This year celebrating its 40th anniversary, ‘Pyromania’ was released on 20 January 1983 and remains one of Def Leppard’s greatest albums.
‘Pyromania’ is the album that transformed Def Leppard from a British heavy metal band into international rock superstars. It represents a significant shift in musical direction for the band that redefined their sound and catapulted them towards global domination.
Def Leppard formed in Sheffield, England in 1976 and came to prominence at the vanguard of the new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) with their first two albums ‘On Through The Night’ (1980) and ‘High ‘n’ Dry’ (1981).
For ‘High ‘n’ Dry’, Def Leppard had worked with producer Robert John ‘Mutt’ Lange who encouraged the band to expand their hard rock style with more melodic hooks and grander compositions. Lange was brought in again for the third album and is largely credited with creating the definitive Def Leppard sound first achieved on ‘Pyromania’.
The recording of ‘Pyromania’ occurred against the backdrop of a turbulent evolutionary period for heavy metal that saw the emergence of new sub-genres, guitar playing techniques and technological advances.
As heavy metal entered adolescence in the early ‘80s, US bands like Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax were taking the form to an aggressive extreme with thrash. At the other end of the spectrum, hair metal was taking root on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles with bands like Mötley Crüe and Guns N’ Roses.
It was also a time of innovation for the guitar itself, as guitarists embraced playing techniques such as tapping and legatos, which allowed for fast, clean note runs in their solos. Meanwhile, the introduction of the Floyd Rose Locking Tremolo system in 1976 had opened a new dimension of control over the instrument for players, allowing them to lower the pitch of a note in a divebomb or raise it to a deafening squeal.
Along with the immortal influence of Eddie Van Halen, the gate was swung wide open for an influx of virtuosic shredders such as Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Paul Gilbert and Yngwie J Malsteem.
Which brings us back to Def Leppard, who in 1982 were undergoing serious changes of their own with the firing of founding guitarist Pete Willis. Willis was fired for alcohol abuse and replaced by current lead guitarist Phil Collen, who came into the band towards the end of recording ‘Pyromania’.
“The songs were brilliant; they were really good. Everything was so well-played,” Phil recently stated in a recent interview with Scenestr Magazine.
“When I got there, it was just all the fun parts – all the lead stuff and the solos, singing backing vocals. A lot of the heavy lifting had already been done, but I really do attribute a lot of it to Mutt Lange.”
The addition of Phil Collen reinvigorated Def Leppard’s sound with a signature guitar style that distinguished them from not just other NWOBHM bands but any other band on the planet.
Each track on ‘Pyromania’ embodies this revived spirit, from hard-hitting opener ‘Rock Rock (Till You Drop)’ through classics such as ‘Photograph’, ‘Die Hard The Hunter’, ‘Rock Of Ages’ and closing number ‘Billy’s Got A Gun’.
‘Pyromania’ began a new era of global success for Def Leppard that would make them one of the biggest bands in history. It laid the sonic framework for follow-up album ‘Hysteria’, also produced by Mutt Lange, and the two albums are often considered Def Leppard’s greatest works.
Become What You Are’, the new album from The Daisycutters is available now via MADCAP Global Music, JB Hi-Fi and independent music retailers.