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Synthetic Pop Junk! Yet frighteningly catchy! - 76%

OlympicSharpshooter, March 24th, 2004

Here's where Def Leppard shrugged off any pretence of metal they might have retained, preferring instead to go completely pop. They sold off the respect of the denim n' leather armies than called them friend, and for what? Oh. 16 000 000 albums sold? Okay, I buy that excuse. If you thought Pyromania was over-produced, prepare to be sickened by the almost New Wave mechanical gloss of Hysteria. Seriously, if it weren't for that little bit of attitude in those swinging guitars and those jovial Joe vocals, you wouldn't know that this was the same sweaty hard rockers that'd been plugging away for the past decade or so.

I really wanna hate this record. It stands for everything I hate! But I can't you see. Def Leppard was always a pop band in metal clothing, and this just strips away the electricity, and if I loved those old records I can't entirely despise this one. It doesn't hurt that these are the best melodies the band ever wrote, the hooks breaking through the thin eggshell of your helpless skull to plunge into the soft tissue of your brain, embedding the horrifically catchy bubblegum venom inside your nervous system. You're never sure when you'll start bopping to this crap, revealing yourself a traitor to your cold steel heritage...*paranoia*

If you read my Pyromania review (and you must, your life is incomplete without it!), you'll know I said that that record had kind of a lot of filler between big hardy singles. Well, same thing here only more so, Hysteria yielding a mind-blowing SEVEN hit singles("Women", "Rocket", "Animal", "Love Bites", "Pour Some Sugar on Me", "Armageddon It", and "Hysteria") padded out by absolute shit, with a few exceptions. It's all just so fucking catchy yet oddly soulless, Mutt Lange pouring on the sugar literally, this stuff insidiously decaying your mind(and probly your teeth) or driving you in search of a purifying acid bath of Slayer or Death to save(or damn) your far-too-metal soul.

The album kicks off with a pair of "Rock of Ages" style songs, both "Women" and "Rocket" being relatively long dance-floor ready-mades, "Women" possessing what passes for a powerful solo in the Leppard camp at the time, both songs utilizing rather metallic structures with shiny pop guitars and synths replacing the crushing riffery you'd expect elsewhere. Gotta love that truly ridiculous break in "Rocket" though, Mutt Lange going on announcer duty to break up the 'rock' before getting back to the 'insert crowd chant here' chorus and wishy-washy solo. Bleech, yet also close to my heart. Horrible eh?

"Animal" is like "Photograph", only better and worse. Possibly the most gutlessly catchy song on the face of the planet, the rock side anyway, another dance style chorus with a patently unforgettable vocal melody leading into the hilariously inane chorus. Seriously, is this about beastiality or what? I'll take this time to point out the multi-multi-tracked vocals and how this cathedral of voices can be bent to malevolently commercial use. I mean God, I'm almost helpless before this shit. Grrr... Oh, special derisive laughter to the "uh uh uh annniiimal!" vocals on the break, just hilarious and cheesetastic stuff.

"Love Bites" is this record’s "Hammer-smashed Face", a relentless barage of.... ah, I'm just kidding of course. This song is Def Leppard's first US Number One hit, and it's easy to see why. Joe is tender and uh, aching, I guess, but really this song just makes you wish for the greener pastures of "Bringin' on the Heartbreak" and "Too Late for Love". Thankfully, not that catchy, Joe singing a radio-friendly but less hooky love ballad to end all love ballads (oh boy do I wish). Check out Mutt Lange's techno-babble towards the end, it sounds like "Jesus of Nazareth go to hell", which cracked me up. [Actual quote: "Yes it does, blewdy hell". At least, so they say...*shifty eyes*]

"Pour Some Sugar on Me"...yeah, what can I say. Aerosmith style rapped lyrics, possibly the only song about cum-shots played on rock'n'roll radio, or at least the most blatant. But despite its exposure, I really like the song. The riff sounds particularly rockin' with the competition on the album (virtually none), even if I suspect you could put it on High'n'Dry and watch it wilt like a dead weed. Happy, bouncy, just like the rest, just with a little more pseudo-edge factor. Just a good song.

"Gods of War", man, nice little chuggy breakdown before that 'here comes the knife' bit, a pseudo-metal near classic despite those sparkly guitars that sneak in. A lot like "Die Hard the Hunter" one album back in that it's a song that wouldn't really take flight til the live show, but it's the most brooding and socially conscious(maybe...) song the Leps had written to that point, and it's played to perfection of a sort. Still, highlights the general lack of really interesting solo's on this album. This is like a Uriah Heep song or something, a very metallic structure played in an emphatically un-metal style.

"Run Riot" and "Don't Shoot Shotgun" are hideously catchy, particularly the former that lodged in my brain for weeks until I managed to get it out by humming "Don't Fear the Reaper" (try it, it works). "Excitable" is utterly reprehensible dance floor junk to a degree even "Animal" didn't attempt, yet mildly derivative, and please ignore the misfire that is "Love and Affection". You know you've REALLY sold out when you have super-commercial ballads that you don't even release as singles. This from a band who almost didn't put "Bringin' on the Heartbreak" on High'n'Dry because it WAS a ballad. Jesus...

"Hysteria" is just the most wince-inducing song, like the dust from a pixie stick given form. Although I think it works incredibly well live, the studio version is just an insult to rock. Skip it. When it comes around again, skip it, despite it having one of the more interesting solos.

I have saved my favourite song for last. Simply put, "Armageddon It" is the best song on the album, and probably the best song from '87 on for the band (with due respect to some of the great Retro-Active tunes). It opens with an infectious riff before mixing it up with two complementing riffs, equally good enough to base a song around, but both played at the same time to perfection. There's some crunch going on, a rarity on most post '83 Lange releases, and Joe is spot on in his ode to a butt-shakin' tease (not a rarity as far as Lep lyrics go). The chorus makes no sense, but who cares? Joe goes waaaay up to the top of his range for the pre-chorus (singing along becomes a worthwhile trial) and the true chorus is blinding pop-metal brilliance. Hell, even the solo is entertaining, Clarke waking himself up from the drunken reverie he was reportedly in for most of the recording to actually punch out a memorable albeit simple melodic solo that actual does more than reprise the main riff. Just a great, great song.

So, I was torn on what to grade this. I've listened to it a lot, and it's one of the earlier buys in my collection. But there's so much crap, and I truly hate some of the songs sometimes, even the ones I love. I was torn between a 40, a 50, a 60, a 70, and even an 80. But I decided, in spite of it's considerable faults I'd give it a favourable grade, so there you have it. If I get around to reviewing Adrenalize though... it won't be pretty.

Stand-Outs: "Armageddon It", "Gods of War", "Pour Some Sugar on Me"