Thursday, July 05, 2007

Def Leppard-Hysteria, 1987

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Background-You all know it, but here it is anyhow. These guys were riding high after the Pyromania tour ended. Then drummer Rick Allen lost an arm in an accident in late 1984. They went through a trying period where everyone was wondering what they would do, but they soldiered on and Allen stayed behind the kit. They returned and played the Monsters of rock festival in 1986 and it was obvious they would be back soon. So their next album was one of the most anticipated releases of 1987.

First Impression-I was very disappointed when I first heard this the week it came out. I couldn't believe this was the same band that had done High -n- dry and Pyromania. Bottom line was this album didn't rock, it seemed like over processed, limp pop music with all the emphasis on the vocals and drums. I have not listened to the whole album in maybe fifteen years so it's time to give it another spin.

Review-

Women-The opener has a lot of build up with a big synthesized drum sound coming on.The vocals are good, but it just mainly seems like drums and vocals and everything else is buried. It's almost like there's no life to it until the chorus and even that's just alright. I kind of like the solo, but it could have used more of that guitar sound in the rest of the song.

Rocket-Another long build-up with lots of ohhhs and ewwws, but not much guitar or at least not in the foreground. Another simple chorus here and there and the track just kind of meanders around repeating the chorus hear and there.

Animal-Wow it actually opens with a guitar rhythm although slightly watered down. It quickly calms down a bit though. This is easily better than the previous tracks. It only reaches a lukewarm level as a rock song though, but the vocals are a plus.

Love Bites-Slow beginning as they kind of noodle around for over a minute. Then of course eventually a big chorus comes on and those seem to be the highlight of most of the songs here. Really this one is dreadfully dull and these guys used to be so good at handling slow tracks and making them interesting.

Pour some sugar on me-Big drums and a little guitar sound start it off then the vocals come in and the guitar picks up a little. To me this is just very pop with all of the life sucked out of it. I struggled to make it through the whole thing.

Armageddon It-The guitar comes on sounding like something from the previous album for a few seconds then it starts to sound like Robert Palmer or something. Again this is the same formula with minimal guitar, big drums and vocals with a loud simple chorus. This song is slightly more engaging than some of the others, but nothing great.

Gods of war-Begins slow, but it has me sort of interested initially. Very smooth sound and overall a bit more even mix than some of the other tracks. Overall it's a much better attempt at making the band more pop sounding without giving up too much. Although I am not convinced they did enough to maintain it for the over six minutes that this track runs.

Don't shoot shotgun-Continuing what the previous track did. This song does fairly well at mixing their old sound with their new approach. Pretty solid track that moves along nicely.

Run riot-Oh, my, there's hooks, a solid guitar and the drums stay back. How they did they let this one slip through? Very good song because it sounds like their Pyromania material.

Hysteria-Just when I thought this album couldn't get any more lightweight this song comes meandering on encompassing everything I didn't like about top 40 music from the 1980's. It's fairly limp and even the vocals don't have much to give.

Excitable-This song comes bouncing on sounding like a cross between Robert Palmer and something off of KIX's Cool Kids album. That last part is not a compliment. About two minutes in this starts to sound like a bunch of outtakes thrown together.

Love and affection-Another slow track comes on sort of low key. Although inoffensive, it's rather sedate and never does very much. It just kinds of wanders through for over four minutes never really accomplishing anything.



Final Word-I know that I am in the minority on this, but I still don't like this album. This was a band that prior to this album had improved with each of their three releases and High -n- Dry and Pyromania were two of the best hard rock albums of the 80's. They had written good material, they were good enough players so why then did they take such a dramatic turn and tone down the huge majority of their hard rock sound? Well, duh to sell even more albums of course. Every want to be hip teen with a radio or Mtv ate this cotton candy filler up. So unfortunately we never again saw much of the same band that was so good from 1980-1983 and that's a shame.



***Next month's twenty year old album review will be Anthrax's Among the living. I will also soon be having a vote for a review to decide the twenty year old album review for September.

19 Comments:

Blogger Andre du Plessis said...

I agree, musically it was an accomplished album, but contained a diluted Def Leppard though. I wonder if they wrote the songs like that especially for their drummer as maybe he was just not able to do the hard rock sound anymore...

1:55 AM  
Blogger David Amulet said...

You have nailed it. I would go a slightly different direction and say that I actually DO like it in many ways--but as a pop album, not as a metal album, which it barely is due to the songwriting and overproduction.

-- david

3:21 AM  
Blogger aXe mAn said...

Very good review. Although I do agree with you that the overall sound is different from their previous albums, I still love it. But hey, whatever floats your boat..

5:53 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

I didn't mind this album when it came out, but EVERY damn song got so overplayed, I can't listen anymore. I do agree with you on Run Riot. It does sound more like a Pyromania track. Truthfully, this album is what pushed me away from buying any more Leppard albums. They became way to pop

5:55 AM  
Blogger Allyson said...

Oh dear.
Mark, I always appreciate your views. You and I have differing opinions on lots of things and this is one of them!
How anyone could get so little enjoyment from Hysteria is beyond me. It's one of those "instant reaction" albums. The first bar of any song and you know immediately you're listening to the mighty Leps. I was way too young to see Def Lep live in the 1980s, and this makes me sad. Hysteria was so over the top, the tour had to be even bigger so I can imagine the excitement. DL created some of the best rock songs of the last 20+ years...many of those are included on Hysteria, like "Love and Affection," "Gods of War," and yes - "Pour Some Sugar on Me." I agree the album is overplayed, but that's because it's so darn good. This is the kind of music that makes people happy. I wish DL would create another album of Hysteria-level music...but that is doubtful at this point, I suppose.

Allyson
www.bringbackglam.com

6:59 AM  
Blogger RockDog said...

Good review and right on target.

I was not thrilled with this album at all. However, I was captivated with Rock Allen's new drum kit and the debates the followed.

7:02 AM  
Blogger ~JJ! said...

I always considered this album a sell-out. To please the radio..>Ya know?

7:16 AM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

andre-Well the drum style was done to help Rick Allen, but that doesn't really justify putting it in the foreground and putting the guitar in the background.

David-There's pop I like, but for me this album wasn't that catchy. Most of the song were very repetitive and are now extremely dated.

axe man-It just bothers me that the success of this album ended any chances of them doing another albums along the lines of High-n-Dry or Pyromania.

Mike-The overplaying only made this album sound worse to my ears.

Allyson-It was too much of a drastic change and I had hopes after waiting four years for a new album. It's just very watered down and bland other than a few tracks. I think Gods of war and Don't shoot shotgun hinted at what this album could have been if they had blended the old and new styles. However they chose to make most of the album 90 percent new sound and maybe ten percent the old sound. The biggest thing to me is it just doesn't rock, most of it just sits there. I actually listened to this album twice this week to give it a fair chance, but came to the same conclusion both times.

rockdog-Thanks. I am sure they put on a good show on the tour, but I think most of their firs gone of them by this point.

7:23 AM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

jj-Yes and to please the band's wallets.

7:24 AM  
Anonymous Ray Gillen, RIP said...

Great review. I agree with David. I like this album for what it is, a pop album. They turned their backs on NWOBHM and went for the platinum plated blowdryers. This is one of my guilty pleasure records. Especially the song "Women." Love that tune.

7:25 AM  
Blogger George Vader said...

Sorry but you're wrong ;-)

This really is a great album, the band said they went out to make an album where every track could be played on the radio and they nailed it.

The album rocks hard and is tuneful, still for me one of the great albums of all time.

10:43 AM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

ray gillen-I can see the guilty part, but the pleasure part wasn't quite there for me.

George Vader-You are welcome to your opinion and of course I believe I am correct on my judgement on this album. I guess it all depends on what you are expecting and how willing you are to stretch those expectations. To me it wasn't what I was expecting or hoping for and what was there didn't appeal to me. I did give it another chance, but my opinion remains the same.

11:13 AM  
Blogger captain corky said...

This album was really big when I was in when I was in high school. I liked it, but I admit it wasn't as good as some of their earlier stuff.

11:20 AM  
Blogger Hard Rock Hideout said...

I must admit, I recall sitting in my car and listening to the Hysteria (cassette) the first time and wondering to myself what the **** happened. This is the same band that released Pyromania?

Over time, I have grown to like this disc, and have accepted it for what is, an 80's pop metal disc.

I have to give it to the Lep's in a certain sense. I think their sound change was a result of the new drum sound by Rick Allen. There is no way that he would be able to do some of the harder driving metal songs that their NWOBHM compadres have done.

I long to hear a true Def Leppard hard rock record, but after selling 18 million copies of this disc worldwide, I doubt we will ever see another Pyromania or High and Dry.

They have not been able to repeat this success with any of their newer releases, which have tried a variety of sounds (more pop than rock), and their sales have been plummeting.

They are promising a return to the rock sound on their new disc, but I won't hold my breath. One can only hope!

Rob Rockitt
Hard Rock Hideout
www.hardrockhideout.com

11:48 AM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

captain corky-We are the same age so it was big when I was in high school as well.

Rob-I understand about Rick Allen's limits and the change in the drum sound. Yet that doesn't explain the guitars getting pushed to the background in the mix. I think Gods of War and Don't shoot shotgun showed a good mix. However the rest of the album (minus Run Riot) has no edge and many of the songs are so repetitive.

11:58 AM  
Anonymous Rhodeislandrock said...

I was 15 when HYSTERIA was released and I admit that I ate it up. I was an MTV addict and I logged tons of hours in front of the tube so, even though I preferred the harder side of Rock and Metal, I liked HYSTERIA.

As a big NWOBHM fan, I knew that the Def Lep of HIGH'N DRY and PYROMANIA was long gone and that this was a more commercial attempt. The band never made any comments to the contrary, they wanted to break from the traditional Metal crowd and be more pop-oriented. Actually, they say the same things today when they release new material that they did in '87: They are not Heavy Metal, they are Pop Rock. The album hit the mainstream and
it took off. I saw the tour in Providence (with Tesla) and it was sold-out with lines of people trying to get in. Def Lep had become that big.

A couple of things to remember:
1. The band went through multiple re-writes and the album was completely re-done. This wasn't because of Allen's car wreck, it was because of Mutt Lange's availability. The reason the previous two albums were that good was because the band had a guiding hand in the studio.

2. The album didn't hit it big in the U.S. until 'Sugar'. I absolutely hated that song when I first heard it, and I still do. The released 'Women', 'Animal', and 'Love Bites' first.....then they hit with 'Sugar' and all the singles/videos got more play.

Overall, I still like HYSTERIA but in moderation. The album was so overplayed that I tend to skip songs like 'Rocket', 'Sugar', and 'Love Bites'.

The great thing about '87 was that you could like NWOBHM, Thrash, & harder styles and still like the poppier, more mainstream bands like Def Lep, Poison, and Bon Jovi.

1:06 PM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

I remember listening to Hysteria with great anticipation when it came out, but it didn't take long for my high hopes to be dashed. I can't think of any album that was a bigger disappointment.

Over time, I grew to appreciate Hysteria a little bit more. Once the disappointment wore off (3-4 years later!), I was able to see it for what it is: a very good piece of corporate rock. It played it entirely safe and was successful to the extent that it didn't really misfire anywhere. However, it didn't soar either. In a sense it was a perfect album except it missing a key ingredient: soul. This is largely due to their sixth member, Mutt Lange.

If you look at the credits for High and Dry, their first album with Lange producing, he does not have a single songwriting credit. These are Def Leppard's songs, not his. He brought guidance and direction, but didn't fundamentally change the band. By Pyromania, Lange is a co-writer on every track and it's clear in the music. At the time, it seemed like a progression, but in retrospect, Lange was taking over the creative direction of the band. They still had some punch in them though and the result was album that was far slicker, yet not so slick that it had become generic. I suppose the ease of letting Lange control their destiny, coupled with all the difficulties they faced in the years between Pyromania and its follow-up, made Def Leppard rather lazy. Everything that really made them unique was pushed into the background for Hysteria in lieu of Lange's sure-fire formula for success. Along with a lot of hype that surrounded a long wait for a follow-up to Pyromania and having a one-armed drummer (believe me, that didn't hurt them in the least), Lange's recipe resulted in two things: multi-platinum success and the end of any chance that Def Leppard would do anything interesting.

Guys like Mutt Lange can serve a purpose for a band looking for some focus or direction. He can help get a band on track. However, when he's allowed to run wild like he did with Def Leppard, it become clear that his goal is not creativity, but simply sales. He's a pop songwriter and a pop producer. That's fine, but for a band with Def Leppard's potential, it's a creative disaster. Bob Rock does the same thing. Metallica had lost their way on And Justice For All. Bob Rock helped them to focus for Metallica, but that focus came at a price, an increasingly commercialized sound that lost a lot of the energy of their first three albums. While a producer like Rick Rubin helps bands find who they really are, guys like Lange and Rock help bands compromise themselves for album sales.

I want to make one other point about Hysteria. A lot of the hype around the album has to do with Rick Allen losing his arm, yet retaining the drum chair. While it was kinda cool that they kept him on and that he was able to play, let's remember two things. First, the injury was self-inflicted. He was being an idiot and was lucky he only lost his arm. Second, he played with the help of a lot of electronics. There's a jazz pianist from New Orleans named Ed Frank (he taought Ellis Marsalis to play, so he's a big deal). Anyway, Frank suffered a stroke and lost the use of one of his arms, an equally devastating thing for a piano player as it is for a drummer. When you hear Ed Frank play, you don't even notice that he's playing with one hand, he's that good. There's no electronics, no studio tricks, just Frank, his one good hand and the piano. Rick Allen isn't even in the same league with Ed Frank.

7:12 PM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

Steve-I still think at some point the band either made or at least agreed to the decision to go pop and they went through with it. Despite Rick Allen's tragedy, they still could have done a rock album if that's what they wanted to do.

Bob-I still don' buy this album as a good pop album though. Too me it's way too repetitive and lacks hooks. I sadly agree about Def Lepard having their potential cut short. It's a shame because they were improving with each album prior this and they could have maybe been the best hard rock band around had they stayed on course.

I guess there are two kinds of people those who like having having poured on them and those who don't. Guess I am in the second category.

5:15 AM  
Blogger Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

I too was one of those guys waiting with eager anticipation for this album, saluting Allen for making the attempt to keep going (though Bob correctly points out the circumstance of his mishap)...when I got this album, I bouncing on the train tracks home. When I listened, I wanted to stomp the tape to pieces. It was very heartbreaking to me, and I think what we all have here is what we put into or bring to the table. If you don't bring much to it, you're gonna like it. If you do, chances are, you're gonna dislike it.

Pop or rock, Def Leppard took the money and ran, plain and simple. They knew there was more cash, more fame, more pussy, more of everything. The debate can be made as to whether or not this album would've been the same had Allen not lost his arm, but when you're forced into singular beat rhtythms with the assistance of computer beats, there's only so much the human being can do in a limited capacity. Had Allen the usage of both arms, he could've implemented his own fills, done a lot of tom rolls and accelerated the tempo. So while Def cashed in, they also played straight to capability of Allen, which worked in their favor.

End point, the majority looks at this a classic rock album and I'm just going to have to be one of the old dogs who says nay.

4:54 AM  

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