Review Summary: This album is truly testament to a band going against all odds to deliver one of the greatest albums of all time. An absolute undisputed classic from start to finish.
Let's put things into perspective here; come 1987 Def Leppard haven't released an album in 4 years, a relatively long time between releases in the 80s, especially for such a fresh-faced band. Their last album, 'Pyromania' has sold an excess of copies, and is assumed to be the peak of their success. Popular opinion is that things are only going to go downhill for the Lepps, although they've been so long out of the picture that there's very little popular opinion of DL at all. Throw into the equation that drummer Rick Allen has just lost his arm in a car accident. Does any of this deter these Sheffield boys? Does it hell. Instead they simply dust themselves off and record one of the best albums of the decade.
Waves of melodic guitars, vocal harmonies and larger than life drums open the album with 'Women', equal parts pop melody and hard rock power, mostly thanks to the tutelage and production excellence of John 'Mutt' Lange. It's clear from the offset that is an album solely designed to dominate stadiums and arenas. If you're gonna listen to this album, you're gonna listen to it loud. 'Women' is as epic and grandiose as pop-metal can be, and this sets the tone for the rest of the album. It's bubblegum, but it's bubblegum with heart and soul. Samples and studio experimentation kick off 'Rocket' before one is hit with a wall of sing-along melody and air-guitar licks. The sheer size of the song's chorus practically transports you to the arena, as punchy as it is radio-friendly. Whilst Joe Eliot's cries of 'Guitar! Drums!' drip with cliche in retrospect, the sheer power of the songs and the distinct lack of pretentiousness render such outbursts easily forgivable.
One of the pop-ier tracks on the album, 'Animal' is just as huge, scaling down the distorted guitars in favour of monumental vocal harmonies and cathedral-sized snare hits. Sure, it's cheesy as hell, but it takes a truly cynical disposition not to want to sing along to this glam stomper. More experimental production continues in the form of power ballad 'Love Bites', working in pop synths and country influenced vocal melodies alongside the walls of guitars. Hysteria is truly special in that every song on the album has it's own individual identity, and as such it's hardly surprising that 7 of the 12 tracks on the album were to be released as singles. 'Pour Some Sugar on Me' follows, all groovy riffs and gigantic chorus, a true pop-metal masterpiece if there ever was one. One of rock's greatest anthems.
One is barely given a second to compose one's self before 'Armageddon It' turns it up to 11, every inch megalithic guitars and lyrics that flit between saccharine and school-boyish sex drive. This is juxtaposed by 'Gods of War'; one of the more serious tracks on the album, it takes hard rock guitars to another dimension of epic and the man-on-the-streets socio-political commentary in the song's lyrics are backed up by one of the album's most memorable choruses (not an easy feat considering the radio-friendly gems on offer here). 'Don't Shoot Shotgun' brings back the feel good themes typical of bands of this pre-grunge period, raunchy axes rubbing shoulders with high harmonies before we get on to 'Run Riot', a personal highlight of the album, it is as hard-rocking and raucous as it is melodic. Next the title track appears in the form of (another) power ballad, the emotion laid on thick to a backdrop of monolithic guitars and drums. The duo of 'Excitable' and 'Love and Affection' finish the album on a cheery note, all glam-metal cheese and arena-sized grins, tongues firmly in cheek.
This album is truly testament to a band going against all odds to deliver one of the greatest albums of all time. An absolute undisputed classic from start to finish.
Stand out tracks: 'Animal', 'Pour Some Sugar on Me', 'Run Riot', 'Hysteria'