DEF LEPPARD — On Through The Night (review)

DEF LEPPARD — On Through The Night album cover Album · 1980 · NWoBHM Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
DEF LEPPARD was of course one of the original 70s hard rock bands that stepped things up and joined the first British heavy metal invasion now tagged the NWOBHM ( New Wave of British Heavy Metal). The band originated in Sheffield, England as far back as 1977 with its roots in the prior band Atomic Mass formed by bassist Rick Savage, guitarist Pete Willis and drummer Tony Kenning. After lead vocalist Joe Elliot joined shortly after, he proposed a name change to Deaf Leppard which the other members agreed upon and soon after recruited Rick Allen to replace Kenning and then guitarist Steve Clark.

The band spent 1979 touring and gaining an audience which propelled the band into the nascent NWOBHM rather quick. This got the band noticed by the Phonogram / Vertigo label (which is Mercury Records in the US) and before long the band was on the road touring with AC/DC. The five members cranked out a bunch of tunes that were recorded and released on the debut release ON THROUGH THE NIGHT which was released on 14 March 1980 and raced to the top 15 on the album chart in the UK but despite touring the US and supporting acts like Pat Travers, AC/DC and Ted Nugent failed to make a dent at this stage.

If you ask me why the band failed to make the big time at this point, it has to do with the mediocre material presented on ON THE THE NIGHT. At this stage the band sounds like a rather ho hum garage band that was just getting acquainted to the heavier sounds of metal and the entire songwriting process. In many ways this debut album sounds like a demo to my ears. The production is shoddy, Joe Elliot’s vocals haven’t reached their full potential and the tunes themselves are fairly forgettable. Anyone coming to this after experiencing the much better following album such as “High ’n’ Dry,” “Pyromania” or even “Hysteria” will be let down by the amateurish performances here. This sounds like any old bluesy hard rock band from the 70s. Generic AF.

There were three singles released: “Wasted,” “Hello America” and “Rock Brigade” but none made a dent as the band was getting its foot in the door as an album oriented hard rock band through touring. This debut was produced by Tom Allom who seems to have failed both in scoring a decent production job but also failed to harness the band’s potential and create a signature sound. That duty would go to John “Mutt” Lange who took the ship by the helm and crafted DEF LEPPARD’s sound into a heavier arena with stronger material that suited the band’s strengths. The material on ON THROUGH THE NIGHT is decent but as many times as i’ve tried to get into this one, i’m always left cold and underwhelmed by the rather average sounding tunes with the exception of “Rock Brigade.”

While the band would step things up for their sophomore release, at this point they were trying to sound like Thin Lizzy, UFO or even Mott The Hoople but didn’t quite have the magic mojo to craft interesting stand alone tracks yet. There is nothing outright bad about this album but in the company of much better material that followed, this one just doesn’t match the quality of the album’s that followed. Despite the band’s phenomenal success as a hard rock band starting with “Pyromania,” ON THROUGH THE NIGHT along with the following “High ’n’ Dry” are the only two examples of the band generating a heavier NWOBHM sound and had they continued down this road, it’s hard to tell how their career would’ve developed. For my listening pleasure i find this debut by DEF LEPPARD a bit tedious and even boring but the material is decent enough and for those who don’t mind a crappy production and straight forward heavy rock tunes then you might like this more than me.
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Tupan wrote:
28 days ago
Like most debuts, it's full of energy but still rough in the edges. Elliot sounds too juvenile here, for example. But I like it!
siLLy puPPy wrote:
31 days ago
It was a failure commercially speaking. It didn't even go gold until Pyromania was released. To me it sounds amateurish. The songwriting isn't as catchy as the following High N Dry. Elliot's vocals weren't ready for primetime either. I've owned this album for years but if i ever get the DL itch i never listen to this one. I always go to High N Dry which is a million per cent improvement for my ears!
MrMan2000 wrote:
31 days ago
It's my favorite album by the band. But DL was never a heavy metal band, and barely a hard rock band after High and Dry. I love the songs on this album; the guitar and vocal melodies are infectious. But I was 14 years old when this came out and listened to it religiously then, so I'm biased. Also got to see the band open for The Scorpions and Ted Nugent (imagine that trio and DL being the first on stage and Nugent the last...it's be the opposite virtually any time since then).

Anyway, have to disagree on these being "amateurish" and such. Also, the album wasn't a failure by any stretch. While there weren't any big singles I can tell you among the "rock underground" back then the album was well received and the band received enormous exposure through the rock press back then (think magazine like Creem, Hit Parader and Circus in the US).

Production is pretty crappy. And yes, if you're coming to this from Hysteria or Pyromania you'll likely wonder WTF happened.

siLLy puPPy wrote:
6 months ago
High N Dry is their best IMHO. I just listened to it and it is the perfect early 80s metal album
6 months ago
I had Pyromania and High n Dry back in the day but never this one. I bought it a few years ago and thought it was pretty good. Then I started listening to more NWoBHM albums and when I revisited On Through the Night I was surprised how much it sounded like many of the other albums. Like, it fit right in! I bought High n Dry last month and it really sounded like the band was moving towards Pyromania. I actually didn't find it interesting so much anymore. On Through the Night is a bit like the first Tygers of Pan Tang album where the band just sounds so different from their later product.
Unitron wrote:
6 months ago
Damn, Tom Allom produced this album? I really like this album, but I agree the production is pretty weak. Surprising, considering Allom did great producing the 80's Judas Priest classics and I think he produced Krokus' Headhunter as well.

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