Def Leppard — Drastic Symphonies (Universal)

Metallica’s S&M. Kiss Symphony: Alive IV. Moment Of Glory by Scorpions.

Does the world of rock really need another orchestral collab?

It does if Def Leppard is the driving force.

Drastic Symphonies is the leftfield release no fan of Sheffield’s finest realised they needed.

But they really, really do.

It’s hardly surprising that a band synonymous with sonic ambition has proved the doubters wrong. Again.

And, in Drastic Symphonies, Def Leppard has delivered a disruptor of a record that reimagines big hits and catalogue classics with refreshing dynamism.

Def Leppard: a different Animal

Disarmingly, opener Turn To Dust is the predictable choice to kick off this Royal Philharmonic-fuelled reboot.

The original version’s Eastern flavours always suited a subtle classical rearrangement and, sure enough, it works a treat.

It’s everything you’d expect from stadium rock veterans bringing a full-blown orchestra along for the ride.

But don’t be fooled.

Almost everything that follows is like a fresh tale of the unexpected.

Lead single Animal raised a few eyebrows with its stripped back approach and focus on layering original audio with brand new recordings.

It was a thrilling hint of what was to come.

But nobody could have imagined what Def Leppard were capable of doing, given the opportunity to deconstruct one of rock’s most recognisable back catalogues.

Sugar coating the Leppard classics

Let’s jump straight into Pour Some Sugar On Me.

It’s here where the juxtaposition between old and new is genuinely jaw-dropping.

Imagine transforming a rhythmic, dancefloor-filling, stripper-thrilling hair metal staple into a pared back piano ballad.

Yeah, it sounds ridiculous.

But the Drastic Symphonies version of PSSOM — featuring Emm Gryner on keys and co-lead vocals — is quite beautiful.

If one of Hysteria’s biggest hits is one of this record’s greatest triumphs, then the highlights come thick and fast.

Gods Of War is another obvious choice for a RPO reboot and the cut and thrust of that feisty original reaps glorious rewards on a mesmerising makeover.

Then there’s Switch 625.

Celebrating Steve Clark’s legacy seems entirely fitting as the band prepares for two hometown shows in four days.

And Leppard push the boundaries to breathe new life into High ‘N’ Dry’s memorable instrumental interlude.

Drastic move pays dividends

Drastic Symphonies is a typically brave move from a band that’s never feared the unknown.

It won’t please everyone.

But the neither did the decision to dispense with the services of Pete Willis.

Or the band’s mid 80s grab for a share of the US pop metal market.

Slang’s mixed response to grunge was hardly a popular move.

And even touring the world with Mötley Crüe during the last two years has drawn its fair share of criticism.

But Leppard has always chosen its own path and rolled with the punches.

Drastic Symphonies is a passion project that persistently hits the mark.

It deserves due prominence within a consistently high class canon.

Not for the first time this enduring Leppard’s changed its spots. 

And this transformation is riveting.

Read a full review of the new Def Leppard book Definitely here and click here before the end of May 2023 for details of how you could win a copy!

Def Leppard Month continues on Rushonrock tomorrow as we head to the band’s home city of Sheffield for the lowdown on the band’s most intimate Steel City show in 40 years at the 850-capacity Leadmill. Look out for a full review soon.