Def Leppard have never been darlings of the music press. Their hugely successful brand of anthemic pop-rock has never been given the same street cred that’s heaped upon the likes of Muse, Radiohead and Foo Fighters. But in 2019, they got to extend their middle finger to those who sneered by being inducted into the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall Of Fame.
And while that’s been viewed in recent times as nothing more than a corporate circus with false prestige, it was still a platform to remind the naysayers of Leppard’s standing in the music industry.
Def Leppard – Diamond Star Halos (UMV – Mercury)
Release Date: Out Now
Words: Brian Boyle
Three years on, the Leps didn’t use their induction to slip into early retirement, instead, they embraced the lockdown inspired process of remote recording to create album number twelve, Diamond Star Halos.
When opening track Take What You Want was released to the world, there was a feeling Leppard were returning to the heavier sound of the On Through The Night and High ‘n’ Dry albums. This is one of the finest tracks they’ve written in years, and Joe Elliott sounds like that young Yorkshire whippersnapper that rattled out Hello America many moons ago.
But following track Kick scuppers any hope of an all-out Rock album as it’s doused in classic glam and ’70s pop vibes, a genre immersed in Elliott’s DNA.
The more familiar-sounding Fire It Up, in part, could be just a reworked version of their 1996 hit Slang, but nevertheless, it’s lean and mean, and the chorus twinned with sirens wailing is genius.
Never afraid to step outside their comfort zone, as seen in collaborations with Taylor Swift and Tim McGraw, lifelong Leppard fan Allison Krauss lends her legendary bluegrass-country tonsils to This Guitar. A track written by Phil Collen 19 years ago, the vocal chemistry between Elliott and Krauss is glaring and hard to believe it was done remotely.
Bread and butter tracks SOS Emergency and U Rok Mi are Leppard as we’ve heard them a million times before, good solid album tracks with their signature hook drenched choruses.
But the beauty of this album is just when you think things may be getting a bit same ol same ol, ‘BANG’ a little gold nugget called Goodbye For Good This Time stops you in your tracks. A stirring ballad garnished with sombre piano notes and haunting orchestral strings. And if that’s not enough, the Flamenco flavoured solo is a pulsing bonus.
Reminiscent of Hysteria’s Love And Affection, All We Need is so sweet you might feel your gums departing from your teeth, but it’s American radio gold. In comparison, the down ‘n’ dirty Gimme A Kiss is more of what the Leppard majority want for their money, a full-blooded rocker laced with brashness.
Although 2015s self-titled album was low on highlights, it was still evidence of a band comfortable in their own skin and willing to explore any avenue regardless of criticism, and that has carried over with this collection. The wonderfully constructed and deeply cinematic Angels (Can’t Help You Now), which Elliott penned behind his piano in Dublin, is the band pushing the envelope like never before.
Alison Krauss does yet another shift on the Country fuelled Lifeless and her distinctive rasp is mammoth in its subtleness.
Proving they are untouchable when it comes to vocal harmonies, the penultimate track, Unbreakable, is wave after wave of addictive hooks, and you won’t find many bands who would place a tune as pristine as this in the basement of an album.
Def Leppard will never make a better album than Hysteria, but Diamond Star Halos is the closest they’ve come since Adrenalize.
An eclectic triumph from one of music’s finest institutions.
Diamond Star Halos
1. Take What You Want
3. Fire It Up
4. This Guitar [feat. Alison Krauss]
5. SOS Emergency
6. Liquid Dust
7. U Rok Mi
8. Goodbye For Good This Time
9. All We Need
10. Open Your Eyes
11. Gimme A Kiss
12. Angels (Can’t Help You Now)
13. Lifeless [feat. Alison Krauss]
15. From Here To Eternity