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"Def Leppard - Hysteria" Review
Personal Problems and Regaining Popularity (Background)
After the success of Pyromania in 1983, the English rock band Def Leppard had planned to go back into the recording studio to start work on the follow-up that would be called Hysteria.
The basic concept of the album was for it to be the hard rock equivalent to Michael Jackson's highest selling album Thriller. Every song on Hysteria would be written to be a potential radio hit. This was admittedly a let down for some who wanted Hysteria to be a direct follow-up to the more hard-edged Pyromania. (Ironically, though, Pyromania had many songs written in a similar radio-hit manner to Hysteria, albeit the sound was more metal by contrast).
The initial title for the album was to be "Animal Instinct", but the band's then-current producer, Robert John "Mutt" Lange, had the title dropped. The band had wanted to release the album sometime in 1984 or 1985, but certain personal problems had arisen...
On December 31, 1984, drummer Rick Allen lost his left arm in a car accident. When taken a hospital, his arm was briefly reattached, but a sudden infection of the arm forced doctors to have it removed permanently. This caused concern amongst the band members and Lange, since they feared the possibility of Allen having to be replaced. However, Allen wanted to continue working with the band in spite of his accident. A special drum kit was made for Allen that featured additional foot pedals that could work on the left-hand side of the drums, substituting Allen's missing lim. During the recording sessions for the new album in 1986, Lange himself got into a car accident, but he recovered quickly and vocalist Joe Elliot suffered a bout of mumps. And guitarist Steve Clark was going through major problems regarding his drug use and drinking. This was in part because fellow guitarist Phil Collen had quite drinking entirely and Clark felt as though he lost his drinking buddy. Clark was also trying to drain away personal family issues. However, during the tour for the album, he never let these problems interfere with his performance with the band.
The album's final title, "Hysteria", was conceived by Allen, who felt it an appropriate title for the album regarding all the trouble the band went through to get it done over the course of four years. It also became a titular track on the album itself.
Upon the album's release in 1987, Hysteria wasn't initially a big seller, though it was critically acclaimed. The reason for the initial lack of sales was because of Def Leppard's four-year hiatus. Most fans had almost drifted away from the band's music, so the band needed to regain their popularity. The first three singles from the album - "Women", "Animal", and "Hysteria" - were decently successful, but not enough to reach anywhere in the Top 10 on the US Billboard 200 charts. But then luck came to band with release of the band's fourth single, "Pour Some Sugar On Me", which sky-rocketed up to #2 on the Billboard 200 nearly a year after the album's release. With this sudden success, sales for Hysteria also sky-rocketed and would lead to the album being the band's best selling effort to date.
Hysteria eventually spawned a total of seven singles - nearly a majority of the album's songs - with the fifth single, "Love Bites", becoming the band's only #1 song on the Billboard 200.
The band had once again gained their popularity in the music industry.
Step Inside! Walk This Way! You And Me, Babe! (Song-By-Song Review)
Women - The opening track of Hysteria, as well as the album's first single. While not as much of an explosive opener like "Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)", "Women" still manages to set the tone of the album perfectly. And as the title suggests, "Women" is about, well, women. It's also about creationism to an extent, just Def Leppard style, of course. Phil Collen's opening guitar riff is incredible and memorable. Lyrically, "Women" is well crafted, since it doesn't come off as the band being misogynistic and it feels like the band is literally singing the opposite gender's praises. While not an explosive opening, "Women" does a great job of setting Hysteria's tone. (4.5/5)
Rocket - The seventh and final single of the album. There are two edits of this song; the first is this version that run for six and a half minutes and the Visualize video edit that's four minutes long. The album version contains various rocket sound effects and reverse audio on lyrics from a later song, "Gods of War", whereas the video edit cuts all this. I prefer the album version, since it showcases the experimental and creative nature of the song. The lyrics are a lot of fun, since they feature many pop cultural references (including a neat reference to The Beatles' character Sargent Pepper). It's not a perfect song, but it's a lot of fun. (4/5)
Animal - The second single of the album. It's a straight-forward song of lust and it's just plain fun. It's chorus and lyrics are instantly catchy and it's instrumental composition matches the song's overall fun tone. (5/5)
Love Bites - The album's fifth single, as well as Def Leppard's only #1 charting song on the US Billboard 200. It's also the first calm ballad song on the album. It's opening alone can instantaneously get you engaged, with a combo of synthesizers, a light guitar noodle, and a deepened audio of Joe Elliot saying, "If you got a love in the sights…watch out…love bites." The slow guitar work throughout the song give it a smooth groove to match with the emotional and memorable lyrics. And when the whole band sings the chorus, it's guaranteed you'll remember this song forever. It's a perfect ballad that can be put alongside the band's classic "Bringin' On the Heartbreak". (5/5)
Pour Some Sugar On Me - The album's fourth single. Ever since it's rapid success, "Pour Some Sugar On Me" has not only become the band's signature song, but it's been considered one of the greatest songs ever produced in the 80s. By all accounts, this should be a terrible song, since it's basically a compilation of every sexual cliché ever. So why does something like this manage to become such a classic that holds up even today? Well, my guess is that the song is extremely self-aware of what it is, it embraces itself for that and it tries to have as much fun with it's subject as it possibly can without coming off as too taboo or offensive. And with that, it makes itself an extremely catchy guilty-pleasure that embraces all that was funky about 80s hair metal. (5/5)
Armageddon It - The sixth single of the album. It's kind of similar to both "Animal" and "Pour Some Sugar On Me" in terms of it being a song about sex and lust, and the guitar work is vaguely similar to Pyromania's "Photograph". But there's a key thing about it that distinguishes itself from those songs…it's lyrics. The lyrics are extremely creative with it's innuendo-ladden content, and the usage of the word "armageddon" and making it sound similar to "I'mma getting' it" is the icing on the cake. While being similar to some previous songs on the album, "Armageddon It" manages to showcase the most creative lyrical writing on Hysteria. (4.5/5)
Gods Of War - My favorite song on Hysteria. The song is just pure perfection from beginning to end. It begins with Steve Clark preforming an unforgettable guitar riff mixed with some synthesizers and the sounds of war. After that, a steady bassline from Rick Savage, an equally steady drum beat from Rick Allen and some additional guitar work from Phil Collen set the song into motion. The song is a straight-forward anti-war song, but it's done perfectly. It manages to be serious with it's subject while being just as catchy as the rest of the songs on the album. The chorus sections are echoey and chilling, giving the song an epic atmosphere to match it's six-and-a-half minute running time. The song closes on a fitting use of war sound effects and a speech by former US president Ronald Reagan. It's an epic song that I'll never get tired of listening to. (5/5)
Don't Shoot Shotgun - An underrated and fun track of Hysteria. It's rather risqué given that the lyrics evoke thoughts of S&M practices, but it takes it to a ludicrous extreme at points it ends up giving the song a guiltily pleasurable sense of fun. It features tasty guitar work and Joe Elliot's vocal work matches up with the song's fun and risqué tone. (4/5)
Run Riot - Another underrated and fun song. It's a cheesy song about adolescent rebellion and adventure. The drum work from Rick Allen is some of the best on the album and Elliot's screaming vocals amp up the song's sense of rebellion. (4/5)
Hysteria - The third single of the album, as well as the titular song. You'd think with a title like "Hysteria", this would be craziest sounding song of the album. In reality, it's isn't. Instead, the song is an extremely mellow tune that features a soothing rhythm throughout. It's about how the sense of longing can eventually drive one to the brink of insanity. It's quite amazing how the band can make a subject like this seem so mellow and relaxing, but they pull it off in spectacular fashion. (5/5)
Excitable - From the opening and deepened vocals of "Are you excitable?" and some deepened breathing leading up to a high-pitched scream, it's pretty clear what we're in for. "Excitable" shares a similar problem to Pyromania's "Action! Not Words" where the lyrics aren't extremely memorable. But unlike that song, "Excitable" has a much more catchy beat and the lyrics match up to it well enough to make it a much better song by contrast. It may be the weakest song on Hysteria, but it's still fun enough to be worth a listen. (3.5/5)
Love and Affection - The closing track of Hysteria. It's the last soft ballad of the album and it helps close the album in grand fashion. It's guitar work instantly gets you into it and the lyrics are very memorable. It's a perfect conclusion to an incredible album. (5/5)
Are You Getting' It? (General Overview)
When making a blockbuster album like Pyromania, it's not easy to follow up on such a success. Def Leppard were keen on getting such a goal met when they returned to the recording studio make Hysteria. While the hardships they faced forced the album to be released much further down the road than they hoped, all that time actually gave them more time and space to focus on perfecting their then-newest release.
Much like Pyromania, each song on Hysteria was re-written, re-recorded and remixed till they felt it to be the version they all wanted and every song here feels like it should be a hit single. But unlike Pyromania, all the songs here really do feel like they should be singles. Every song is catchy, every song is memorable, and every song deserves multiple listens. All the effort put into the album during the four years it took for it to be made makes Hysteria feel like a much stronger pay off than Pyromania (which was made under a much shorter time frame).
The placement of all twelve tracks on the album are perfect. All the party-worthy songs and ballad songs are placed in the right spots to give Hysteria a perfected and professional sense of balanced sound. For every party song you get every three tracks, you'll get one soft and lengthy ballad to let the album calm down.
Rick Allen is at his finest here with his drum work. Losing his arm clearly didn't stop him, it only made him better. He delivers some thunderous beats on songs like "Pour Some Sugar On Me" and "Run Riot", along with some soothing borderline tribal beats on songs like "Gods Of War" and "Hysteria".
The production is nearly phenomenal here, since the shift from the straight-up heavy metal of Pyromania to the glossy yet still hard rock-worthy glam metal of Hysteria gives both the band and the album a much more theatrical and epic sound that can be best heard in an arena setting. Though one problem about this can be the sound quality not being as blisteringly loud as Pyromania. Admittedly, this could more or less be caused by the amount of synthesizers and remixing put into each song that restricts the amount of sound volume when recorded for a vinyl record or a CD (this was over twenty years ago, after all, sound technology wasn't what it was like today), but it's a weird thing about the production to note. Luckily, though, the 2006 deluxe edition of this album improves and remasters the sound quality to it's perfection.
Hysteria certainly succeeds Pyromania's success grandly. It epitomizes everything amazing about 80s glam metal and it remains an enduring and popular album years after glam metal's fall from popularity, since Def Leppard managed to make Hysteria much more than an 80s rock album in a nutshell. They put genuine effort into this album and that, for me, makes Hysteria the greatest rock album produced in the 1980s and arguably the best album the band has produced to date.
The final score?
5/5 - Highly Recommended!!