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This Rare Breed of Hyper-Active British Leopards - 90%

bayern, September 3rd, 2017

I couldn’t care less about Def Leppard until this girl shoved their whole discography down my throat some time in 1990. I had listened to bits and pieces of “Pyromania” and “Hysteria”, mostly from the radio, but I’d never listened to an entire Def Leppard album until then. And I was kind of grateful to her for introducing the band to me in such an unceremonious manner cause thanks to her I discovered the great “High’n Dry” and of course the godly “Pyromania”. I didn’t like “Adrenalize” at all when it came out since it continued the caramelized, sugary hard rock from “Hysteria” which, if nothing else, brought in the millions (and hundreds of them) prompting the guys to carry on in the same direction.

Then all of a sudden, out of the blue, came out this blast from the past, this collection of b-sides, covers and other unreleased tracks, which on top of that had this nice, alluring cover that compelled me to buy the cassette even without checking the content in the shop although the guy there warned me that it was old stuff recorder earlier. I very seldom used to purchase unchecked material from bands that weren’t in my top twenty, but in this particular case the gamble was really worth it. It’s amazing how much greatness lies hidden on b-sides and obscure demos, far from the fans’ ears… in the Leppards’ case this not very known aspect of their repertoire contained some of their finest endeavours, like the doom-laden “Desert Song”, a slow burning epic with heavy ship-sinking rhythms, the guys giving their compatriots Black Sabbath a very good run for their money within five seismic minutes. A b-sides’ collection wouldn’t be the most homogenous listen in the world, but at least in this case “Fractured Love” is another heavy roller-coaster matching its predecessor in terms of intensity every bit of the way, with a slightly more relaxed rock-ish attitude. Enough with the solemnity, one would say, and the Sweet cover of “Action” handsomely serves the needed speedy injection, an uplifting merry-go-rounder that even sounds better than the original.

“Two Steps Behind” and “Miss You in a Heartbeat” are perhaps the only two more popular songs from here, both mild lyrical ballads that show the band’s sweeter side. “She’s Too Tough” may be placed in the same category although it’s a more dynamic rocker recalling the band’s debut, with “Only After Dark” providing the superior content in terms of catchiness, a great, instantly memorable radio hit that may make you jump around, but only after dark, of course… oh, it’s also another cover, of the late guitarist Michael Ronson. No more covers, no more ballads, no more tears, and “Ride into the Sun” is a boisterous heavy metal piece, its confident stride interrupted by “From the Inside”, yes, another ballad, but a really nice atmospheric cut, one of the band’s finest achievements. A poignant moment after which comes “Ring of Fire”, the absolute highlight on this retrospective opus, a power/speed metal energizer that would make even Running Wild and Scanner proud. “I Wanna Be Your Hero” is a hard’n heavy crowd pleaser that could have come out of the “Hysteria” recording sessions, left out due to its more aggressive nature, a fitting epitaph to this highly enjoyable diverse amalgam. Certainly the electric, piano, harp, contrabass and I don’t know what other versions of the two weakest cuts, the aforementioned ballads at the beginning, that wrap on the saga we will leave unmentioned…

this album made me respect the band even more; I couldn’t imagine they had this secret side of their career, and not only but that it featured some of their finest songs as well. Metallica, Iron Maiden and Anthrax did something similar a few years back, and it was time for the megastars to try and cash on what was left unreleased. The 90’s were uncertain times, the 80’s veterans were hardly going to sell tens of millions of albums again (unless you have a Black Album in your discography) so why not try and squeeze a few more bucks from skeletons kept in the closet since times immemorial, or thereabouts… I don’t want to sound sarcastic, but this was the reality back then although this retro collection was more than welcome at the time, and not only for me I’m sure. Every note of classic metal was cherished back then let alone nearly an hour of retro heavy metallisms. The band had no more secrets to hide after this opus, but they kind of lost the magic that catapulted them to the top of the music world, too, since nothing truly substantial has come out of their camp although the band are still alive and kicking, the self-titled which appeared two years ago another retrospective attempt, albeit only with the title. Legends die hard… maybe because they always keep a few hyper-active tunes hidden for potential hard times.