August 25, 1980 12:00 PM

Def Leppard

During the mid-’70s Heavy Metal was driven into the shadows by the dominance of mellow rock. But with punk virulence in vogue, it was probably inevitable that the Heavies would rise again. As these albums demonstrate, the style hasn’t changed much since its late-’60s and early-’70s heyday. The aim is still to project malevolence, swagger and sensory overload. The weapons still are raging guitars, one-note bass and bludgeoning drums. A partial exception is Cultösaurus Erectus. Blue Oyster Cult, which debuted in 1972, is like an aging pitcher who, losing his fastball, compensates by learning control and pacing. The Cult’s rhythms are more flexible and its melodies a little shapelier than the Heavy Metal norm—which is what the group Judas Priest dishes out with particular relish. Sad Wings of Destiny, recorded in 1977 but previously available only as an English import, is an ambitious album by the highly limited standards of the genre. It features long cuts and prettified introductions that are as grandiose as they are gratuitous. British Steel, J.P.’s latest, is preferable, dispensing with the phony bearnaise sauce and just tossing the audience the raw horsemeat it wants. Def Leppard, a group of 16-to-20 year-old Britishers, makes its debut with On Through the Night. Everything about their music is standard, but they play it with such verve and enthusiasm that they’re—brace yourself—almost endearing. Def Leppard may be the world’s first cuddly metal band.

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