When Def Leppard announced that they were working on new compositions, seven years of waiting practically disintegrated. When The Collection: Volume Three was released, Def Leppard’s audience could be optimistic: frontman Joe Elliott referred to these “file exchanges” between the musicians and admitted that a new studio production was about to see the light of day. Diamond Star Halos therefore comes to us after the Def Leppard of 2015. An album title that comes from the hit “Bang A Gong (Get It On)” by T. Rex. The group rightly claims to pay homage to its early rock influences, like – in addition to the Marc Bolan band – David Bowie or Mott The Hoople. Diamond Star Halos intends to present the breadth of the band’s palette and the merit of honestly and faithfully developing the music of Def Leppard. Something to recall the great era if not to make it forget.
For obvious reasons, Def Leppard did not assemble in the studio and did not use the traditional recording method. The group worked remotely, shared between Ireland, the United States and England. A relevant choice for the group which made it possible to escape the constraints of the studios, even for a formation of this caliber. This twelfth effort is produced by the band, once again assisted by their faithful engineer and friend Ronan McHugh. The latter is perfectly at ease to deliver sounds typical of this old-fashioned mainstream rock but in an updated setting: booming bass, crystalline and reverberant guitars, “backing” drums and a voice that worships accuracy. and cleanliness. The opening of the opus “Take What You Want” undoubtedly creates a form of excitement. A guitar melody, chords and vibe that builds anticipation, followed by a releasing effect via a driving energetic rock riff, and a fully involved Joe Elliott. Def Leppard multiplies the markers as if to make up for seven years of silence. Leads with those ringing harmonics from ‘All We Need’ smack of Hysteria (1987), while ‘U Rok Mi’ and ‘Open Your Eyes’ feature the band’s most groovy side, with the bass of Rick Savage valued, in the continuity of “All Night” and “Man Enough” – respectively on Euphoria (1999) and the untitled. Two titles which have, moreover, the merit of reminding us of this quality of writing which made the success of the group. Diamond Star Halos knows how in places to encourage us to bring out the holey jeans and exuberant patches.
The concern lies precisely in a form of inconstancy. The most convincing songs rub shoulders with the pleasant, like the festive rock of “Kick” (the one on which the influence of T. Rex is most significant) or the bouncy “Fire It Up” designed to resonate in live in the stadiums. They also attend the dispensary. The ballad “This Guitar,” made with bluegrass/country artist Alison Krauss, features an American variety cliche that borders on supermarket sentimentality with generic country leads and an incidental vocal duo that doesn’t necessarily honor to the performers. The grit of the guitar solo sparks renewed interest, which fades as quickly as it lasts. “Lifeless”, again a duet with the singer, suffers from exactly the same shortcomings, with the added bonus of using a rhythm machine from another era. Def Leppard struggles on this type of title to provoke enthusiasm, far from the cachet of an energetic, intelligent and accessible rock of which the group has the secret. Yet Def Leppard has enough history to draw inspiration from what it has done most evocatively, even without going back to its golden age of the 80s. This is the case of “Liquid Dust” which touches the world music by integrating orchestrations and percussion with Indian sounds, and refers to the controversial but nevertheless qualitative nineties alternative rock of Slang (1996). Orchestrations, this time more classic, that we find to carry the ballads “Goodbye For Good This Time” and “Angels (Can’t Help You Now)” which both benefit from the flights of Mike Garson, pianist of David Bowie. After an “Unbreakable” which curiously combines twilight tracks, lively rhythm box and acoustic drums – for a result that is less wobbly than one might think, if not exalting –, the album ends on a more serious and solemn note. with “From Here To Eternity”. The variety of compositions is symptomatic of this Diamond Star Halos: Def Leppard would almost present a synthesis, at times awkward, of his career.
Def Leppard always has this science of catchy rock and catchy lines, whether they are the work of the voice of Joe Elliott or the guitarists Phil Collen and Vivan Campbell. It’s the album’s over-density and consistency problem that makes Diamond Star Halos frustrating. If Def Leppard has nothing more to prove and still has beautiful remains, the fifteen titles of Diamond Star Halos do not all have the same cachet and sometimes seem not to honor the seven years of patience. It even provokes a form of nostalgia: eras are nothing more than an amalgam of fictionalized memories.
Lyric video of the song “Take What You Want”:
Video clip of the song “Kick”:
Album Diamond Star Halosreleased on May 27, 2022 via Bludgeon Riffola/Mercury. Available for purchase here