DEF LEPPARD – Drastic Symphonies (2023) *HQ* Exclusive
On their upcoming new album ”Drastic Symphonies”, DEF LEPPARD have drastically deconstructed and reimagined some of their biggest hits, collaborating with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Recorded at the legendary Abbey Road Studios in London, this is a bold new approach to the orchestral hits formula for the band.
By and large, they have intertwined the audio from the original tapes and performed them alongside the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The album includes new vocals and guitars which culminates in stunningly beautiful symphonic arrangements. At different points, you can hear Joe Elliott duetting with his younger self.
Of course, the mix of hard rock and classical music is something that’s been around for decades, Deep Purple having led the way with their 1969 album Concerto For Group and Orchestra, the gauntlet picked up by Metallica, Scorpions and KISS, amongst others.
Honestly, we were expecting just another band-playing-with-orchestra album… no… you’ll will be surprised… this is a real ‘new’ album, ‘new’ songs… and results are spectacular. As example, the ‘new’ ‘Too Late For Love’ – one of our fav Def Lepp songs ever – is totally new, seriously, a new epic, impressive song – my God, this is truly outstanding.
What makes ”Drastic Symphonies” special is not just the blending of these two worlds but the faultless skill shown here, the arrangements and playing dovetailing into something that reaches beyond the expected.
Eschewing the temptation to shoehorn orchestral instruments into their back catalogue, ”Drastic Symphonies” sees cherry-picked favourites and deeper cuts morphed with tender care and a subtle understanding of the dynamics of the material.
Ranging from the aching ‘Love’ to the gloriously bombastic ‘Switch 625’, this is a career-spanning set that’s light years away from the nascent rough-edged thrill of Wasted and Getcha Rocks Off but equally as compelling.
With the boldness of Diamond Star Halos, a loud and proud declaration that Leppard were back, they’ve come to this with a sky-high confidence that sees them riding that wave and pushing ever forward.
Despite the position they find themselves in now, there is still an edge here that balances their knowledge of their skills with that first, shared gasp as strings swell to confirm that they’ve pulled it off. You can never imagine the Sheffield quintet doing anything rushed, but given the weight inherent in recording at Abbey Road Studios and the company they were keeping there, the whole must have been overwhelming on first listen, and that feeling is present with every note.
With the astounding orchestration by Eric Gorfain and sections that have been either re-recorded or stripped back of the original layers, the tracks have taken a new life of their own, bringing a freshness to some well-loved and known favourites.
Oddly, the first track revealed from the project, ‘Animal’, works least well here, but given the dizzying heights of what they’ve achieved, it’s only trailing compared to the staggering quality of the rest. Amongst the sixteen tracks, the layered approach taken provides its own dividends as ‘Hysteria’ whilst is played relatively straight, but glistening embellishments make it really shine.
‘Gods of War ‘sounds bigger than ever, and a truly remarkable ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ turns from fun rocker to stately ballad, with additional vocals by Emm Gryner a beautiful touch.
These new versions give the band scope to experiment a little, having fun outside of their usual stadium-filling template, and the Middle Eastern mystery of the Led Zeppelin-ish ‘Turn To Dust’ and the ELO meets Queen sweep of ‘Paper Sun’ have an immediate impact.
Elsewhere, the cinematic glam of ‘Goodbye For Good This Time’, the filmic psychedelia of ‘Angels (Can’t Help You Now)’ and the emotional longing of ‘Love Bites’ and ‘Too Late For Love’ provide their own synapse-firing highlights.
The ‘new’ ‘Too Late For Love’ – one of our fav Def Lepp songs ever – is totally new, seriously, a new epic, impressive song – my God, this is truly outstanding.
By the end of the grandstanding and cocksure ‘Kings Of The World’, it’s game, set and match to Leppard, ”Drastic Symphonies” having managed to win over and melt the hardest of hearts.
Their most ambitious album to date and without doubt one of their finest, this is a triumph that has the potential to be Leppard’s greatest musical legacy.
01 – Turn To Dust
02 – Paper Sun
03 – Animal
04 – Pour Some Sugar On Me (Stripped version)
05 – Hysteria
06 – Love Bites
07 – Goodbye For Good This Time
08 – Love
09 – 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