It’s been said in the past – and I’m sure many of you reading this have heard it before but it bears repeating as we prepare to dive into this review– if history’s great classical composers were alive today, they would likely be writing and performing metal music. Bach, Beethoven, and the like were the rock stars of their time – and their music was considered radical and over the top.
In more modern times many metal bands have embraced that train of thought and released recordings of themselves performing with a full orchestra behind them – the first time I personally remember seeing and hearing this was when Aerosmith performed Dream On for an MTV special back in the early 80’s – totally blew me away. Since that time everyone from Metallica to KISS to The Beach Boys has found themselves an orchestra, plugged in, and let it rock – with varying levels of success.
With the release of DRASTIC SYMPHONIES – 80’s rockers DEF LEPPARD have raised the bar on what it means to release a symphonic metal album.
To my knowledge, there has never been a recording quite like DRASTIC SYMPHONIES – the production, the concept, and the overall aesthetic of the tracks is monumental – and the end result is a truly unique, genre-bending, and dare I say inspirational collection of near perfection.
Opting to do things differently – the band didn’t just set up in front of an orchestra and let er rip – instead, the songs were basically rewritten to accommodate the orchestration which, as the album title suggests, drastically alters the feel of several well-known tracks – and adds a depth and emotion to others that startled me.
The band has stated that the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was recorded live – playing to a combination of both newly recorded band tracks, mixed with some of the original album recordings. There are points in the album where lead singer Joe Elliot is duetting with the younger version of himself – after repeated listening these points are obvious but no less impressive.
An incredible mix of live recording and technical wizardry that join forces to create what I’m feeling might just be the band’s masterwork – this is one that fans and scholars might be discussing long after we are gone.
Coming in at an impressive 16 tracks – the band brings us an interesting mix of FM radio classics while tossing in a handful of lesser-known tracks that make for an exhilarating listening experience, you just don’t know what each new track is going to bring and I found myself falling in love with a couple of tunes that had appeared on previous albums but not caught my attention but with this new format – a new life has been injected.
The only song I really didn’t care for was the much slowed-down, almost syrupy take on POUR SOME SUGAR ON ME – mainly because the highly sexed-up lyrics just sound really bizarre as an orchestrated duet. The music is beautiful, but the words are actually pretty hilarious in context. Likely the only track on this collection that I will be skipping over when I’m giving this album repeated listens.
Other tracks like BRINGING ON THE HEARTBREAK, complete with SWITCH 625, HAVE YOU EVEN NEEDED SOMEONE SO BAD, and WHEN LOVE AND HATE COLLIDE seem like they were written to be performed with a full Orchestra – yet other songs that were reworked like ANIMAL, HYSTERIA and LOVE BITES take on a whole new depth in this new format.
A couple of tracks that I had never paid attention to before certainly deserve a mention now – PAPER SUN and GODS OF WAR are both powerhouses but the final track, KINGS OF THE WORLD ends up taking on a serious Queen vibe, sounding like a missing track from the FLASH GORDON soundtrack and playing like a rock festival sing along, in my mind, I see 70,000 people, hands high in the air just belting this out as their lives depend on it – honestly, I can’t stop listening to it.
DRASTIC SYMPHONIES is an achievement – it is to be celebrated – it is to be praised but more importantly, it is to be listened to and enjoyed.