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Phenomenal Blending of Metal and AOR - 80%

DeathRiderDoom, January 17th, 2010

#28 In My NWOBHM Rarities Review Series

We’ve all heard the story a million times – before basically forging a new style of music, that would inspire legions of wannabe commercial melodic rock bands, with their string of early/mid 80’s platinum records, Def Leppard were just another (albeit commercial and rock tinged) of the thousands of bands formed in the late 70’s/early 80’s UK scene, which came to be known as NWOBHM. Their first album, a celebrated NWOBHM classic, ‘On Through the Night’ showcased a young talented band, that though sounding close enough to the myriads of other NWOBHM bands out there, had somewhat of a unique spark to it. Def Leppard’s sound was very much, given the time, entrenched in 70’s hard rock, rich on AORish melody, but with a majestic, powerful grandeur to it, at times bringing similarity to acts like American acts like Toto or Night Ranger (as fellow NWOBHM/AORers Bronz, Praying Mantis or Hellanbach do), though going about it in their own unique way. The singles from this period showcase a band with a unique blending of sounds. Rocking pretty hard in NWOBHMish fashion on one hand, though hinting at a young, innovative band striving for commercial success and what that entails in your music’s sound.

In any case, these are two fantastic cuts from said album, with this single being only one of several churned out by Virtigo in their bid to promote the burgeoning young act. Though many view ‘Hello America’ with disdain, I find it a brilliant, catchy-as-hell pop song that manages to rock pretty hard, and is interestingly arranged on the b-side of the vinyl, rather than being numero uno. The riffage in this one actually shatters spines quite nicely, and is very akin to something you’d hear on revered hard hitters Saxon’s early 80’s material. That’s right, these “commercial pussies” actually feature very badass guitar riffs, in even their most commercial sounding song of the ‘On Through the Night’ sessions. Drums pound along very hard, and the overall mix is incredibly clear and crisp; quite stunning for the date.

Commendations to the band, and the record company, for setting ‘Wasted’ a much more aggressive, and punchy metal track as the a-side of the single. Subject matter aside, evil, heavy guitar riffs in this one, which sound very much akin to something on Diamond Head’s debut. This one has metal credentials up the ass, and is definitely my favourite track from the band’s early period (if not my overall favourite track from the band). This single would have won the band considerable fans amongst those who liked their NWOBHM to be as metal as possible, and setting it as the a-side, rather than your usual b-side scenario is all the more commendable. While the song is indeed quite metal, with it’s tough subject matter, and shouted sloganry-laden chorus, as well as impressive solo-ige, it retains that commercially ambitious flavour, like all their material did; it’s brilliant how they are able to have their cake and eat it too, so to speak, with ‘Wasted’ being a very catchy track with a massive hook in the chorus that I’m sure I wasn’t the only person to get stuck in my head years ago when I first came across the thing.

Two excellent tracks that blow the majority of NWOBHM from the time out of the water. ‘Wasted’ is a bit more aggressive, while ‘Hello America’ shows the bands true AOR colors, and interestingly, serves as somewhat of an anthem of the bands actual career ambitions at the point of writing. Basically, they did want to, and of course succeeded, in breaking into America in the early 80’s, becoming one of the more successful bands not only from the NWOBHM, but 80’s rock music as a whole. I can’t really see why any NWOBHM fan wouldn’t love this single, really and strongly advise all of their material from this early period, while I don’t have the same passion and enthusiasm for their later works. Strong AOR that retains a lot of balls, yet is extremely melodic, and almost pop sounding; one of their finest moments.