So after no studio output from Def Leppard since 2008, what does the new self-titled album have to offer?
Something for everyone would be the first answer that comes to mind. As a long-time Leppard fan I have always managed to find at least part of their more recent output to satisfy me, but I would also be the first to admit (albeit a bit reluctantly) that their “big” years were probably over and a lot of their career these days is spent trading on past glories.
“Def Leppard” could just be the album that changes all that though.
Def Leppard’s songwriting ability has never been in doubt. If you want catchy hooks, stupendous vocal harmonies, singalong choruses, massive anthems and moving ballads they have always been your men but the last couple of albums had kind of lost their way a bit in a lot of people’s minds. This album contains all of the above but also shows a more mature, mellow side to them. This is a band that don’t really have anything to prove anymore and to my mind they sound all the better for it.
You’ve probably already heard opening track and recently-released single “Let’s Go” so you will know that it’s a typical Leppard song, a bit commercial perhaps with its bouncy beat, easy-to-remember chorus and powerful harmonies but at the same time it has just enough edge to be interesting and a guitar solo that comes straight from the Brian May School of Rock. It’s a strong opener and a good omen for what’s to come.
“Dangerous” is another song with that classic Def Leppard style, leaning heavily on the Hysteria/Adrenalize period for inspiration but in a good way. Great hook, great solo, fun music. I like it!
“Man Enough” on the other hand is a bit of a departure in style. It starts with a funky, almost disco-style bass line and continues to be bass-led throughout. It’s similar in style to Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust”, but only in terms of beat and rhythm, the tune is all their own.
“We Belong” has a very commercial sound, you just know this is also going to be a single at some point and it’s pretty much made to be played on US radio. It’s slower, a bit of a love song and if I’m honest perhaps my least favourite track personally despite its poppy side. It’ll probably sell millions now I’ve said that no doubt!
“Invincible” is another song where the bass is featured heavily. It has a bit of a jangly U2 feel to the guitars once they join in, and the vocal style is borrowed heavily from one of Joe’s idols, David Bowie. This gives the whole song a retro 70s kind of feel but whoever thought that rhyming Invincible with Invisible was a good idea- just no! I like the song but that sets my teeth on edge every time I hear it.
“Sea Of Love” is a more uptempo sound with a singalong chorus, as is “Energised” even if it does have the odd violin thrown in there. Both of these showcase how Joe’s voice has improved in recent years – it’s slightly lower in pitch and a bit more gravelly and the over-production and “perfect” sound of old has been updated to match the whole more mature feel to the album. It works well.
“All Time High” has a punky upbeat start that runs into another classic Def Leppard chorus. It’s fun and you could dance to it but it’s not the most memorable song.
“Battle Of My Own” is back to the slower, acoustic sound that then gently morphs into an almost Zeppelin-y style. With a touch of country twang in there too it’s bound to be a crowd-pleaser when played live.
“Broke N Brokenhearted” takes us back to party time. It’s another catchy riff and happy chorus combination, my toes and fingers were tapping of their own volition and I’m still humming it now. Excellent, one of the best tracks on the album.
“Forever Young” changes style and speed again, it’s fast-paced with an interesting almost discordant guitar intro but it’s also just a little generic and “typical” and I felt it was one of the weaker songs to be featured.
“Last Dance” is the album’s lighters-in-the-air ballad, slow and acoustic and a rather nice love song. Def Leppard excel at this sort of song and this one is another to add to their collection of classics.
I was expecting “Wings Of An Angel” to be a ballad too but no. It’s actually my favourite song on the album. It’s harder and faster and really rocks out. Sadly there is a harmony-vocal bridge between verse and chorus that doesn’t really gel with the rest of the song’s style but apart from that there are big riffs, killer solos, and a beat that you just have to move to. Superb.
Someone had their Lennon head on when they wrote “Blind Faith”. Yet another change of pace and style – it starts with an almost REM-ish guitar hook and then morphs into a very Beatles-influenced pop/rock tune that I suspect is a grower and after a few more listens will become a firm favourite too.
Overall I am very impressed with this album. Of course it nods to their glory days and has all their old hallmarks in there, but it also has a fresh sound that doesn’t make it sound out of place or old-fashioned in 2015. In terms of live output, despite time off to do their various side projects, Def Leppard never really went away but in terms of recording even a die-hard fan like me would have to admit that they lost their way a bit. I’m happy to be able to report that on the strength of this album they are very much back on the right path again and I’m really looking forward to hearing some of these songs played live!
“Def Leppard” is released worldwide via EarMusic on 30th October 2015. UK fans can pre-order a special fanpack in conjunction with Classic Rock Magazine that will include an exclusive bonus track, metal keyring, collectible art cards and a 116-page magazine. Details of how to order are available from www.defleppard.com/splash.
Let’s Go / Dangerous / Man Enough / We Belong / Invincible / Sea Of Love / Energized / All Time High / Battle Of My Own / Broke ‘N’ Brokenhearted / Forever Young / Last Dance / Wings Of An Angel / Blind Faith