Review of Def Leppard Drastic Symphonies album

Album Review: Def Leppard – Drastic Symphonies

That was waaaaay better than expected.

Def Leppard joined with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for their latest album Drastic Symphonies out today that revisits some of their hits and a few deep album cuts with a true classical band. So, no newly written music from the classic rockers and though the seemingly popular rock-band-marries-an-orchestra fad seems here to stay Def Leppard also markets Drastic Symphonies as more a deconstruction of or a reimagining of select tracks from their catalog, an idea that sounds like an emerging approach for bands hitting their twilight years. See U2 Songs of Surrender.

For the 16 song Drastic Symphonies, Def Leppard used the original audio tapes performed alongside the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra while adding new vocals – sometimes singer Joe Elliott sings alongside his younger self – and guitar work. Guitarist Phil Collen said they recorded new parts, remixed past sounds and took out some of their instruments so the orchestra could breathe, stating the band literally made a new album.

An interesting concept, as the band had their hand in making new music in some form or another with some engaging new versions of songs you’ve heard a thousand times plus a few you might need to search out. Would be interesting for those hearing a deep cut for the first time like “Turn to Dust” and “Kings of the World” which open and close the album, respectively, if these newer versions settle in better than the originals. That’s an auditory study someone else can investigate.

As such, the Arabian Nights sounding “Turn to Dust” shows right away this collaboration works, same for “Paper Sun” in an alternate version that might best the original while the band produces even more romantic adaptions for  “Animal,” “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad” and “When Love & Hate Collide.”

“Love Bites” doesn’t stray far at all from the original instead resembling a live mix Def Leppard would have surprised fans with on a past tour. “Goodbye for Good This Time,” off last year’s critically acclaimed Diamond Star Halos, blends perfectly in front of an orchestra. “Hysteria” and “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” along with its usual companion “Switch 625” both successfully embrace the classical arrangement with “Switch 625” sounding more like a movie score.

The orchestra accompaniment adds a different experience for “Gods of War” in some respects enhancing the original recording while the cello on “Too Late for Love” stirs up the Renaissance, that era only broken up by several new guitar parts. The overly sappy “Love” off Songs from the Sparkle Lounge didn’t transform all that much, same with the Queen-ish “Kings of the World” one of several new tracks included on the live Mirror Ball album. “Angels (Can’t Help You Now)” came across a bit overdone.

But what did they do to “Pour Some Sugar On Me”? Skip this version. You can’t unhear it. If there’s such a thing as ear candy then this wreck introduces ear soap. Def Leppard completely dismantles their biggest song. Maybe if the original wasn’t so good, this version wouldn’t be so bad. Nope, never mind. It just doesn’t work. Should have taken a bottle and completely shaken this one up (if that was the goal) instead of keeping a semblance of the original chorus and song structure with a completely mismatched melody.

Purists may rightfully scoff at this rock and classical music alliance but most of the songs on Drastic Symphonies retain the integrity of the original recordings while adding fresh thematic elements. So the next time you hear that same ole Def Leppard song on the radio you might prefer one of these tracks. Except for one. You’ll really come to appreciate a little sugar, in its original form.

Grade: B

Def Leppard Drastic Symphonies Songs:

  1. Turn to Dust
  2. Paper Sun
  3. Animal
  4. Pour Some Sugar On Me
  5. Hysteria
  6. Love Bites
  7. Goodbye for Good This Time
  8. Love
  9. Gods of War
  10. Angels (Can’t Help You Now)
  11. Bringin’ On the Heartbreak
  12. Switch 625
  13. Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad
  14. Too Late for Love
  15. When Love & Hate Collide
  16. Kings of the World

9 thoughts on “Album Review: Def Leppard – Drastic Symphonies

  1. I streamed about half of it and it was quite good especially the first two tracks Turn To Dust and Paper Sun. I’m not big on these as once all the bands started doing them I got bored but I have to admit I may get this at some point on vinyl…may that is….
    Great stuff Sir!

  2. While the orchestrations themselves are nice, particularly on tracks like “Hysteria” and “Goodbye For Good This Time”, I just don’t think this classical treatment is a good fit for Def Leppard’s music. Case in point is “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, as you alluded to.

      1. It does work at times, but more often with symphonic rock bands, or when it’s incorporated into the music to begin with, such as with bands like Dream Theater, Pink Floyd, the Moody Blues, King Crimson, ELO, Yes, or even Rush.

      2. ohhh, dream theater. have to check that one out! Yes just released a new album too. last one wasn’t too good. I’ll see about this one.

Comments are closed.