Prior to the release of “Hysteria” in 1987, things were not going well for DEF LEPPARD. Drummer Rick Allen lost his arm in a car accident, guitarist Steve Clark was discovering the wonderful world of substance abuse (something that would sadly lead to his death in 1991), and producer Mutt Lange had declined to work on the new record, relinquishing his position to composer Jim Steinman. At this point, it seemed practically impossible that DEF LEPPARD could ever match the wildfire success of “Pyromania”.
However, the stars realigned themselves in the band’s favor one last time, as Allen, thanks to his new electronic drum kit, was able to continue his career with DEF LEPPARD. Not only that, but Mutt Lange also returned to the fold with the feverish intention of creating DEF LEPPARD’s most popular album ever. Well, he certainly achieved that goal.
“Hysteria” is often the source of much debate among DEF LEPPARD fans. Folks who enjoyed the band’s heavier early days (“High ‘n’ Dry”) were turned off by the sheer commerciality of the record; on the other hand, it brought the band a much broader audience, making people stop and think, “Hey, Heavy Metal isn’t so bad after all.” Personally, I believe that, in terms of a straightforward Rock record, “Hysteria” deserves its status as a massive hit.
Though it certainly lacks the punch of earlier releases, I still believe that “Hysteria” is a solid entry in the DEF LEPPARD discography, thanks to hits like “Love Bites”, “Armageddon It”, and the title track. I mean, when the first half of the album (yes, from opener “Women” all the way to “Armageddon It”) is all hit singles, you know the band’s done something right.
Still, as many DEF LEPPARD fans will attest, “Hysteria” has its fair share of issues. I’ve never been a fan of the song “Rocket”, mostly because it’s performed using as little instrumental talent as possible, its lyrics consist entirely of buzzwords, and it’s about three minutes too long. Also, prior to working on this album, Mutt Lange had worked with THE CARS on “Heartbeat City”, and the products of that union can be heard in “Animal”. Bleh. However, the biggest complaint everyone has with “Hysteria” is that it is absolutely drenched with reverb, and I couldn’t agree more. I mean, the freakin’ Grand Canyon has less echo.
At over 12 million copies sold, it’s hard to dispute the sheer popularity of “Hysteria”. If you want an essential Rock album, pick it up immediately. It’s one of the definitive Rock albums of the 80s, and although it may have been a disappointment to fans who were hoping for another “High ‘n’ Dry” or “Pyromania”, it’s still solid enough to be considered worthy of its legendary status in my book.
(Online December 9, 2006)