In terms of charts and sales, 1996's 'Slang' marks the spot where Def Leppard went from being multi-platinum rock gods to just another veteran act struggling to fit in among the rapidly changing Top 40 trends of the '90s. But for the band members, the record has always meant a lot more.

"It was an essential album for Def Leppard," argued guitarist Phil Collen during a recent interview with Billboard. "It was a drastic move, left-field for us. It was experimental. It went against the grain from what we normally were doing at the time. We felt like with [1992 album] 'Adrenalize' it started turning a little bit similar, so it was important to do something different at that point."

While the rawer, more experimental sound the band adopted for 'Slang' didn't do the record any favors at rock radio, 'Slang' has always had its defenders -- and now they're getting their due with a remastered and expanded edition that adds demos and non-album cuts to the standard track listing. (You can hear the title track's remastered version in the Billboard article.)

"Anyone who isn't a Def Leppard fan, you play it to them and they love it," Collen mused. "They go, 'Wow, this is really cool. Who is it?' 'It's us,' and they go, 'Whoaaaa. This is really cool.' But, yeah, no one really heard it. There's the faithful few who absolutely love it and think it's the best Def Leppard album of all time, but it's a minority."

As far as Collen is concerned now, it didn't really matter what Def Leppard did in 1996 -- radio wasn't going to play it anyway. "Y'know, I think we could've put out 'Sgt. Pepper's' or "Dark Side of the Moon' and I think it would have been the same because it was Def Leppard and we had gotten lumped in with all the crap metal bands of the '80s that were kind of pale versions of us," he argued. "Nirvana had come along and everything had changed. What was very interesting was people said they didn't like it so much because it didn't sound like us, but we set up in a villa in southern Spain and pretty much recorded live, so it was actually closer to the mark than the other albums where we didn't play live and did the usual studio thing of putting one thing on at a time and building it from there."

While Collen certainly seems to enjoy looking back on 'Slang,' he's also busy looking ahead; he's got plans for his new side project, Delta Deep, as well as the next Def Leppard album, which he says will be out sooner than later. "We're just writing," he told Billboard. "We're all just together and figuring out what we're gonna do. We've got some great ideas. We're definitely going to get some new music out for next year."

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