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There were many interesting things going on in the musical realm during the year of 1999 as the masses grew bored with the fly by night fads of Grunge, Alternative Rock (ergo recycled 70s punk minus the credibility), Punk Ska, and a rather ridiculous Big Band Swing revival. One of these was the revival of interest in 80s metal, mostly of the cock rock variety, which is where Def Leppard comes into things. They’ve consistently released decent and marketable music that marries some remnants of their early NWOBHM style with the more commercial AC/DC brand of hard rock and the sappy Power Ballads of the 80s Glam outfits.
This album is pretty much the best case scenario to come about when a band decides to plagiarize their past, resulting in something that is mostly enjoyable though far from new and original. Most of it goes back to their glory days during the Pyromania and Hysteria releases, containing all the strengths and the trappings of those highly successful albums. Unfortunately we also have some remnants of the rock minus the cock shit pile “Slang” that are skip worthy, but thankfully few in number.
The performance of the musicians is pretty much what you’d expect out of these guys: extremely simple bass and drum lines, a lot of minimalist riffs thrown together to create a dense guitar texture, and heavily emphasized lead vocals accompanied with several layered back up tracks during bridge and chorus sections. The only thing that is uneven in the mix is the split of solo duties by the two guitarists, as Phil Collin takes nearly all the lead duties while former Dio axe man Vivian Campbell is simply there to play support. Even when Vivian does get some leads like on the outro to the single “Promises”, his improvisations are low in the mix and buried under a ton of vocal ad libs. Interviews done with him by various Guitar Magazines where he denounces his own work with Dio as being some kind of slave labor are elucidating as to why he would settle for a disposition like. But even Vivian’s metal impotence can’t rob this album of its good points.
As with all their solid releases, this band really shines during its harder rocking moments. “Demolition Man” and “Paper Sun” are instant classics that will please all fans of the band. “21st Century Sha La La La Girl” is not far behind with some wicked rock riffs and driving atmosphere. The short instrumental “Disintegrate” is a nice little technical surprise from a band that rarely dabbles in such things and showcases the all around talent this band possesses.
Most of the rest of the good stuff on here are exercises in sheer self-plagiarism, most of them being the more radio friendly tracks on here. “Promises” is another variation on the same theme originally heard on Pyromania’s “Photograph”, much as was the case with “Armageddon It” . Both the more up tempo ballad “Guilty” and its more laid back sister “Goodbye” also could be inserted into the Hysteria album and fit in perfectly.
The three turd-burglars out of the bunch that still carry remnants of the stupid sounds we heard on “Slang” show themselves in the forms of “It’s only love”, “All Night” and “Back in your face”. The first is an utterly poor imitation of a mid 90s acoustically driven radio jockey, while the second screams bad Red Hot Chili Peppers rip off with a more classic rock edge (think Give it Away mixed with AC/DC and you’ll get the picture). My personal pick for the true bomb of this album is the last one “Back in your face”, which succeeds not only in being a recycled chord progression from every AC/DC song ever written, but also has some of the most idiotically pop oriented lyrics I’ve ever heard. We’ve talking the kind of nonsense penned by the likes of N’Sync.
Fans of Def Leppard should be pleased with this release. It’s not perfect, it’s not original, but it is worlds better than the last album they put out. If you liked Pyromania and Hysteria this will most likely treat you almost as well as those albums did. This music doesn’t really fall under the metal genre, but it is reminiscent of far better times for music than what we had to go through the 8 years before this album was released.