Def Leppard - Hysteria
A week ago we told you the story of "The Black Phoenix", the story of the band "AC/DC" which rose to meteoric glory with the album "Highway To Hell", crashed shortly afterward following the death of its charismatic leader Bon Scott, and like the Phoenix rose from the ashes Of itself to return bigger and better with "Back In Black" - one of the great albums created in hard rock and in general.
Today we bring you another fascinating story with quite a few similarities to the story of "The Black Phoenix", the story of the band "Def Leppard" and the album "Hysteria", which was released on August 3, 1987.
Let's start with a recommendation to read the two reviews we posted a week ago (two days apart), about the albums "Highway To Hell" and "Back In Black", so you can easily connect to the current story.
The story of the album "Hysteria" actually begins back in 1982 during the recordings of Def Leppard's third album - "Pyromania". The producer of the album is none other than producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange, who also made the sound of "AC/DC" accessible to the masses on the album "Highway To Hell" and brought about its meteoric success.
Similar to what he did as part of his work with "AC/DC", Lange also contribute to making Def Leppard's sound more catchy and accessible. In this case, too, Lange pushed the band to excellence with a lot of hard work and considerable studio hours, and he even took matters into his own hands and helped the band write some of the songs on "Pyromania," for which he also received credit. Similar to the formula that worked well with "AC/DC", Lange emphasized the sound of "Def Leppard's" double guitar and in particular the vocal harmony and accompanying voices of the band members, while also contributing his own voice as an accompanying singer. Although this process began with the previous album, "High N 'Dry" from 1981, it was tightened by Lange to perfection on the album "Pyromania", which was released in January 1983. This is how it turned out, after two traditional Heavy-Metal albums, Matt Lange helped the band to perform the metamorphosis required for a friendly Heavy Metal / Glam Rock sound, which would lead to its big break into the US and its dizzying success, with sales of over ten million copies, in the US alone.
But the great resemblance between "AC/DC's" meteoric success story with the album "Highway To Hell" and that of Def Leppard with the album "Pyromania" does not end there. On the eve of the new year 31.12.84, in the middle of the sessions before the recording of the new album, the band's drummer Rick Allen was involved in a serious car accident with his Corvette car. Although he miraculously survived, he tragically lost his left hand that threatens to "cut off" the band's future as well, as happened to "AC/DC" following the death of Bon Scott.
After a long recovery process, Rick Allen decides that he is interested in returning to playing drums, despite the amputation of his hand. At this point, the band does the most "human" and friendly act in the history of music, respects Allen's wishes despite his limitation, gives him time, and allows him to find a creative solution that will allow him to return to being the band's drummer.
Meanwhile, the band continues to work on material for the new album without significant progress, in part due to the absence of Matt Lange who decided to retire from the sessions due to exhaustion.
In 1986 Rick Allen informs the band that he has developed a drum set that will allow him to play with only one hand and he is interested in introducing it to them. The band arrives at Allen's "audition" to see if this is possible. The drum system developed by Allen was a combination of electronic and acoustic drums and included electronic pedals, which through Allen's feet activated through MIDI the sound that was supposed to emerge as a result of drumming in his left hand.
During that "audition" Rick Allen plays the band the opening of "When the Levee Breaks" by Led Zeppelin and the band members are simply stunned by his abilities. They decide that Alan will find no replacement, and he continues with the band.
Shortly afterward Matt Lange returns to the position of producer, after retiring and being replaced by Jim Steinman. Lange had to start everything all over and literally worked with the band on all the songs again, as if they had just been written. Meanwhile, Rick Allen worked on his playing abilities with the new drum set and the band felt they were finally on the right track. But the band's plans went awry again following two incidents that led to further postponement of the recording sessions. The first, a car accident also suffered by producer Matt Lange, and the second, a recurrent illness of singer Joe Elliott.
Despite all the problems and bumps along the way, Lange and the band manage to produce an excellent album. Lange and the band's goal was to produce the hard rock version of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" album. An album in which each of the songs would be a potentially successful single, and as we will see immediately below, the result was not far off.
Recordings ended only in January 1987, more than three years after they began, with a significant deviation from the original budget that put the costs at about five million dollars. Today it may seem like a short period, but at the time it was an eternity for a band that was at its peak of success and instead of continuing the success sequence it disappears for almost four years, while similar bands fill the space it left behind.
However, today it can already be said that this long wait would have been worthwhile for Lange and the band. Similar to the case of "The Phoenix" which returned in black with the album "Back In Black" which surpassed its predecessor, here too Def Leppard broke its own record and created an album that topped the charts worldwide and reached sales of over 25 million copies worldwide, 12 million Of these, only in the US. Seven of the 12 songs on the album were released as successful singles and topped the charts, even three years after the album's release.
Although the name of the album (Hysteria) was chosen in light of all the reactions in the media to Rick Allen's accident, there is no doubt that the name also fits what happened after its release, as if its name predicted the future to come.
The sound quality and production of this album are "hysterical" on any scale, simply absolute perfection, the work of "The Magician" Matt Lange. Dozens of layers of guitars, keyboards, effects, electronic drums, and background sounds, which are crammed into the recording channels, layer by layer, producing a sound that had never been heard before in the hard rock and metal scene. A mix of sounds that attack you, surround you from all sides, and together produce an unusual listening experience.
During the recordings, the band used, among other things, the "Rockman" amplifier developed by Tom Schultz from "Boston". Matt Lange thought this amp produced a more accessible, commercial, and catchy sound for guitars.
The album's twelve songs span over 61 minutes and make this album the band's longest, as well as one of the longest in the world to have been released on a single vinyl record. Matt Lange received credit for writing the songs for the album, having contributed to and assisted the band extensively during its creation. Some even mentioned that he was the sixth member of the band during the recordings.
From the moment the needle falls on the first groove of the album we enter an inconceivable sequence of hits that have entered charts all over the world. There is not even a single song out of the 6 songs on the first side of the vinyl that has not succeeded in the charts.
The opening song "Women" was also the first single released in the US.
"Rocket" includes samples from the song "Gods of War" and "Love Bites" from the same album. The phrase "We're fighting with the gods of war" is played back throughout the song and the words "Love" and "Bite" are used to create a missile launching effect in the quasi-psychedelic section in the middle of the song.
"Animal" was released as the first single in the UK and became the first Top Ten hit from the album. This is the song that was the hardest to record. The band started recording it back in 1984 and there are demos of it in which Rick Allen is still drumming with both hands on a regular set of drums. Musically it is the closest of the album songs to the musical style of the previous album "Pyromania".
The ballad "Love Bites" was written initially by Matt Lange as a Country song, the band added the required intensity and turned it into a power ballad. In the last seconds of the song after the words "If you got love in your sights, Watch out, Love Bites" there was a murmur that was thought to have said the words: "Jesus of Nazareth, Go to Hell". Eventually, it turned out that it was producer Matt Lange who spoke through a Vocoder and said in a heavy accent the sentence: "Yes it does, Bloody Hell". It is the band's biggest hit to date and the song that opened the doors to a wider and larger audience in the mainstream charts.
The hit "Pour Some Sugar on Me" is a kind of tribute to Aerosmith's and "Run DMC" "Walk This Way". This is the last song to enter the album when the band was already sure they had finished recording. Lange heard Joe Elliott's riff on acoustic guitar and decided to develop it into something a little different the diversifying the album's musical style.
"Armageddon It" is the sixth single released from the album in January 1989 almost 17 months after the album was released. The singing of Joe Elliott is a hybrid between "T-Rex" and Eddie Cochran. The song was created as a joke about Matt Lange's statement to guitarist Steve Clark during the recording "Are you getting it?" And the title of the song rings similarly to the same sentence.
The theme song "Hysteria" the third released as a single from the album, is a love song whose melody is influenced by the song "Goodbye Blue Sky" by "Pink Floyd". The song was born from the riff of bassist Rick Savage and its title came from drummer Rick Allen as a reference to all the hustle and bustle that surrounded his accident. The recording technique that Matt Lange used during the recording of the clean guitar roles in the chorus is noteworthy. Instead of recording a regular chord, Matt Lange recorded only one note at a time from the chord and put them together to create a special and innovative effect.
The rest of the songs on the album, all from the other side of the vinyl, do not reach the level of the seven songs released as singles. "Gods of War" begins nicely with an interesting intro by Steve Clark but later loses altitude. "Don't Shoot Shotgun" is perhaps the least good song on the album and "Run Riot" and "Excitable" are not better. The song that seals the album "Love and Affection" is the best in this sequence and it produces a worthy ending to the album.
The album "Hysteria" is the highlight of "Def Leppard's" work. The band failed to replicate the success and the decline began with the death of guitarist Steve Clark in 1991. Vivian Campbell who will replace him is a huge guitarist who contributed to and greatly influenced the sound of Ronnie James Dio, but is probably not what the band needed to continue the momentum.
The album Hysteria is an excellent album, but it could certainly have been perfect if the band had been content with 8 of its 12 songs.
For Listening: Spotify, Apple Music