Leppard since the song Hysteria and features what sounds like everyone joining in on lead vocals through the song. It’s a moody mid-tempo tune with a simply awesome layered chorus that I can’t get enough of. One of those tracks where the verse is every bit as good as the chorus.
5. Invincible kicks off with a heavy bass line and then a uptempo snare before a very melodic guitar riff kicks in. The first thing I thought of was Charlie Sexton. It really sounds like something from his 1989 Charlie Sexton album. This is another moody rocker that rolls along at a mid-to-up-tempo range with yet another stunning chorus – albeit one that holds restraint and keeps in pace with the mood of the rest of the song. The background guitar work is melodic bliss that emphasizes Joe’s warm raspy vocal.
6. Sea Of Love picks up the tempo a little and sounds like it could have come from any Leppard album post-Hysteria. The chorus is another catchy layered refrain, again feeling somewhat restrained and certainly smoother than the heavier verse. The guitar solo is a nice extended piece before the chorus again takes control. A bit of a party tune this one.
7. Energized sounds like it could be fast and furious, but it’s actually quite laid back and in keeping with this mid-album run of moody melodic rock tracks. The verse has a modern programmed feel with a soft JE vocal, before a very catchy, but restrained, chorus takes over. There’s a hint of X and Slang about the production here, but the chorus fits the style of the preceding songs.
8. All Time High kicks things back into full overdrive at about the time when you started wondering if this was going to be a mildly mellow album. Fear not – this is a high energy, thumping beat driven rocker where the chorus bursts through for high impact. Fun, fast and fabulous. The guitar solo in particular packs a real punch. Classic Def Leppard. Awesome.
9. Battle Of My Own is an interesting track. This semi-acoustic track is the band’s tip of the hat to Led Zeppelin and their quirky 70s acoustic/vocal driven sound. It also reminds me of the sound and style on the Coverdale Page album (think the intro stages of Shake My Tree). The song clocks in under 3 minutes, but still finds a minute or so to rock out at the end, further embellishing on the Zeppelinesque sound. They fit a whole hell of a lot into 2 minutes 45!
10. Broke 'N' Brokenhearted is a breezy, classic commercial upbeat Def Leppard rocker. Picking up the pace again, this is a simple guitar fueled enjoyable singalong song that will work well live – especially with the layered harmony chorus.
11. Forever Young features a more modern sound, the guitar especially. The drums kick in to lead the song into a jarring verse that’s contrasted with a short simple chorus that’s only defined by the change in vocal delivery and the extra harmonies. Otherwise it’s a pretty fast moving guitar dominated track. An interesting and musically challenging track.
12. Last Dance is another classic rock ballad featuring a very commercial chorus and a dominant acoustic driven sound. The track could almost be a Rod Stewart cover from the late 70s. Short, but cool.
13. Wings Of An Angel is the albums last big rocker. It builds from a restrained intro into a big modern rocker with a darker sounding vocal from Joe and some contemporary guitar parts that wouldn’t sound out of place on the latter half of X. However it still feels right at home amongst these songs.
14. Blind Faith is something new and different for the band. Featuring a strong raspy vocal from Joe and some slow electric soling behind him, the song builds with the addition of an orchestral section before another soft verse. Then the song turns slightly psychedelic while remaining slow in tempo before a guitar solo and the rest of the band up the stakes. Then it’s back to an acoustic vocal before everything finally bursts to life for the last minute of the song. At 5.30 the song is the longest of the album and easily the most epic of any recent Leppard song.
Without the benefit of another month of high-rotation absorption of this album, I still think I can safely say that the band have delivered a home run here and will have fans united in their praise.
A very “Def Leppard” style album which is all the fans want in this day and age.
Fresh and innovative without sounding like someone else and classic and retroactive (pardon the pun) without being stale or repetitive.
There’s life in the old dog yet and I give credit to the band for pushing aside modern industry concerns to still deliver a ripping full length album of this quality.
For the record, I gave X a 98; Songs From The Sparkle Lounge 85 and Yeah 68 and Euphoria 93. Of course Pyromania and Hysteria are perfect 100s.
For me, Def Leppard slips into the gap between X and Euphoria.