Lets face it AC/DC hasn’t released a decent album in twenty five years. ‘’Back In Black’’ was their watershed album in 1980. The follow up ‘’For Those About To Rock (We Salute You) knocked on the door of brilliance. Had it not been issued as the follow up to the forty million plus seller ‘’Back In Black’’ it would have been the best Brain Johnson fronted album ever. The jury’s out on 1983’s ‘’Flick Of The Switch’’ but that album is an untapped gem in amongst the latter 80’s and 90’s AC/DC back catalogue.
‘’Black Ice’’ then is the first ‘DC album in eight years since the well received if not magnanimous 2000 offering ‘’Stiff Upper Lip’’ and was it worth the wait? You betcha! Media hype aside ‘’Black Ice’’ may well be the most concerted, well written, well played album since the stripped down Metal-ness of ‘’Flick Of The Switch’’ This is the sound of a band hungry once more, with a purpose to show all the new up-starts just how to Rock N Roll.
It’s surely a given that the curtain is coming down on the career of perhaps the most influential Hard Rock band the world has known. Even though quality recorded output has lessened over the years as a live act AC/DC has no equal and that simple premise of putting on a grand, ear bleeding live show has rendered AC/DC obsequious amongst the music fraternity. It’s hard to believe Angus is in his early fifty’s, Brian his early sixties but ‘’Black Ice’’ infuses with classic riffs and licks, that all too familiar, resolute steady asshole-tight back line and the proverbial AC/DC boogie.
First single and lead track ‘’Rock N Roll Train’’ much like ‘’Stiff Upper Lip’’ could possibly steal the show from the off. A huge stadium size riff from Angus coupled with the hoary voice of Johnson and that implacable back line of Malcolm Young, Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd does everything you’d expect from the band. Nothing more, nothing less. It might be nigh on a decade to hear that sound again but it’s so worth the wait. Whilst ‘’Skies On Fire’’ stokes the flames the irrepressible Johnson booms across the pumping ‘’Big Jack’’ A track at the very heart of the AC/DC cannon. A pulsating bass line, a simple but utterly effective guitar riff, a secure thumping drum and some fine soloing; this record is starting to electrify. ‘’Anything Goes’’ is probably the most commercial track the band has recorded in years. It certainly has echo of Bon Scott recordings but has an overlying lightness to it however any signs of mercantile immorality are flattened by the drive and down right pounding of the excellent ‘’War Machine’’ This should be a killer live. It’s hard to dislike the catchy tumult of ‘’Spoilin’ For A Fight’’ or the rolling sneer of ‘’Decible’’ Yeah we’ve heard it a million times before but that doesn’t diminish the power or the Rockin’ mood. Indeed the remaining songs including the SKYNYRD/ ZEPPELIN-esque ‘’Stormy May Day’’, ‘Rock N Roll Dream’’ and the title track could well be the last shots into the cannon, a cannon that has blasted for four decades pure unadulterated Rock N Roll.
Writing as an AC/DC fan of well over twenty years ‘’Black Ice’’ still manages to raise the hairs on the back of the neck, get the foot tapping and digging into the back of the wardrobe for the school uniform. It’s long way to the top if you wanna Rock N Roll and AC/DC will forever remain at the top even if this album is to be their final boogie.
(Online November 30, 2008)