Next Tuesday Harmonix could quit and never release another week of DLC, and I would be satisfied. Of all the bands I’ve most wanted in the game, the only (reasonable) one Harmonix hadn’t given me was Def Leppard. They teased me with “Foolin'” in Rock Band 3 of course, but that was not enough, not even near enough. And then, as though sending me a personal love letter, comes this week’s announcement: A Def Leppard six-pack, each and every one pro-charted.
I love you too, Harmonix. I love you too.
* Def Leppard – “Animal (Live)” +
* Def Leppard – “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” +
* Def Leppard – “Photograph” +
* Def Leppard – “Pour Some Sugar on Me (Live)” +
* Def Leppard – “Rock of Ages” +
* Def Leppard – “Undefeated” +
+ = pro-guitar/bass chart available
The first thing to leap out to me – aside from the words “Def Leppard” melding beautifully with “DLC” – was the one that can strike fear into the heart of any excited Rock Band fan: “(Live)”. Both “Animal” and “Pour Some Sugar on Me” are so marked which, coupled with Guitar Hero’s live Lep tracks, make me think that something has happened to the Hysteria masters. I was thoroughly unimpressed with the versions GH3 had to offer, and am thus tentatively pleased to say that this week’s live tracks come from Def Lep’s new album Mirrorball. Which I have not yet listened to, so this is a treat.
Show me what you’ve got, live version of “Animal”. Okay wow, that is one hell of a faithful rendition. If you know the song but were considering not getting it because it wasn’t studio, allow me to allay your fears: this is near-perfect. About the biggest difference is with the harmonies on the chorus, but I think they could actually work a bit better in the game being more well-defined. So! The song itself. It’s probably one the more sedate of the Leppard songs on offer this week, but loaded with their style. The guitar switching off from rhythm to lead, the catchy drum beat, and the prominent, layered vocals are all on display. I suspect that it will be the lowest tiered for difficulty, but a blast on every single instrument, so this might be a good pick for more casual groups.
“Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” is an unexpected, pleasant inclusion from Def Lep’s second album, High ‘n’ Dry, way back in 1981. What really makes it a surprise is the fact that it features guitar work from Pete Willis, who Phil Collen would go on to replace … though you know now I’ve said that, I bet they’ll use the 1984 rerelease version that has Phil and a fuckton of unnecessary synth. Which if so (and it seems likely given that HMX have another whole instrument they can include with this version), that’s a little disappointing. The synth is so prominent in the rerelease that it detracts from the guitar and wrecks the flavour of the song. Still maybe HMX will mix it down a little. And it’s a really great song whichever version they use; the finest example of a hard rock power ballad. Sav’s bass here is among my favourites of his, subtly steering the mood. The harmonizing guitars are perfect, with a few surprise solos (watch out for the end of the song). And vocals are, of course, lush and powerful; I expect a high vocal tiering. As a ballad it’s slower than most of the pack, but don’t let the tempo fool you – there’s going to be some challenge in here.
EDIT: I checked with Aaron with Harmonix, and he feels confident that it’ll be the original album version and not the 1984 rerelease. In which case, Maximum Awesome achieved.
This brings us to “Photograph”, which I suspect is going to be a very good seller this week. I personally think is one of the greatest rock songs ever recorded. Absolutely every piece aligns perfectly. It’s filled with catchy riffs and blistering solos (again, watch out for the last 45 seconds or so, where the difficulty is going to dangerously spike), harmonies at maximum efficiency, drums keeping the song driving along then surprising you with amazing fills, and Joe Elliot belting it out as only he can. I’m obviously biased here, but I genuinely can’t think of a single reason that absolutely everyone wouldn’t add this to their game.
I’m inclined to say that “Pour Some Sugar on Me” would be the obvious best seller this week, but there’s that pesky “(Live)” tag again. Even if it’s as faithful a rendition as “Animal” above, that’s going to cut into sales. But being a great recording will help, so let’s check it out. Well that’s definitely the intro they use live, which you won’t find on the studio recording; and it’s going to KILL YOU, guitarists. I can’t even conceive of what that will look like in a pro-chart. It quickly segues into familiar territory however, and you know? This really is a good version, and I say that as someone who was geared up and ready to be hyper-critical. It’s not as close to the original as “Animal”, certainly. There’s a bit more guitar flare (even outside the intro), Joe sounds a teeny bit rougher, and overall the tempo is just slightly faster. This sounds like what it is: Def Leppard singing “Sugar” live. But – and this is the really important part – it’s a good live version. It’s packed with energy (I mean seriously, I’ve seen Def Leppard live multiple times throughout their career and not only did this plonk me right into the seat but made me want to go see them again right this second), the instruments sizzle, and the group sounds amazing. What I said for “Animal” applies here as well: if you were trepidatious about picking this up because it’s live, don’t be. This song, and this version, belong in Rock Band.
This pack is hitting a lot of my favourites, but that list wouldn’t be complete without “Rock of Ages”. Luckily that’s here too. This is probably my favourite Def Leppard song and has tremendous personal attachment about which I won’t bore you. I think this too will be a top seller and frankly it’s tough to think of a reason that anybody would pass up the chance to add it to their game. I think in terms of straight Rock Band party vocals, this will probably be the most fun pick this week, as it’s less about the three-part harmonies and more call-and-response, which is never anything less than awesome. The drums are also a stand-out, doubtless helped by the sections with minimal guitar and the heavy, relentless beat that drives the song. Listening to it with an ear to the game I actually think this will be comparatively easy to play; I think it sounds a lot more complicated than it is, which is interesting. And something of a pleasant surprise, since a lower tier means it can appeal to more players. So there! Even less of an excuse to pass it by!
The last song this week is “Undefeated”, which is the first single, and one of the few studio tracks, from the aforementioned new album Mirrorball. This is the first completely new song for me this week, so I’m particularly curious. Hm, well the drum intro is reminiscent of “Sugar”, which I’m not sure is the wisest move, but let’s see how the rest plays. Perhaps of no surprise, the harmonies are extremely stand-out. It’s not bad, but I can’t say that it immediately grabbed me (like say “Go” from their last album Sparkle Lounge). The riff in the verses is interesting, being a sort of heavy country thing that really pops with the rest of the song. I gotta say it’s about the harmonies though which elevate the song from merely average. Oh, and as I’ve cautioned throughout, watch out for the last 45 seconds of the song when the guitar has clearly been saving up its difficulty to come pound you.
As should be clear by now, I am stoked for this pack, and my excitement has only grown as I’ve worked through this post. A fantastic selection of songs spanning throughout Def Leppard’s career, with “Undefeated” being the only track that I’d say is less than absolutely amazing. As far as I’m concerned, you should just buy the whole thing. Bassist, drummer, guitarist or vocalist? This pack is custom made for all of you.
But if you don’t want to do that, you madman/woman, then my recommendations are pretty straightforward. Keyboardists don’t have much this week, but wait and see if I’m right about “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” being the 1984 rerelease and grab that. Guitarists looking for a challenge, it’s all about “Pour Some Sugar on Me”; it’s live but it’s smoking. Casual groups looking for something easy but awesome, go for “Animal”. And everyone should get “Photograph”, which will not disappoint on any instrument whatsoever.