1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 220

Pyromania, by Def Leppard
Suggested by Mel Connolly

Pyromania is not my Def Leppard album.

This is not my first rodeo in the company of Sheffield’s finest. They were a staple of my adolescence, albeit one at the softer end of the scale. While my crew each declared public love for Metallica, Megadeth and friends, we all championed a more melodic rocking passion too. Peet loved Motley Crue, Mark loved Whitesnake, Mandy loved Poison, and I loved Def Leppard.

But not all Def Leppard. I loved Hysteria Def Leppard.

It’s not hard to understand why. That album is packed with classics. There’s the kick-ass Animal, Rocket, Armageddon It. There’s the slower Love Bites and Hysteria. And there’s the National Anthem of Stripper Land, the ridiculous Pour Some Sugar On Me. Every one is a sure fire hair metal anthem.

Pyromania, their 1983 breakout release? It played a distant second fiddle.

I’m in the minority in this regard. I believe Pyromania is generally the better-received album. For a start, it’s a little more raw, a little less polished that its successor. The music is more rock-rock and less pop-rock, with rousing battle-cries like Rock Rock (Till You Drop) bringing an almost AC/DC level of intensity. In fact, there’s a definite Brian Johnson feel to the vocals in general, with Joe Elliott straining and gurning a little too far in places. There’s none of that in Hysteria, which I find fresh but others might find scrubbed of passion.

There are songs here that bring the classic Def Leppard sound, such as Photograph and Stagefright, so my issues may sound baseless, but they simply don’t have the personal punch to sock my jaw and fire up my air guitar. They’re full of the wailing guitar and keyboards you’d expect, and they’re backed with a solid yet unremarkable drumtrack that I feel is a detriment to the overall sound.

I may come across as uncharitable here, but the drumming on Def Leppard records leaves me a little cold. For those not in the know, their drummer Rick Allen lost an arm in 1984. Since then, he’s drummed with a specially adapted part-electronic kit, powered with a host of pedals operated by his left foot. Pyromania, from 1983, was his final album with two-armed, non-augmented drumming.

On Hysteria, Allen’s drumming is crisp and clean, and wholly remarkable for a one-armed musician. Okay, so it’s not exactly prog metal or thrash level intricate, but it rocks and it rolls and it moves the music along nicely. It’s a serviceable sound rendered remarkable by circumstance. Pre-Hysteria, pre-accident, the drumming is mundane and uninspired. Okay, it keeps time and bounces along, but it’s unobtrusive and bland, a 4/4 beat that does nothing to challenge the listener or the player. It’s strange to think that it took losing an arm for Allen to gain relevance in a crowded field.

My favourite track on Pyromania is Rock of Ages, but I doubt it’d make my Top 10 Def Leppard Songs. I give the album 6/10, as it sits on the rasping edge of where love and hate collides.

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