Written by General Jabbo
It’s been said that AC/DC has written the same album for over 30 years. While there is some truth to that, they still have albums that are better than others. With Black Ice, the band’s first since 2000’s Stiff Upper Lip, AC/DC has delivered their best album since, arguably, Flick of the Switch.
The long layoff did the band well, especially vocalist Brian Johnson, whose trademark gritty banshee scream is in full force here. He and the band sound energized, and while their previous two releases, the aforementioned Stiff Upper Lip and Ballbreaker focused more on their bluesier side, Black Ice is a rocker from beginning to end. This can be attributed to producer Brendan O’Brien, who wanted a return of the rock and roll AC/DC he loved.
The album opens with first single “Rock N Roll Train,” with a riff and driving drumbeat that recalls “Highway to Hell.” It is one of four songs with rock in the title, as if the band needed to remind listeners why they are here.
“Big Jack” reminds the listener of “Big Gun” or “Who Made Who” with its great riff and anthemic chorus. This is the song that should have been the first single as it is one of the strongest tracks they have done in some time.
On “Anything Goes,” the band gets as close to recording a pop song as they likely ever will. Johnson’s vocals are almost sensitive here. Still, they make it work as it still has that classic AC/DC sound to it.
The band gets down and dirty on the gritty “War Machine,” which original front man Bon Scott would have torn up vocally. It’s yet another song that had the band released this album 15 years ago would have been all over rock radio.
The heavy blues of “Stormy May Day” finds Angus Young breaking out the slide, while the riff of “Decibel” sounds suspiciously like ZZ Top’s “Waitin’ for the Bus,” but if you are going to steal, ZZ Top is as good a choice as any to take from.
If there is a negative to be found on Black Ice, it is the lack of a real barnburner such as “Landslide” or “Riff Raff.” Nevertheless, AC/DC have crafted a fine album filled with great hooks and guitar riffs, as well as the big choruses they are so famous for. The tracks should go over well live and for those wondering when the next great AC/DC album would come, it’s here.