With countless smash hits, diamond certifications and sold-out world tours under their belt, it seemed that Yorkshire rockers Def Leppard had few boxes left to tick when they began thinking about their self-titled 11th studio album.
However, in the time since the band released 2008’s life-affirming Songs From The Sparkle Lounge, the music scene had changed immeasurably. Most specifically, the industry was occupied with facing up to the challenges of the new – and rapidly-evolving – digital world.
“Anywhere we looked, it seemed like everybody kept saying the album is dead,” vocalist Joe Elliott recalled for DefLeppard.com. “It’s like the emperor’s new clothes, you start believing it. So, [with Def Leppard], we didn’t set out to make a full album, it just started to come together so naturally, and we were in such a great place. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed making a record as much as I’ve enjoyed making this one.”
Embracing their fresh burst of creativity and armed with a stockpile of new songs, Leppard repaired to Elliott’s Dublin studio, Joe’s Garage, with longtime sound engineer/producer Ronan McHugh. In familiar surroundings, the band were in an ideal situation to do what they do best – and were determined not to be shackled by expectations.
They decided to call the album Def Leppard “because it doesn’t sound like any one specific era” of their music, Elliott revealed to Blabbermouth. “It’s got every single aspect of anything we’ve ever wanted to put out – acoustic, heavy, soft, slow, fast. Just like Queen, we’re capable of coming up with vastly different kind of songs.”
The satisfyingly disparate Def Leppard once again showed Joe Elliott and company were true to their word. Kicking off in vintage form with the irresistible swagger of the Hysteria-esque ‘Let’s Go’, the album went on to absorb everything from the crunching NWOBHM-style anthem ‘All Time High’ to barnstorming alt.rock workouts such as ‘Sea Of Love’ and the chest-beating ‘Wings Of An Angel’, which recalled the band’s mid-90s Slang era .
Yet the experimentation didn’t end there. The proudly eclectic Def Leppard also found space for exciting departures including the atypically funky ‘Man Enough’, the cool, beats and electronica-driven pop of ‘Energized’ and the ambitious ‘Blind Faith’: Elliott’s impassioned commentary on religion and church-based cults which came framed by elegant, Beatles-esque chord changes and gift-wrapped with Mellotron.
With their frontman admitting that “we’ve definitely pushed the envelope a little bit”, the band felt reinvigorated by the album’s diversity. Indeed, during a contemporaneous interview with Massachusetts radio station WAAF, guitarist Phil Collen confessed, “I think it’s the best thing we’ve done since Hysteria. I don’t think ‘experimental’ is the right word, I think it’s more liberating and expressive – there’s a purity to it we haven’t had before.”
Endorsed by several enthusiastic reviews, including one from Classic Rock proclaiming that “Def Leppard is the sound of a band who have rediscovered their sense of purpose,” the album shot to No.10 on the Billboard 200 and to No.11 on the UK Top 40 – its performance proving categorically that albums are still very much alive, kicking and still entirely necessary in the digital age.
Def Leppard’s self-titled album gave its creators a mighty shot in the arm and the indefatigable hard rockers have been on a high ever since. With 2017’s 30th-anniversary edition of Hysteria thrusting the band right back into the mainstream, the band are due to embark on a hotly-anticipated European jaunt after a much-acclaimed North American tour of duty with Journey; and they show little sign of slowing down.
“What does Def Leppard mean to me now?” Joe Elliott mused at the time of the album’s release, on 30 October 2015. “Success, stubbornness and blind faith. It’s a bunch of guys that like each other and love what they do. That bounces back and audiences can pick up on it. We’ve written some good stuff. I hope everyone can listen to it and enjoy it.”
The Def Leppard Volume One 7CD and 8LP box sets are out now and can be ordered here.