2015 Preview: Def Leppard, John Fogerty, Haletstorm & Michael Schenker

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From arena rock giants Def Leppard to hard rock upstarts Halestorm, these are four essential albums set to emerge in the next 12 months.

DEF LEPPARD

Yorkshire heroes to return with surprise new LP.

The as-yet-untitled album is scheduled for release in late spring. While the basic tracks are pretty much done, there’s still work to do and Elliott is cagey about giving away too much.

“We’re not looking back to our past, though there are a couple of songs where you go: ‘Oh, that sounds like classic Leppard,’” he says. “There are a couple of slow songs, but I wouldn’t call them ballads. Some of the songs haven’t got titles, so we’re referencing other bands when we talk about them – we call one of the songs Beatles.”

It’s not all been plain sailing. Earlier this year guitarist Vivian Campbell suffered a setback in his fight against Hodgkins lymphoma. In June he announced that the cancer had returned, though it has since gone into remission again. While he is fully involved in the new album, he was forced to sit out Leppard’s most recent US tour.

“Am I worried about Viv? No, I’m not,” says Elliott. “I think he’s going to be fine. He’s not worried about him, and that’s half the battle. He’s, like, ‘I’m going to beat this fucking thing.’ He’s a hundred per cent in remission again.”

According to Elliott, 2015 is about looking forward for Def Leppard – not something they’ve always done, in fairness. Between their hugely successful 2013 Las Vegas run – in which they played 1987’s Hysteria in its entirety – and their no-less-successful co-headlining tours with fellow survivors such as Whitesnake, Kiss, Foreigner and Poison, they’ve occasionally been guilty of pandering to the nostalgia dollar. Not so, according to Elliott.

“I don’t think that it’s fair to use the word ‘nostalgia’ any more,” he fires back. “That’s as redundant as us thinking about recording an EP. Everyone’s embracing the Stones at fifty, Aerosmith at forty, us and Maiden and fucking Duran Duran at thirty-five. It’s a badge of honour to have survived this long.”

The new album is expected in spring 2015.

JOHN FOGERTY

Multi-tasking ex-Creedence man promises new music - soon.

John Fogerty’s celebration of his past will continue full-bore into 2015. The former Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman spent part of last year celebrating the band’s 1969, a year in which they enjoyed three Top 10 albums and four Top 5 singles. Fogerty played 17 1969-oriented shows in Canada, and plans to take the concept into the US and possibly overseas in 2015. “It’s been fun,” he says. “You’re presenting an era, really, which has been as much fun for me as for the audience.”

Fans of Fogerty’s past will have more to enjoy in the coming months. He’s putting the finishing touches to a revealing autobiography that’s slated for publication some time in 2015. “I’m just being brutally honest,” he says. “I’m not trying to shock or surprise anybody. I’m not running for President or anything, so there’s no need to whitewash the life that I’ve lived.” Also coming up is a retrospective, career-spanning box set. Fogerty, however, is light on the exact details, except to acknowledge there are plenty of hands on board putting it together. “I’m a lot mellower guy than I was in 1968. I used to have my finger in every single subject and was basically directing it, but I think I’ve tempered myself over the years and let stuff out of my grasp, or at least try not to have an ulcer about it.”

But Fogerty isn’t just lolling in past glories. As well as building a studio in his California home, he’s also working on new music and fully expects to follow up his last all-new album, 2009’s The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again, sooner rather than later. “I have a guitar in my hands every day, so ideas develop from that, and those will turn into songs at some point, I’m sure.”

ETA: Summer 2015

HALESTORM

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Pennsylvanian posse’s fresh-from-the-stage songs recorded in a church.

Given that their first two albums have brought Halestorm a Grammy Award and an army of fans, swapping their radio-friendly commercial rock for high-voltage metal could be either an admirable progression or career suicide. One listen to new tracks such as Mayhem from the band’s as-yet-untitled third album, however, and the decision seems like a masterstroke. Drawing on off-kilter stoner riffing and a frantic thrash chorus, the track is a bold statement of intent for what is to come, as Halestorm trade slick production for electric energy. As frontwoman Lzzy Hale explains, it’s a side that the band have previously failed to capture in the studio.

“For years now we’ve put out records that are clean and ready for radio,” says Hale. “I’m very proud of those two records, but there was always something that happened during a live show that was never captured. We wanted to make sure the performances were captured this time.”

The new album sees Halestorm transformed from wide-eyed kids to road-worn warriors. And they took that attitude into the studio with them, taking the decision for the band members to record their parts live at the same time in one room. Lzzy admits that ditching the formula that worked so well on previous album The Strange Case Of… could backfire horrendously: “It’s not broken, but we made this record a little selfishly for us. We want to move forward though. This will either be the best or worst decision we ever made. It’s a risk, but isn’t that what music is all about?”

If this new approach does provide a flop, Lzzy is sure that it will just be the latest, rather than the final, step in the band’s journey. “My goal has always been just to continue. We’re not one of those bands that will have a record that makes us all millionaires. We’ve been a slow and steady train that is moving forward. Maybe we’ll take two steps back but then we’ll take four forward. If we keep doing that, we’ll be okay.”

ETA: Spring 2015

MICHAEL SCHENKER

German guitar god fights back after boozy burnout.

After a very public, alcohol-fuelled burnout eight years ago, Michael Schenker has got his career back on track. His last album, 2013’s Bridge The Gap, was recorded with a group called Temple Of Rock, teaming the former UFO guitarist with his one-time Scorpions bandmates Francis Buchholz (bass) and Herman Rarebell (drums), plus ex-Rainbow vocalist Doogie White.

The same line-up, completed by guitarist/keyboard player Wayne Findlay, also recorded its successor, the forthcoming Spirit On A Mission. Having written four songs with Findlay, Schenker cites him as a rising star. “Wayne has been developing since 2004, and he plays seven-string guitar on this album,” he explains. “We use that instrument to create depth, contrasting the speed, energy and colour of everything else – including the vocals.”

Even a burglary at producer Michael Voss’s studio in Germany didn’t derail the project. Some parts of the music were lost, along with a couple of Schenker’s favourite guitars. Although the guitars have not been recovered, the segments of music were re-recorded.

Due for release in March 2015, Spirit On A Mission continues Schenker’s unlikely renaissance. “I’m celebrating my own generation of rock, which began with Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath,” he suggests. “Maybe, emotionally speaking, I’m summing it all up and presenting who I am today.”

ETA: March 2015