Sunday, 17 July 2011

CD Review: Pyromania, by Def Leppard (1983)

Def Leppard reach the pinnacle of their career, and what a peak it is. One of metal's all-time great albums, Pyromania is an exceptional achievement, an exquisitely produced set of ten songs, more than half of which remain landmarks in metal's history.

Pyromania represents Def Leppard perfecting their genre: surprisingly metallic, high-energy yet accessible music that defined an era. Like the image on what quickly became a classic album cover, the band hit the target with seemingly remarkable ease. However, the depth of the production values, masterminded by John Lange, hint at the amount of work that went into assembling a masterpiece.

Def Leppard's previous album High 'N Dry hinted at the talent and the potential. Pyromania delivers with flair. The opening chords of Rock Rock (Till You Drop) are a promise of what to expect, and when Steve Clark and Phil Collen let loose on the guitars, with Joe Elliot wailing to keep up, the tone of Pyromania is set. Photograph was the most famous and popular single (and video) from the album, overplayed to distraction. Filled with harmonies and a solid enough track, it's runaway fame is unnecessary confirmation that popular opinion counts for little.

At least equally as good and more interesting are Stagefright and Too Late For Love, the former combining manic riffing with haunting harmonies, the latter more-power-than-ballad riding tall on the massive drum sound of Rick Allen.

Pyromania hits its epic stride in the middle of the track list: Die Hard The Hunter is among Def Leppard's most metallic tracks, taking a simple rock and roll foundation and contorting it into an all-metal shape that finally yields to a most spicy instrumental section that demands the volume at 11. Foolin' has also suffered from mass over-exposure through the decades, but it is a formidable track, perhaps the most ambitiously constructed cut on the album, combining soul with plenty of pace changes and driving power when needed.

And then we get to Rock Of Ages, the metal anthem to end all metal anthems. From the audacious opening nonsense of Gunter glieben glauchen globen to the joyous beat laid down by Allen that absolutely commands fist-pumping, to the final menacing laugh, it's a track that defines the absolute fun of metal in the 1980s.

While Comin' Under Fire and Action! Not Words are the only two tracks that fall a bit short of the album's overall quality, Billy's Got A Gun arrives to close out proceedings with a quiet bang, the band revealing a controlled, patient approach that oozes liquid metal confidence.

Not surprisingly, Def Leppard would never again match the perfect balance of Pyromania. After a tumultuous four year gap, the follow-up Hysteria was a huge commercial success, but tilted towards a fluffier, less edgy sound. And soon thereafter the music scene shifted dramatically, consigning Def Leppard's sound strictly to the 1980s. But when they ruled the metal world, Def Leppard made sure that the music rocked hard, and the good times rolled with unbridled energy.


Joe Elliott - vocals
Steve Clark - Guitars
Phil Collen - Guitars
Rick Savage - Bass
Rick Allen - Drums

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Rock Rock (Till You Drop) - 10
2. Photograph - 8
3. Stagefright - 8
4. Too Late For Love - 8
5. Die Hard The Hunter - 10
6. Foolin' - 9
7. Rock Of Ages - 10
8. Comin' Under Fire - 7
9. Action! Not Words - 7
10. Billy's Got A Gun - 10

Average: 8.70

Produced and Mixed by Robert John "Mutt" Lange.
Engineered by Mike Shipley. Mastered by Bob Ludwig.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

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