Def Leppard – Drastic Symphonies: Album Review

Def Leppard and the RPO merge on the hits and the hidden gems.

Release Date: 19th May 2023

Label: Universal Music

Format: CD / Vinyl / Vinyl Picture Disc / Digital

Less than a year on from Diamond Star Halos, Def Leppard refresh the back catalogue in the now almost obligatory fashion by bringing in an orchestra – London’s Royal Philharmonic no less – to work up some widescreen symphonic arrangements. Adding new parts, removing some of the original parts and remixing sounds has Phil Collen has called “a brand new album – greatest hits plus.

It’s a busy time for the Leps. Loads of high profile events – a new biography, PAs in Sheffield and London and even playing the Sheffield Leadmill (for the first time apparently, but for a good cause) not to forget the stadium jaunt with Motley Crue which, having conquered America, are set to head into Europe.

A swirl of Eastern mysticism heralds Turn to Dust and we’re on a similar footing to the return of Page & Plant back in the mid-nineties, although Joe Elliott and the trademark Lep harmonies soon confirm their ownership. From the oft-derided Slang, the song remains the same-ish – still in a recognisable form as is what’s to follow. What Page himself would call a different picture in the same frame (or possibly the same picture in a different frame). Indeed, Paper Sun gets a Kashmir-y sweep from the massed strings and with two tracks under the belt, the LSO have made their presence heartily felt. The Eastern promise is called into action later on Too Late For Love, and models how they aren’t simply going to provide some discreet backing but carry the songs while allowing some of the lead lines their head.

The Hysteria album that’s formed much of their live set over the past thirty years again looms large. While Animal and Love Bites don’t start too far from the line, the strutting cock rock of Pour Some Sugar On Me gets a syrupy sweet duet delivery. Star turn though, inevitably, is Hysteria where band and orchestra (and those vocal harmonies) are in harmony and give the track a new breath of life. Gods Of War was always a big drama and on this occasion, the band are upfront with some orchestra support in the arrangement and come into their own with some musical dark clouds on the outro and voiceover.

Even the new Diamond Star Halos material gets a polish; both Angels (Can’t Help…) and Goodbye (For Good…) being prime selections. The nylon guitar on the latter right at home with the orchestra, evoking images of a Mediterranean vista. Not quite in the ‘essential’ but more obvious selections that fit the spec. And making sure the whole Leppard spectrum is n’t ignored, Bringing On The Heartbreak from the early days is prime orchestra fodder although much more interesting is Switch 625 – often given enough ‘swing’ to rename it Swing 625. In the latest guise, it comes over as a potential new Bond or Tom Cruise/Mission Impossible theme.

A couple of unsurprising selections, Have You Ever Needed Somone So Bad and When Love & Hate Collide could even be interchangeable – interesting to hear if someone could do a mash up or blend/mix the two as even to these untrained ears, the choruses have that potential to merge in and out of one another. Again, more obvious choices hinted at what might be in their original form, now following a natural succession. Nice work in the middle eight of the former.

Although not quite as drastic as suggested (abandon any thoughts of a wild ride over stony ground), the usual Leppard gloss gets a widescreen sheen.

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