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Music Review: AC/DC – Black Ice

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AC/DC’s first new album in eight years sold an impressive 193,000 copies on its first day of release last week. The album, which is available exclusively at Wal-Mart and through the band’s official website, is projected to sell an outstanding 800,000 copies in its first week.

The sales numbers easily make Black Ice the highest debut of the year. The Australian hard rock band remains as popular (if not more so) as ever as it prepares to embark on a world tour. This week, AC/DC’s Back in Black is #1 on Billboard’s Top Pop Catalog charts, with Highway To Hell and High Voltage at #22 and #25 respectively. In fact, Back In Black is among the highest selling albums of all time with an estimated forty-two million copies sold worldwide.

What is responsible for AC/DC’s continued popularity? Perhaps it’s that they are the quintessential hard rock band. They may not be as musically interesting as Led Zeppelin, or have the songwriting skills of The Rolling Stones or The Beatles, but they have never made claims to be anything other than the hardest rocking band around. AC/DC has survived critical disapproval as well as the loss, and subsequent replacement, of a lead singer. Released only nine months after the death of original lead singer Bon Scott, 1980’s Back In Black showed the world that AC/DC wouldn’t let anything keep them from rocking. They were out to show everyone that rock 'n' roll was all about having a good time and kicking ass.

Black Ice follows right in those footsteps. The album probably could have been released as a follow up to Back In Black and fans wouldn’t have batted an eye. Well, they might have wondered where all the sex and drugs went. I used to say AC/DC wrote about sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, but age has given some lyrical maturity. Gone are the days of heavy drinking and loose women, now the focus is on – well, it’s on rocking. With titles, “Rock 'N' Roll Train,” She Likes Rock 'N' Roll,” “Rock 'N' Roll Dream,” and “Rocking All The Way,” the theme of this album is very blatant. As always, AC/DC is still about thundering drums with thumping bass and power chord guitar riffs.

Musically this album isn’t breaking any new ground, but it is a return to form for the band. The guitars are crisp and upfront, providing the crunchy rhythm AC/DC has become so well known for. The signature riffs have a familiar sound, but are not so derivative that they are ripping themselves off. On the contrary, the album sounds very fresh. The band even branches out a bit with “Anything Goes.” The song is surprisingly poppier than most of their work. In some ways it almost has a bit of a country feel. I don’t mean that in a bad way at all. The song is catchy and a nice change of pace for the album.

Vocally Brian Johnson sounds pretty much like he always has. His screaming, rather than singing, style has become synonymous with AC/DC’s sound. For the most part his delivery is spot on, with the exception of “Stormy May Day,” where his controlled screams become uncontrolled shrieks in the chorus. While Johnson never has matched the bluesy Bon Scott vocally, his unique style helped shape the band’s success. At this point someone is either going to like Brian Johnson’s voice or they’re going to hate it. Technically it’s about as far away from good singing as it gets, but as a hard rock voice, it’s one of the most distinctive in rock music.

In 1980 Rolling Stone magazine wrote about Black In Black, “a lot of people can't recognize the talent because of the noise… They've simply utilized many of the elements found in the early Rolling Stones' sound and cranked them up to plutonium-strength power. Back in Black separates the heavy-metal men from the metallic meatheads.” That statement still sums up what AC/DC is as a hard rock band – “catchy hooks and riffs” that never get old. Black Ice is not as good as AC/DC’s classic albums like Black In Black, Highway To Hell, or Powerage, but it’s fun, loud, and most importantly AC/DC can still rock your socks off.

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About Sherry Lipp

Sherry Lipp is an entertainment and food writer who specializes in film and television reviews. She has published the gluten and grain-free cookbook Don't Skip Dessert.
  • awesome review man! i did one too, check out my blog