There are two ways to look at an eponymous album by a band well into its fourth decade of existence: it's either a rebirth or a summation. In the case of Def Leppard's 2015 album -- their eleventh studio set, arriving a full seven years after Songs from the Sparkle Lounge -- the record is most certainly the latter, a nifty encapsulation of the group's range, obsessions, and ambitions. At 55 minutes, Def Leppard feels nearly as sprawling as the hour-plus Hysteria -- one of the first albums to ever feel specifically designed to fill out the confines of a CD -- but where that 1987 classic pulsates with the arrogance of a band hungering to conquer the world, this 2015 set is distinguished by the casual authority of a band who remain a band solely for the love of it. Unlike many groups with decades of experience under their belts, Def Leppard aren't particularly concerned with maturity, at least not in the conventional sense where they turn in fuzz guitars and heavy-booted stomps for sepia-toned reflections. They're still pledging allegiance to glam and heavy metal, favoring arena-sized riffs, and slathering their productions with vocal harmonies and guitars. While this self-production lacks some of the finesse Mutt Lange brought to the twin towers of Pyromania and Hysteria -- both are titans of the golden age of big-budget studios, while this is a relatively scrappy 21st century digital production -- this record can still dazzle with its pyramid of overdubs, intricate details that never sound fussy. Most of Def Leppard stays firmly within the band's wheelhouse -- muscular descendants of glitter alternating with power ballads -- and the group is confident enough to flirt with disco ("Man Enough," where Joe Elliott asks his object of affection if she's man enough to be his girl) and electronic beats ("Energized"), which is just enough to give this record an appealingly modern kick. This is a summation of where the band is now: they love the past, both their own and their inspirations, but they're not looking back, they're loving the life they live. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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