Def Leppard have just released their best album in 30 years

Def Leppard studio album number 12 Diamond Star Halos is a sparkling set that proves there’s life in these old cats yet

Def Leppard: Diamond Star Halos cover art
(Image: © Bludgeon Riffola)

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The title of this seventh album by the current Def Leppard line-up – founder members vocalist Joe Elliott and bassist Rick Savage, along with drummer Rick Allen and guitarists Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell, together now for 30 years – comes from a line in T.Rex’s Get It On

It’s a choice, Leppard suggest, that reflects the influence of the glam-rock era on the album. That is particularly noticeable on first singles Kick and Fire It Up. It’s also largely true of every Def Leppard album to date. 

As on 2015’s self-titled predecessor, Collen and Elliott provide the lion’s share of the material. Savage is the only other band member’s name in the writing credits, and the album opens with his brilliant Take What You Want (co-credited to Elliott). It’s classic Leppard that soars on a killer-diller riff.

Thereafter all the band’s earworm signatures are present and correct. Especially strong are SOS Emergency, All We Need, Open Your Eyes, Gimme A Kiss and Unbreakable – stadium pleasers in the grand Leppard tradition. 

There are some surprises, though. Not least that there is so much to absorb – with 15 tracks it’s the busiest album they’ve ever made. And with a running time of 61 and a half minutes it’s almost the longest – only 1987’s Hysteria shades it, running one minute longer. 

If you stream it or listen to it on CD, you’ll notice that Diamond Star Halos is an album that ebbs and flows. This is due to sequencing that works perfectly across four sides of vinyl. Whether or not it was conceived as one, this is best appreciated as a double album: three sides, each begun by three rockers and ending with a change of pace, then a shorter fourth side that abandons the pattern and goes out on the high of Savage’s From Here To Eternity, an epic track with a swinging, Pink Floyd-like tempo.

The four change-of-pace tracks all feature a guest appearance. Robert Plant associate Alison Krauss sings on the two quasi-country rock tracks This Guitar and Lifeless, by Collen and Elliott respectively. More dramatically, Bowie’s piano man Mike Garson weighs in to great effect on Goodbye For Good This Time and Angels (Can’t Help You Now), two big ballads conceived by the singer, with string sections and fine guitar solos played on nylon and electric respectively. 

Two years in the making, Diamond Star Halos seems to aim higher than Leppard’s last couple of albums, the band thinking long and working extra hard on this one. It’s a lot to absorb, but its’s comfortably the best album by this line-up.

Neil Jeffries

Freelance contributor to Classic Rock and several of its offshoots since 2006. In the 1980s he began a 15-year spell working for Kerrang! intially as a cub reviewer and later as Geoff Barton’s deputy and then pouring precious metal into test tubes as editor of its Special Projects division. Has spent quality time with Robert Plant, Keith Richards, Ritchie Blackmore, Rory Gallagher and Gary Moore – and also spent time in a maximum security prison alongside Love/Hate. Loves Rush, Aerosmith and beer. Will work for food.