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Rock - Released August 3, 1987 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Where Pyromania had set the standard for polished, catchy pop-metal, Hysteria only upped the ante. Pyromania's slick, layered Mutt Lange production turned into a painstaking obsession with dense sonic detail on Hysteria, with the result that some critics dismissed the record as a stiff, mechanized pop sellout (perhaps due in part to Rick Allen's new, partially electronic drum kit). But Def Leppard's music had always employed big, anthemic hooks, and few of the pop-metal bands who had hit the charts in the wake of Pyromania could compete with Leppard's sense of craft; certainly none had the pop songwriting savvy to produce seven chart singles from the same album, as the stunningly consistent Hysteria did. Joe Elliott's lyrics owe an obvious debt to his obsession with T. Rex, particularly on the playfully silly anthem "Pour Some Sugar on Me," and the British glam rock tribute "Rocket," while power ballads like "Love Bites" and the title track lack the histrionics or gooey sentimentality of many similar offerings. The strong pop hooks and "perfect"-sounding production of Hysteria may not appeal to die-hard heavy metal fans, but it isn't heavy metal -- it's pop-metal, and arguably the best pop-metal ever recorded. Its blockbuster success helped pave the way for a whole new second wave of hair metal bands, while proving that the late-'80s musical climate could also be very friendly to veteran hard rock acts, a lead many would follow in the next few years. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 20, 1983 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

While Def Leppard had obviously wanted to write big-sounding anthems on their previous records, Pyromania was where the band's vision coalesced and gelled into something more. More than ever before, the band's songs on Pyromania are driven by catchy, shiny melodic hooks instead of heavy guitar riffs, although the latter do pop up once in a while. But it wasn't just this newly intensified focus on melody and consistent songwriting (and heavy MTV exposure) that made Pyromania a massive success -- and the catalyst for the '80s pop-metal movement. Robert John "Mutt" Lange's buffed-to-a-sheen production -- polished drum and guitar sounds, multi-tracked layers of vocal harmonies, a general sanding of any and all musical rough edges, and a perfectionistic attention to detail -- set the style for much of the melodic hard rock that followed. It wasn't a raw or spontaneous sound, but the performances were still energetic and committed. Leppard's quest for huge, transcendent hard rock perfection on Pyromania was surprisingly successful; their reach never exceeded their grasp, which makes the album an enduring (and massively influential) classic. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Rock - Released June 11, 2021 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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Rock - Released October 5, 1993 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Retro Active is a collection of outtakes and leftovers spanning Def Leppard's entire career. Kicking off the disc, "Desert Song" and "Fractured Love" are two of its most distinctive tracks, harkening back to the band's early (pre-success) days with their rough power chords. After paying homage to some of their heroes with a set of covers (Sweet's "Action" and Mick Ronson's "Only After Dark"), the band tackles a couple of solid, but hardly groundbreaking ballads -- "Two Steps Behind" and "Miss You in a Heartbeat" -- before stretching out (with mixed results) on the folky "From the Inside." Taken from the Hysteria sessions, the classy "I Wanna Be Your Hero" is another pleasant surprise, and the band reaches all the way back to the beginning by re-recording their first demo "Ride into the Sun." Overall, this is an interesting release which marks the end of a long chapter in the band's history, following the death of guitarist and guiding force Steve Clark. While casual fans might find it confusing, Leppard fanatics will revel in its diversity and informative liner notes. © Eduardo Rivadavia /TiVo
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Rock - Released July 11, 1981 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Def Leppard's second album, High 'N' Dry, continues in the vein of the anthemic, working-class hard rock of their debut. While still opting for a controlled musical attack and melodies as big-sounding and stadium-ready as possible, the band opens up its arrangements a bit more on High 'N' Dry, letting the songs breathe and groove while the rhythm section and guitar riffs play off one another. MTV helped break the album in the U.S. with its heavy rotation of the video for the unabashedly dramatic rock ballad "Bringin' on the Heartbreak." © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 20, 1983 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

While Def Leppard had obviously wanted to write big-sounding anthems on their previous records, Pyromania was where the band's vision coalesced and gelled into something more. More than ever before, the band's songs on Pyromania are driven by catchy, shiny melodic hooks instead of heavy guitar riffs, although the latter do pop up once in a while. But it wasn't just this newly intensified focus on melody and consistent songwriting (and heavy MTV exposure) that made Pyromania a massive success -- and the catalyst for the '80s pop-metal movement. Robert John "Mutt" Lange's buffed-to-a-sheen production -- polished drum and guitar sounds, multi-tracked layers of vocal harmonies, a general sanding of any and all musical rough edges, and a perfectionistic attention to detail -- set the style for much of the melodic hard rock that followed. It wasn't a raw or spontaneous sound, but the performances were still energetic and committed. Leppard's quest for huge, transcendent hard rock perfection on Pyromania was surprisingly successful; their reach never exceeded their grasp, which makes the album an enduring (and massively influential) classic. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Rock - Released August 3, 1987 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Where Pyromania had set the standard for polished, catchy pop-metal, Hysteria only upped the ante. Pyromania's slick, layered Mutt Lange production turned into a painstaking obsession with dense sonic detail on Hysteria, with the result that some critics dismissed the record as a stiff, mechanized pop sellout (perhaps due in part to Rick Allen's new, partially electronic drum kit). But Def Leppard's music had always employed big, anthemic hooks, and few of the pop-metal bands who had hit the charts in the wake of Pyromania could compete with Leppard's sense of craft; certainly none had the pop songwriting savvy to produce seven chart singles from the same album, as the stunningly consistent Hysteria did. Joe Elliott's lyrics owe an obvious debt to his obsession with T. Rex, particularly on the playfully silly anthem "Pour Some Sugar on Me," and the British glam rock tribute "Rocket," while power ballads like "Love Bites" and the title track lack the histrionics or gooey sentimentality of many similar offerings. The strong pop hooks and "perfect"-sounding production of Hysteria may not appeal to die-hard heavy metal fans, but it isn't heavy metal -- it's pop-metal, and arguably the best pop-metal ever recorded. Its blockbuster success helped pave the way for a whole new second wave of hair metal bands, while proving that the late-'80s musical climate could also be very friendly to veteran hard rock acts, a lead many would follow in the next few years. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Rock - Released May 29, 2020 | Mercury Studios

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Rock - Released November 30, 2018 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Like 2005's Rock of Ages: The Definitive Collection, 2018's The Story So Far: The Best of Def Leppard spans 35 songs spread over two discs. Since this is a basic hits collection, that means there is considerable overlap between the two compilations: a grand total of 20 tracks, with the remaining 15 largely dedicated to deep cuts, along with a new cover of Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus." On the whole, The Story So Far doesn't necessarily best Rock of Ages, but it's not worse, either. The difference between the two compilations is on the margins, with the album cuts on both proving that Def Leppard delivered plenty of excellent music that wasn't always hits. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Metal - Released October 30, 2015 | earMUSIC

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There are two ways to look at an eponymous album by a band well into its fourth decade of existence: it's either a rebirth or a summation. In the case of Def Leppard's 2015 album -- their eleventh studio set, arriving a full seven years after Songs from the Sparkle Lounge -- the record is most certainly the latter, a nifty encapsulation of the group's range, obsessions, and ambitions. At 55 minutes, Def Leppard feels nearly as sprawling as the hour-plus Hysteria -- one of the first albums to ever feel specifically designed to fill out the confines of a CD -- but where that 1987 classic pulsates with the arrogance of a band hungering to conquer the world, this 2015 set is distinguished by the casual authority of a band who remain a band solely for the love of it. Unlike many groups with decades of experience under their belts, Def Leppard aren't particularly concerned with maturity, at least not in the conventional sense where they turn in fuzz guitars and heavy-booted stomps for sepia-toned reflections. They're still pledging allegiance to glam and heavy metal, favoring arena-sized riffs, and slathering their productions with vocal harmonies and guitars. While this self-production lacks some of the finesse Mutt Lange brought to the twin towers of Pyromania and Hysteria -- both are titans of the golden age of big-budget studios, while this is a relatively scrappy 21st century digital production -- this record can still dazzle with its pyramid of overdubs, intricate details that never sound fussy. Most of Def Leppard stays firmly within the band's wheelhouse -- muscular descendants of glitter alternating with power ballads -- and the group is confident enough to flirt with disco ("Man Enough," where Joe Elliott asks his object of affection if she's man enough to be his girl) and electronic beats ("Energized"), which is just enough to give this record an appealingly modern kick. This is a summation of where the band is now: they love the past, both their own and their inspirations, but they're not looking back, they're loving the life they live. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released July 11, 1981 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Def Leppard's second album, High 'N' Dry, continues in the vein of the anthemic, working-class hard rock of their debut. While still opting for a controlled musical attack and melodies as big-sounding and stadium-ready as possible, the band opens up its arrangements a bit more on High 'N' Dry, letting the songs breathe and groove while the rhythm section and guitar riffs play off one another. MTV helped break the album in the U.S. with its heavy rotation of the video for the unabashedly dramatic rock ballad "Bringin' on the Heartbreak." © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Rock - Released May 29, 2020 | Mercury Studios

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Rock - Released November 30, 2018 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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Like 2005's Rock of Ages: The Definitive Collection, 2018's The Story So Far: The Best of Def Leppard spans 35 songs spread over two discs. Since this is a basic hits collection, that means there is considerable overlap between the two compilations: a grand total of 20 tracks, with the remaining 15 largely dedicated to deep cuts, along with a new cover of Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus." On the whole, The Story So Far doesn't necessarily best Rock of Ages, but it's not worse, either. The difference between the two compilations is on the margins, with the album cuts on both proving that Def Leppard delivered plenty of excellent music that wasn't always hits. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released March 14, 1980 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

On Through the Night, Def Leppard's debut album, established the band as one of the leading lights of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. While possessing the tight, controlled attack of comrades Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, Def Leppard was uninterested in the fantastic, menacing, and sometimes gothic themes of those bands; instead, On Through the Night is a collection of working-class hard rock anthems informed by the big, glittering hooks of glam rock. It may lack the detailed production and more pop-oriented songwriting of later efforts, but it's also arguably their heaviest album, and some Leppard fans prefer this sound. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Rock - Released March 31, 1992 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

After two straight blockbusters that delivered the goods both musically and commercially, anticipation ran high for Def Leppard's follow-up to Hysteria, in spite of the tragic death of guitarist Steve Clark. Unfortunately, Adrenalize sounds somewhat tired, formulaic, and bland, qualities absent from the band's best pop-metal work. Perhaps somewhat understandably, Leppard doesn't sound like their heart is really in the party anthems, and their ballads sound more calculated and generic. But most of all, the songs don't really have the effortlessly anthemic feel Leppard achieved so well on their past two albums, even though they try mightily. Adrenalize is competent, workmanlike, and impeccably produced, but not much more. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Rock - Released October 12, 2018 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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Rock - Released June 8, 1999 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Even though Slang successfully revitalized Def Leppard, it didn't become a huge hit, which was a disappointment, considering that the band adjusted their sound to fit the times. Taking that into account, Def Leppard set out to make a classic Def Leppard album with Slang's successor, Euphoria. And, surprisingly, that's exactly what they've delivered. From the outset, it's clear that Euphoria finds the band returning to the glam-inflected, unabashedly catchy, arena-ready pop-metal that made them stars -- and it's also clear that they're not concerned with having a hit, they just want to make a good record. For them, that means returning to the pop-metal formula that made Pyromania and Hysteria blockbusters, even if they must know that this signature sound no longer guarantees a hit at the close of the '90s. It is true that this approach means Euphoria sounds out of time in 1999, but it's a tight, attractive album with more than its share of big hooks, strong riffs, and memorable melodies. There are a couple of slow moments here and there, but no more than those on Hysteria, and the best songs (particularly the opening triptych of "Demoltion Man," "Promises," "Back in Your Face," plus the jangly Beatles-esque "21st Century Sha-La-La Girl") are worthy additions to an already strong catalog. But what's best about Euphoria is that it's utterly not self-conscious. Def Leppard feels free to try straight pop, appropriate Gary Glitter riffs, or play straight metal, without caring whether it's hip or commercial. That doesn't mean Euphoria is a classic, but it does mean that it's their most appealing effort in over a decade. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released May 23, 2006 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Def Leppard always had a streak of glam running beneath their heavy rock -- listen to "Armageddon It" or "Photograph" for proof -- so it's no surprise that when the quintet decided to record a covers album in 2006, they devoted it to the '70s glam and hard rock that inspired them to pick up their guitars and play. What does come as a surprise is that the resulting Yeah! is a sheer delight, a roaring rock & roll record that's their best album since Hysteria. Often, cover albums get bogged down in reverence or ambition, as artists either offer interpretations that are straight copies or fussy reinterpretations as they busily try to make a favorite song their own. That's not the case here. Def Leppard alternate between fairly faithful renditions of familiar classics like T. Rex's "20th Century Boy," Badfinger's "No Matter What," or David Essex's "Rock On," to subtle reinterpretations where they make seemingly difficult covers seem easy and unmistakably Def Leppard. It's true on their streamlined, muscular take on Electric Light Orchestra's swirling, psychedelic "10538 Overture," but it's most notable on their remarkable reworking of the Kinks' "Waterloo Sunset," which now sounds like a power ballad from Hysteria without ever once sounding like it's an affront to the immortal original. This take on "Waterloo Sunset" works because it's informed by a palpable love of the original, and that love is apparent throughout this terrific record. But there are plenty of good covers albums that are fun merely because the band is having a good time. What makes Yeah! exceptional is that Def Leppard is reconnecting with the reason why they're even in a band by playing the rock & roll that inspired them in the first place. They're reinvigorated by this material, and by playing these songs, it's easier to appreciate what makes Def Leppard a great rock & roll band. Compare their versions of Free's "A Little Bit of Love" or Thin Lizzy's "Don't Believe a Word" to the originals -- they're not as big and bluesy as Free, but the huge riff that drives the song is a direct forefather of Leppard's powerful signature sound, and "Don't Believe a Word" hammers home that few bands built on Lizzy's twin guitar harmonies as well as this group did. But it's not just that these covers put Leppard's music in context; it's that they sound more like a genuine rock & roll gang than they ever have: listen to the truly raw take on the Faces' "Stay with Me," which may not be quite as sloppy as the original (how could it be?), but it's equally greasy and riveting -- plus, it's sung with raw gusto by guitarist Phil Collen, whose turn on the mic emphasizes that this is a sound of a true group. They still sound like Def Leppard -- there are still cavernous drums, huge guitars, and driving harmonies -- but they no longer sound as slick and calculated as they did on their albums after Hysteria; they sound alive and vigorous, making a convincing case that they're now their own best producers. If they could carry this sound and feel onto an album of originals, they would have a killer record, but saying that diminishes the accomplishment of Yeah!. It's a killer record in its own right, and more pure fun than anything yet released in 2006. Few bands could achieve an artistic comeback via a covers album, but as this glorious record proves, there are few bands like Def Leppard. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released March 31, 1992 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

After two straight blockbusters that delivered the goods both musically and commercially, anticipation ran high for Def Leppard's follow-up to Hysteria, in spite of the tragic death of guitarist Steve Clark. Unfortunately, Adrenalize sounds somewhat tired, formulaic, and bland, qualities absent from the band's best pop-metal work. Perhaps somewhat understandably, Leppard doesn't sound like their heart is really in the party anthems, and their ballads sound more calculated and generic. But most of all, the songs don't really have the effortlessly anthemic feel Leppard achieved so well on their past two albums, even though they try mightily. Adrenalize is competent, workmanlike, and impeccably produced, but not much more. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Rock - Released March 20, 2020 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)