Past, Present Coming Together On Next Def Leppard LP

Group aims to combine modern rock sound with feel of its smash '80s records.

In 1996, during the tail end of the alternative music explosion, Def Leppard recorded the alt-ish album Slang, replacing their trademark studio sheen with edgy songs and somewhat ragged production in an effort to blend with the times.

Their follow-up three years later, Euphoria, was more an attempt to retrace their steps and return to the multilayered guitar glory and soaring choruses of the band's other "-ia" albums, 1983's Pyromania and 1987's Hysteria. Now, as Def Leppard prepare to enter the studio to work on their eighth record, they find themselves striving for the best of both worlds.

"Off the top of my head, I can conservatively say it will be half-Slang, half-Euphoria," singer Joe Elliott said recently from his home in Dublin, Ireland. "I think some of the hits will be like classic Def Leppard, but we may let some of the songs go through sounding slightly less polished than normal. I think overall it may have a rockier edge than the Euphoria album."

The band has 10 songs nearly completed and many others still under construction. Elliott won't offer any track titles, but he said the lyrics have a positive tone.

"There's no anger there, and nothing controversial, but at the same time they're not bland and boring," he said. "We're just going for things that are fist-pumping when they need to be and thought-provoking when they can be. Hopefully it will be clever without sounding too clever."

Like Euphoria, the new disc will be recorded in Elliott's home studio, Joe's Garage. But this time the band plans to work with an assortment of producers, including Euphoria's Pete Woodroffe, Marti Frederiksen, who worked on Aerosmith's Just Push Play, and Robert John "Mutt" Lange, who produced four of the band's biggest albums, including Pyromania and Hysteria.

"I sent Mutt a song to critique, and he really dug it, but he suggested a few changes, so I said, 'Go for it. Let's see what you come up with,'" Elliott recalled. "The problem is, he's right in the middle of a Shania Twain album, and he's pretty busy with that. So I don't think he'll be doing a lot of producing for us. But we've got Marti and Pete, and hopefully we can get one or two other people in to give the project freshness and variety."

Although many of their past records were largely written in the studio, Def Leppard decided to write most of the new one before heading in to record it. Of course, that doesn't mean the band knows exactly where it's headed.

"We're very open-minded as to where this record's going, and that's very exciting," bubbled Elliott. "It's almost like putting on your hiking boots, packing your lunch and a flask of soup and heading off into the mountains, but not being sure which path you're going to take. You just hope you end up taking the most scenic or user-friendly route."

Elliott said Def Leppard hope to have the new record in stores early next year so they can tour in the summer.