Just when it seemed like synthesizers had taken over the airwaves, along comes Def Leppard with Pyromania, a heavy-metal album full of brawling guitars and boasting state-of-the-radio production. Steve Clark and new member Phil Collen’s fat fuzz riffs and power chords are more emotionally charged than most of the synthesized disco that passes for “modern music,” and Robert John “Mutt” Lange’s work behind the board brings singer Joe Elliott’s screaming vocals into focus.
“Action! Not words,” crows Elliott in the track of the same name, and that modus operandi holds true for most of the album. Rick Allen’s crack-shot drumming, the thick layers of guitars and the enveloping echo of Lange’s artfully busy mix more than cover up the street-corner rhyming of these tales of Tarzan sexuality and macho party exploits. But this young band (the average age is twenty-one) demonstrates surprising sophistication as it manipulates old heavy-metal tricks into tight, invigorating songs while holding epic pretensions in check. Both “Comin’ under Fire” and “Photograph” combine the kaboom of AC/DC with slick choruses and brassy vocal harmonies that sound like a gassed-up Boston. Def Leppard may not be highly original, but they mean what they play, and Pyromania puts some much-needed fire back on the radio.