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With a couple of albums behind them Def Leppard were growing as songwriters, musicians, and professionals. After a really shaky debut, and a classic second album that actually did worse on the charts, things weren't looking too good for them. Especially when founding guitarist Pete Willis had to be replaced during the recording of the album because of his drinking problem, replaced by the too flashy Phil Collen. Lange certainly helped carve their sound for the dramatic increase in quality on their second LP, but the band was obviously improving anyway. Whereas that album sounded very similar to the albums that he was doing with AC/DC prior, they abandon that approach on Pyromania and make the first baby-steps into the glam-metal revolution of the 1980s. Albums like Pyromania and Quiet Riot's Metal Health for better or for worse made this the definitive style of the decade.
The sound of this album is very processed, especially in comparison to High 'n' Dry. The band decided it was better to replace Rick Allen with samples played on a Fairlight than to actually have him play. This new technology was used by progressive artists like Peter Gabriel at the time, and that's where it should have stayed. It really has no business being the drummer on a straightforward rock album. The drums sound cheap and cheesy, but not unpleasant to the ear. The guitars were also ran through a vocal harmonizer after the producer discovered that all the guitars were slightly out of tune, and it was too late in the recording process to go back and redo them. This gives them a slightly strange and robotic sound, but it does not sound bad. I have certainly heard less transparent vocal harmonizers on the market to this today. It's just details like this that date the album back to its recording date. Depending on the person it could be more offensive than I find it, the album is very '80s sounding, and at the same time unique. The only other album that sounds like Pyromania is another Mutt Lange effort from a year later, The Cars "Heartbeat City".
The format the album is bought on is very important. Mastering engineers seem to love treating this one with unneeded treble response, so it's important to get a version that doesn't have a substantial boost. Secondly, the amount of information the band recorded onto the analog tape means that it already sounds a little worn down, so it's important to get a copy that's very close to the original masters. The original LP from either US or the UK are both mastered very well, but the original CD which is identical in any country sounds like garbage. Bad treble increase is used, and it sounds like it is from a copy of a copy tape. The deluxe edition has unnecessary compression and digital distortion and sounds much too loud and distorted. The best version is the somewhat pricey MFSL gold disc, which has superb EQ, compression that makes the drums sound tighter and gives them more impact. It is also sourced from the original master tapes.
The album opens with the very AC/DC sounding "Rock! Rock! ('Til You Drop)". It's a finished version of a song that the band had been kicking around since the "On Through the Night" tour, and is definitely one of the heavier tracks on the album. It has a very catchy riff and the best Brian Johnson impersonation that Joe Elliot would ever muster. It's a great opening track, and helps lure their old fan base into the album before catering to the top 40 audience with some of the other tracks, like the next one. "Photograph" is a great pop metal tune with a catchy verse riff and a great multi-tracked super produced vocal hook in the chorus. Joe has half-assed this song since the '80s when played live because it's beyond his vocal abilities.
The rest of the album pretty much follows this template by balancing heavy tracks to appease their old fans, and some poppy stuff to attract new ones. "Stagefright" and "Comin' Under Fire" shows the bands desire to rock the hell out of their audience in a very straightforward way, while they attempt to get a few newcomers with "Rock of Ages", "Foolin", "Too Late for Love", and the almost embarrassing, but undeniably catchy "Action! Not Words". The other two songs could be considered epics within the Leppard catalog, and are definitely on the metal side, not the pop. "Die Hard the Hunter" is one of the best songs the band has put to tape, multi-layered, heavy, dynamic, and has a good message that I see being about the mistreatment of veterans, though I could be reading too deep into that. "Billy's Got a Gun" is rather cheesy lyrically, but also has the same dynamic multi-layered structure and is one of the band's better compositions. Dramatic and full of youthful energy.
So why is this album underwhelming? Because it seems as though the band cannot make up their minds. They're stuck somewhere in between the badass AC/DC metal before this, and the top 40 pop perfection that came after. The mix on this record wouldn't be so disappointing had it been more skillfully blended, it could have been so much better than what it ended up being. It is still a great record, but mediocre songs like "Comin' Under Fire" and "Stagefright" should've have been cut altogether. Neither High 'n' Dry nor Hysteria have any filler, so two songs on this record is pretty substantial in comparison. The band just doesn't seem to have as much energy on most of this one, their hearts are not in it all the way.
Pyromania is no doubt a classic album. It influenced the style of many works for an entire decade. It just had potential that it didn't quite meet, and was surrounded by two albums that did each of its styles much better than it did, metal with "High 'n' Dry" and pop with "Hysteria". If this was released by a band with a lesser discography it would no doubt be much more attractive. As it stands its simply a great album that is just a little disappointing.
Def Leppard isn't quite my favorite band, but they're definitely in my top 20. They've got a pretty diverse sound...well...for what they are. They started out as one of the many bands that had been a part of the NWOBHM and they were actually one of the most popular. However, the thing that was different about them was that they had more hard rock and mainstream influences. After the release of 1981's "High 'N Dry'', they decided to give those influences a bit more love. The result: an extremely catchy nd solid hard rock album that took the world by storm. Sure, this album had influenced a lot of those shitty glam metal bands, but it doesn't categorize itself into that genre, so elitists should really stop their bitching...there's no one outside of their circle that gives a damn.
The music on this album has a smaller focus on heavy riffs and tries a bit more to be catchy and it works. The songs on here have a bit of a groovy sound, especially the tracks, "Action! Not Words", (which is quite possibly the heaviest song on the album) and the opener, "Rock, Rock ('Til You Drop)". Tracks such as these mainly focus on catchiness, while other tracks focus a bit more on rocking, such as "Rock Of Ages" and the anthemic "Stage Fright". One track, however, that perfectly brings the two together is "Foolin", which is probably the most "metal" track on the album, but it's catchy as well, sort of like something by Praying Mantis, which was a NWOBHM band...but probably just a little less harmonic.
The music and production aren't quite as glossy as they would later become, but it is most definitely more so when compared to the last two albums. The production sounds more like you are in the studio room, listening to them record, where on later work, it sounds more like a studio recording. It's just a little bit more raw, which is good. Music like this is better when it sounds like it is being played right in front of you. The music still has some of those heavy metal roots, which were abandoned later on. It makes the music sound a tad less like, "Let's just be as catchy as possible" and more like, "Let's make catchy music, but still rock the fuck out". I'm not saying that the later work is bad. I just think that this is a little better.
If you're just someone who knows Def Leppard because they heard "Pour Some Sugar On Me" on the radio, one thing that you'll instantly notice is the vocals. Rather than the mid-pitched, bluesy vocals that Joe Elliot uses on later albums, he has a powerful, screeching voice, similar to those of AC/DC's Brian Johnson, but they have the melody of vocalists such as Queen's Freddy Mercury, which goes along with the bombastic, yet melodic music. He hits some low notes as well, but when he does, it's usually in softer parts of the music, which are kept to a minimum. It's something that would be thought of as more appealing by listeners of heavier music.
While sometimes, this album can sound a little cheesy, I think of it as a good cheesiness. Those brutal death metal bands can be cheesy as well, just in a different way. Some people like to think of that cheese the same way I do, which makes enough sense. It is not the heaviest or the most professional in Def Leppard's discography, but it blends the commercial and the rebellious styles of music the most proficiently. For this reason, I enjoy this album immensely.
Def Leppard has been making crappy albums for as long as we can remember, and now, the band says that a new album is in the works.
They've had such a history with creating some inexcusably lousy songs that plagued the airwaves in the late 80's and early 90's, not to mention the ungodly monstrosities that were released afterword. What irony, they used to be good. Their first three albums actually had some stuff that would actually qualify as metal, but their long slippery slope towards becoming a band of bubblegum-creating plutocrats began with their third album, "Pyromania". This would be the last album of Def Leppard's that would have songs that would make it worth purchasing. We do have some songs that should be skipped at all costs, but at the same time, we also have songs that are totally awesome.
"Pyromania" doesn't really have much of the band's NWOBHM influence that it had in the past. Instead, we get a lot of hard rock and heavy metal influences. For this reason, we get some songs that hit and some that miss. The song that has a direct hit on the bulls-eye is "Stagefright". It's possibly the most aggressive song Def Leppard has made, and nothing like it has been made before or since. It's got a hard, crunching riff as well as a driving pace. Together, they create a song that would totally qualify as metal. Joe Elliot also gives quite an aggressive vocal performance, screeching loud enough to rival Rob Halford. Listen to that song, and you'd get the idea of what Def Leppard should've gone for, aside from their roots, of course. Another contender for a good heavy metal song would be "Comin' Under Fire". It's at a slower pace, but it still has that crunch and swagger that gives it its awesome power, not to mention its catchy chorus.
Even one of the ballads has something to offer. "Foolin'" is recognized as one of Def Leppard's signature ballads, but I see it as something much, much more. Sure it's soft during the verses, but when it gets to the choruses, it kicks into gear and gives us some hard-hitting power. During the verses when it's soft, it also carries a somewhat eerie and mysterious atmosphere. If the band was ever to come up with another ballad, it has to sound like the verses of "Foolin'", 'cos there's no way I'm ever gonna take "Love Bites" seriously.
Yep, we do get songs that range from either ridiculous, but passable to downright horrendous. On the one end of the spectrum, we get the all-famous "Photograph". I'd have to admit, while it is somewhat ludicrous with its bright tone, it can be catchy and somewhat addicting. Other songs aren't so lucky. "Too Late for Love" is a rather sedate and boring excuse for a song, let alone a ballad. It's slow, incredibly light, and therefore, an eyesore to the ears (earsore?). If you thought "Photograph" was stupid, you've never heard "Action! Not Words". Not only does it have a sort of upbeat vibe, but the lyrics are just absolutely asinine. They basically follow some dude who is "sick and tired of the damn TV" and elaborates on how he wants to create his own movie. I'd hate to question the logic of the song, but does the dude have any experience with directing movies? Sounds like somebody's fantasy to me. "Billy's Got a Gun" actually has potential. It seems like a very dark and edgy song with a grim subject matter. It's totally ruined, however, by the two minutes of synthesized drum noises that go on long after it should've ended. Seriously, what's the point of that? You've taken a perfectly good song and then you've turned it into utter trash by adding that drum beat! Thanks a lot!
As much as this album has its flaws, I still enjoy some aspects of it, "Stagefright" and "Comin' Under Fire" especially. They're what makes "Pyromania" a good album, but not exactly great. The songs that I mentioned in the previous paragraph are a definite sign that the good songwriting of Def Leppard is about to come to an end. One album later, and there wouldn't be much awesomeness to go around. At that point, they've turned themselves into a despicable 80's boyband that would make Metallica's "Load" albums sound like Blind Guardian's "Imaginations from the Other Side".
Much like the album to follow this, "Hysteria", a lot of metal fans seem to hate this album. The reason people seem to hate the other one is because it isn't really metal, which honestly, who really cares. This one seems to have people pissed off for the same reason in a way, but not quite as badly evidently. I guess too many people just seem to hate change. Not all change is bad, though.
To start off, I don't really think this one lacks the metal sound to it that much just because it softens up a bit. Listen to the opening track "Rock Rock (Til You Drop)". Okay, well ignore the cheesy song title first and then listen to it. There is nothing about this track that isn't metal. It has that intense, energetic vocal style with a screamy edge to it just like Brian Johnson of AC/DC or Rob Halford from Judas Priest. Not saying AC/DC is metal, but Brian Johnson certainly has a voice that would be fit for a metal band. The riffs in this track are solid and heavy and deliver a fierce ball of energy to us. The drum beat is nice and hard as well. There are plenty of others on here that follow this format, such as "Stagefright" and "Action Not Words". "Stagefright" would be perfect, as it is very speedy and pretty fast for what this band normally does. Plus a lot of the instrumental work is rather technical and complex, so it's not like they lost creativity or anything like that. So with all of that in mind, I don't really see why this album is not considered metal. I get it with the next release, but this album is definitely just as metal as both of their first two releases. But sadly, this just seems to be the one where fans just draw the line with them. That's a tragedy, as they are all missing some great tunes. I feel like part of the reason why some people don't like it is because of the vocals. As this one is still a little less heavy than the others, its seems to have thrown in some vocals that sound more along the lines of Bon Jovi, which could piss a lot of people off. All you gotta do is look past that part though, because musically it is not bad.
With that being said, a lot of the songs that use that vocal style are the tracks that got big and a lot of radio airplay. The ones I'm talking about specifically are "Photograph", "Rock Of Ages", and "Foolin'". All three of these tracks were still incredible, but they are certainly ones that make it less of a metal album, too. That's still no reason to dislike it, plus why not look at the other tracks? It seems like the popular ones are the ones that people will look at and make a judgement based off of them. "Photograph" is a very upbeat tune with some incredible harmonics that just go great for a great day. This was the first sign of their mainstream sound, perhaps. "Rock Of Ages" was like the song that really started to feature the backing vocals heavily as the band sings the main chorus. And "Foolin'" was a very ballad-y song that was probably disliked by many. It starts out with an incredible acoustic piece and then picks up a little speed later. So sure, none of those are really that heavy, but like the heavier tracks, they aren't bad. And hey, let's look at the bright side here, at least this album isn't packed full of synthesizer like the one after this. The guitar is still the main instrument that drives everything home, there's still a lot of energetic vocal work, and all of the tunes are rather catchy, whether it be more technical or simplistic.
Perhaps the success of this album wasn't one of the best things for them. All of it was still good up until their fifth album. I feel like as the newer styles got more popular, they overused it more and more where this was the first one where they just introduced it. Ever since they overdid everything, that power seemed to go to their heads. That's why Def Leppard sold out really quickly with their releases that followed the late '80s. I can't say they put out too much that I like after their fourth album. Thankfully though, this one is still incredible and was only the start to what would drive them off the edge of the Earth.
1983 will be always remembered as one of the greatest years for the metal genre. So many amazing records were put out in a row, some extremely important and influential that would change the history of rock forever and set the rules for the new extreme styles that would scandalize our strict parents and would give us endless delight. If we talk about influential albums of the 80’s, then this one I am going to review is definitely one of the most essential and crucial, but influence is not always positive, not at all in this case...
“Pyromania” denies everything that the NWOBHM meant and contributed to build, in the most pathetic way possible. The sound of what you will find here is the definition of basic simplicity and mediocrity. The song-writing is incompetent and focused only to make the tunes sound as catchy as possible, so people can remember the lyrics and buy the record. Check it out in the opening track “Rock! Rock! (‘Til You Drop)” or “Stagefright”. The vocal chorus is repeated thousands of times so it becomes the main attraction, the music is just a filler. They don’t develop any sound, any technical or instrumental display, nor an inspired structure in the composition of these tunes. I guess there’s no need to mention that guitar riffs, licks, solos or melodies, including the rhythmic section become background sounds that satisfy only the leadership of Joe Elliot’s cheesy voice.
It doesn’t get better in the following cuts of the album list: “Photograph”, “Foolin’” and co. are more of the same, this time those songs are based on simple riff that any amateur guitar student could’ve written in the first 2 minutes of his first lesson. I find the tone of Mr. Elliot’s voice so disgusting, he tries to sound naughty or casual or sexy or whatever you want to call it, he becomes the definition of “poser” making the music get even more lame and empty. Those adjectives fit perfectly “Die Hard The Hunter”, “Comin’ Under” and “Too Late For Love”, although what makes these different from the others is that they are (even) more mellow, romantic and melodic, attempting to get some emotional effect on the listener with silly guitar chords and the distorted vocal chorus again and again, no way to escape it.
But there’s still the worst part left to comment: the ballad. “Love Bites” is just the most unbearable moment on the pack. Electric programmed percussion (like in disco music), Casio pop keyboards and some lines taken from a vulgar soapbox opera become a torture in this endless song. Those characteristics would define the sound of Def Leppard in every following release. And the overproduced atmosphere on it specially, and in the whole record doesn’t help at all (the sound of the instruments is too clear, dry and annoying to my ears), because it has just one mission: sound commercial, but for anybody with a proper musical hearing, all those tricks only demonstrate the lack of talent and inspiration.
The tricks and traps go on with “Billy’s Got A Gun”, “Pop Of Ages” and “Action Not Words”, that follow the same pattern and direction with no difference from the other tunes. The vocal parts again are going to exhaust you with boredom and tediousness, because, after all, those poorly constructed pieces of crap are just pop for the masses. I know I might sound repetitive about it, but I must insist and persist about the horrible vocals on each of the songs, to me it sounds like a bunch of neanderthals that can only spit out 2 or 3 word from their throats (“Shock me” in “Action Not Words” is the example of that extenuation).
These reasons must be enough to make you escape and avoid it, maybe only to have some laughs like when you watch an Ed Wood movie or “Howling 3: The Marsupials”, but never ever take it seriously.
Motley Crue, Maiden, and Metallica could only look on in amazement at the sales figures that Pyromania pulled in on a weekly basis. If the object of the game of rock and metal was to make money, then Def Leppard not only won, but destroyed all competition during 1983. From all the albums released this year, only Lionel Richie’s Can’t Slow Down has sold more over time. All this from what started out as a bunch of young kids from Sheffield trying to break into the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal scene. The record company sunk a then crazy million dollars to make it and the guys would have sell a minimum of three million copies to get themselves out of debt. A somewhat tall order considering previous lp High N Dry didn’t even break the top 30 on either side of the Atlantic. Having producer Mutt Lange on board again was the key here. Instead of banging out the tracks over a few weeks in the studio, an immense period of crafting, recording, and mixing of the tracks took place, and over a year was spent ensuring that when the album was finally released, it was perfect.
Taking the high gloss and smooth production techniques from major pop records and applying them to rock would seem to be Mutt’s speciality. From the crashing opening bars of epic opener Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop) until the drawn out and distorted drum loop of the final number Billy’s Got A Gun, this is quite the remarkable studio recording, not that it would hold any water at all if the songs were not up to much. Now I wouldn’t go as far to say, like most Def Leppard fans I know would, that Pyromania is 100% killer and no filler because even though there isn’t a bad song on it, not every one is a classic. Too Late for Love drifts on after you want it to end and is a little too wet for a rock band of any kind to sing, meanwhile Coming Under Fire grates on me every time I hear it. It feels like the boys pulled the chorus out of their Leppard utility belt on a whim when they realized they had already used their best on Photograph and Rock Of Ages.
So what’s so great about a pop rock record? Def Leppard answer this song after song. Die Hard The Hunter is a case in point, from the start a risk is taken because of the lyrical social commentary contained within. Cock rock fans do not want to hear about war; the boys wanna hear about pussy and the girlies wanna hear about dick. Perhaps because of this, it became singer Joe Elliot’s favourite of the Pyromania set. The multi-layered vocal harmonies take the scope of the song from an audio treat to a huge cinematic level, broad in style and scope. Mutt really took the boys to task here, sometimes adding his own vocal takes to underscore and alternate the exact frequency of those voices. And so it goes on, Foolin’ is a ballad masterclass, gently building until the sub chorus flows into the bridge, which then launches into the main chorus. Boom! Repeat formula and then solo. It’s a cliché because it works, and done in less skilled hands you’d loose interest after the first listen, and bands like Warrant and Stryper never learnt that lesson. You have to be the best if you are treading an already weathered path.
Pyromania was also guitarist Pete Willis’ final album with the band after his behaviour was deemed to be getting in the way of the group's intensified forward momentum. This was another risk taken by the band, this time because Pete was a contributor in the songwriting process and a tight rhythm player to boot. It was late in the album's recording cycle when his alcohol problem became too much for the band to handle, so a replacement was brought in the guise of Phil Collen, who still resides in the band today. It would not be until Hysteria that Phil made a real contribution to Def Leppard and it does seem a shame that today Pete Willis is considered nothing more than a footnote in the band’s history, considering the huge contribution he made to the first three lps.
Not that any of this mattered. Leppard’s gamble to delay release until everything was polished and exactly what Mutt Lange and the group wanted from a perfect rock record paid off millions of times over. Only Michael Jackson’s Thriller kept Pyromania off the top spot in the USA. Reviews from usually lukewarm critics were feverish in the States and the UK (where sales were steady, but disappointing considering it is the bands home country). Malcolm Dome at Kerrang! magazine announced that Pyromania would become a legendary record, which of course it has. What amazes me is that the boys were able to better it next time round. Who would have thought it back in the days of the NWOBHM. Nobody, except maybe for Joe Elliot, who would later say he wanted the group to be the Stephen Spielberg of the rock world. Def Leppard had just released their Jaws, next up E.T.
If I were to make a list with the best and most influential rock albums of the eighties (I say rock, not metal, obviously), Pyromania would definitely be in it. This album is way up there together with Slippery When Wet, 1984, Appetite for Destruction, Back in Black and Stay Hungry.
Even though I have to admit all my favourite songs are on the A side of the album, as a whole the album is one trip through memory lane which still stands firm. ‘Rock Rock 'Till You Drop’ is a song that could fit any classic eighties rock album. A song that would sound good in the hands of almost anybody which only adds to the intrinsic quality of the song.
The pounding verses on ‘Stagefright’ are on the edge of becoming classic metal but the chorus takes it into poprock history. Also ‘Photograph’ is a superb example how Def Leppard could mix rock with slick vocals and melodies into working, catchy songs. It’s not without reason this is a staple eighties rock song.
On B-side tracks like ‘Rock On ages’, ‘Comin' Under Fire’ and ‘Billy's Got a Gun’ we can already clearly hear what the Hysteria album would sound like 4 years later. Not a bad thing obviously and it show’s even more how this album was the transition from High ‘n Dry to Hysteria.
The power/semi ballad ‘Too Late for Love’ is a personal favourite. Not only is it a strong track which gets to me everytime. It also shows great vocal performance including the backing, good clean section and some riffing which could almost be called classic metal.
Same could be said about ‘Die Hard the Hunter’ which in a way is also one of the best written/constructed songs here and the long instrumental middle section just sheer beauty.
On Pyromania Def Leppard had the perfect balance between the metallic rock from their first two albums and the perfect sleeze and catchiness of their next effort, the bestseller Hysteria. A combination which results in pretty much Def Leppard’s best album.
My first contact with Def Leppard was at the beginning of the 90’s with the Adrenalize album. It was a nice one but it was pure hard rock and had nothing to do with metal. So it was kind of difficult to believe that they once had a more metal style. When I bought Pyromania I didn’t know what I should expect to hear.
What we have to admit is that Def Leppard is a band that managed to get heavy rock into the music business and at the top of the charts. This is where they divided metal society. Many people think of them as posers, unworthy of attention. But there are those who believe that they contributed in the promotion of hard music and the welcome of new fans.
Now, about Pyromania itself. By no means can you place it among heavy metal albums. To me, it is pure American hard rock that follows the American preferences and stereotypes. But it is not, I repeat, it is not a bad album. It has a full sound, a good production, nice vocals, heavy guitars and catchy songs. All this without losing its aggressive profile and this is what makes it very interesting. The rhythm section is very steady and I think that their new guitarist, at the time, Phil Collen, has brought along his own style of playing. Joe Elliot is a fantastic singer with a melodic and harsh voice and he knows how to use it.
The songs in Pyromania are basically of the same quality. If I had to choose the best ones, they would be Stagefright, Die Hard the Hunter and the all-time classic Too Late for Love, one of the best ballads I have heard. Stagefright is the fastest track, with heavy riffs that really excited me. Too Late… is emotional all the way and I think that its melodic lines have been sung by many listeners, many times. The rest of the songs are pretty much the same, hard rock catchy compositions. As for the supposed hit, Photograph, I think it is too overestimated. It’s not that bad but it doesn’t justify its title as top hit.
That’s more or less what I can say about Pyromania. It is a nice, solid album and it has nothing to do with the crappy shit they did in Slang. It is definitely worth checking out.
Wow...this was one of the first hard rock albums I bought with my own money back in the day, alongside "Metal Health" and "Shout at the Devil"! I remember this album getting lots of airplay on radio back then, understandably so given that it's a very solid album. I really don't consider this a "glam" album, it was still too rough and tumble to earn that status, highly polished though the production was. It's more the vocal harmonies and the melodies extant in the songs that give it a more commercial feel, but if you look past that you see a level of sophistication in the guitar arrangements that goes beyond standard issue Kiss wannabe riffs or simple big, loud anthems. Then again, Def Leppard always wanted success in America (the second album had a song called "Hello, America" on it, even) and they achieved it with this album, I think.
The choruses are very catchy and memorable and I still find myself humming them to this day in idle moments. "Foolin'" and "Rock of Ages" stand out in this regard in particular. Even "Coming Under Fire" and "Rock! Rock! Til You Drop!" stand out there too after all these years. Joe Elliott's rough, screaming vocals drive those home with conviction. In later years he became too much the squealer for my taste, but this album shows him as he was before he went that route, a more guttural approach with more power behind his vocals. He was capable of softer vocals as well, like the verses of "Foolin'" where he sings in a more subdued vein and pulls it off well.
Phil Collen and Steve Clark made an excellent guitar tandem that bounced all manner of guitar parts off of the walls on these songs. Rather like a more relaxed and calm version of the Amott brothers, they arranged the songs with an ear-catching variety of guitar parts that are just much lurking in the background as texture as they are loud and up front. There are an abundance of clean toned and acoustic parts throughout, and their soloing is tasteful and well-constructed at all times, no random flailing here. A strong blues sensibility informs their playing and the shining solo moments on the album are still on "Photograph", where Phil builds a fabulously scorching yet melodic moment in the sun in the middle and Steve rides out with a sweet, haunting ending. "Rock of Ages" does pretty well in that respect too, with some nice whammy bar stuff going on in the middle of the solo. In short, a very underrated guitar team, Clark & Collen were.
The Ricks, Savage and Allen, are a tight and capable, if workmanlike rhythm section that drive things along in a highly appropriate fashion on every song. They are not flashy or grandstanding at all, just a good rhythm section that lay down the bottom and rhythm like bedrock. For this band, there is no other way to do it.
Standout songs for me are pretty much what everyone else agrees on: "Rock! Rock! Til You Drop!", "Rock of Ages" (with its amusing scat intro and Joe declaring "It's better to burn out than fade away!!!" convincingly), "Photograph" (the mega hit that was understandably so since it is easily the best tune here), "Coming Under Fire", and "Foolin'". Understandably so, since these are great songs! The rest of the album is solid but not as good, hence the rating of only 75. But still, this is not an album to be disregarded or ignored--that goes to anything after "Hysteria", for my taste. Mutt Lange's production does seem a bit dated with its massive airplane hangar drum sound, and this is another reason it doesn't get a higher rating. Those niggling things aside, still, this album holds up well musically and shows a band hitting its stride and really jacking it up a notch to take over American radio and video channels. Check it out and give it a chance.
1983 was a landmark year for popular metal. It's the year that infact glam metal became mainstream and started topping the charts. You had bands like Quiet Riot (who made the first metal album to make #1 on the billboard), Dokken, Twisted Sister, Motley Crue, and of course Def Leppard with this album, Pyromania. It is an important album in glam history, as it almost single handly brought glam metal to the mainstream. Now before, Def Leppard wrere not exactly glam at all. They're debut album, On Through the Night was a full heavy metal album, then High & Dry was AC/DC worshipping hard rock. It wasn't until their third album, thta they would take the glam world by storm.
Photograph, Rock Rock Til You Drop, Rock of Ages, Die Hard the Hunter, and Stagefright are the best songs on the album. The first four mentioned are hard rocking catchy numbers that are fun to listen to. The you have Stagefright which boarderlines on speed metal, with the fast tempo and ballsy riffs. Foolin and Billy's Got a Gun are pretty good as well and add to the album with some nice hooks. It's more consistent, yet also not as good as Hysteria. Yet, unlike Hysteria, there is absoluetly no filler on this album. Each song is consistently good, and some songs are slightly better than others.
As I said before, this was an important album for glam metal, as it helped commercialize the genre in the early-mid 80s. However, they would not make another album until 1987, because of Rick Allen's car accident which lost him his arm. However, he had enough commitment to the band, that he would stay in the band and surprisingly improve thanks to his self-designed drum kit. While not as greta as Hysteria, this album is still an essiential in Def Leppard's discography. You really can't go without it, so if you don't already own this album, I'd suggest getting it as soon as you can.
Pyromania is one of the true touchstones of popular metal in the 80's, standing its ground against Screaming for Vengeance, Shout at the Devil, and Stay Hungry, the record's massive singles grabbing airplay to this day. And wow, what a barrage of singles to wow and amaze, insanely popular blockbuster "Photograph"(worst track on the album in fact) leading the pack of brilliantly played and insidiously composed chartbusters that defined the hair era.
Now, I've spun this album dozens, maybe hundreds, of times, and one thing that strikes me is the amount of filler. Yeah, the singles alone push it into the stratosphere, but the filler tracks bring it down. And the sad thing is, it's probably the vaunted production that weighs them down a bit, songs like "Stagefright" and "Coming Under Fire" sort of feeling both too raw for the steely brilliance on display elsewheres and too polished to really give the impression of rebellion or aggression.
Who cares though really? Phil Collen and Steve Clark are as underrated a guitar tandem as there ever was, both clever musicians with very respectable chops, Rick "soon to be one-armed" Allen writes some clever and powerful stuff (remember, he didn't really play on the record), Sav's a solid bassist (even if he is a little too smiley), and Joe, he's well, Joe. Man, could that guy scream or what? He had as metal a voice as you could want, shredding screams and a really soaring range when he let it go. Gotta put him up there with Sebastian Bach as the best all out hair vocalist. When these guys come together (with Mutt Lange of course), sometimes there's magic. And sometimes there's Adrenalize, more on that when it comes...
Lightning strikes often in that fashion on Pyromania, yielding some great, great stuff. Opener "Rock, Rock Till You Drop" is as perfect an opener as you could want, an AC/DC style rock'n'roller that instructs you on the way to party hardy Leppard style. And man, it's convincing, with that shredding solo and gloriously ballsy riff coming out of the syrupy intro. Joe Elliott really shreds his vox on this one, creating the perfect live song.
Power ballads come no better than "Too Late for Love", the blueprint for any number of followers that still rocks harder than any of them. Unabashed metal might, perfectly dramatic lyrics in a power metal vein, that achingly powerful solo...just perfection. Up them lighters folks, the Leps executing the concept with unheard of skill and feel, years before Bon Jovi, Poison, and even the Leppards themselves drove it into the realm of nigh-intolerably schlock over-exposure (see: Adrenalize).
There's no denying the people-moving power of "Rock of Ages", Joe sort've rapping over these big synth-filled spaces like Brian Johnson reborn (or born again), sermonizing the power of rock to the adoring multi-tracked masses, helplessly headbanging once that ballsy simple riff makes itself known. This is true genre-bending innovation on display, dance-metal even, like Killing Joke gone (really) commercial. Really, this is the most "Hysteria" style track on the album, side by side with it's infinitely less metal albeit more riffy sister "Rocket".
Lets face it though, everything else pales next to "Foolin'", the most balls out METAL moment, that incredibly great riff steam-rolling those who might claim they weren't capable of rocking out on 11. A fourteen on a ten scale for metal excellence, no doubt about it, that solo positively howling and shaking like nobody's business, the shiny guitars peeling away under that deep crimson onslaught of a riff underneath Joe's positively vicious stutters. This song does the album title justice, just burning up and raging loud and proud.
Rest of it is frankly a mixed bag. "Die Hard the Hunter" could have been a metal classic, but the heavily synthed riff weakens it, making us wait for the insane live versions to really come alive and throttle our unworthy asses. "Billy's Got a Gun" is a nice moody song, but just doesn't stand out, and the speed metal (we're talking 70's style melodic speed, not Dark Angel here) style of "Stagefright" is hampered by the otherwise breathtaking mixing and engineering. All in all this is Mutt Lange's masterpiece really, although Hysteria and those fucking Shania Twain records are more ambitious. It's perhaps not the most amenable sound for some of the dirtier metal tunes, but that crisp steel of those legendary riffs makes you forgive him for virtually anything, even for making you listen to "Man, I Feel Like a Woman" forty-six times a day for five months. Well, almost.
Stand-Outs: "Foolin'", "Too Late for Love", "Rock, Rock 'Till You Drop"