CD Review: AC/DC’s Black Ice

By Glen Boyd 2008-10-23 00:17:53
Black Ice is AC/DC's first album in seven years, and from the first gut-crunching guitar riff, it's as though they never went away.

Produced by Brendan O'Brien, the Aussie bad boys do what they do best here on songs like "Rock N' Roll Train," "Big Jack," and "She Likes Rock N' Roll." There’s nothing fancy here, just the same formula of big crunchy riffs, sandpaper raw vocals, a solid backbeat, and the sort of bad ass attitude that has worked for these guys for going on four decades now. It aint’ rocket science, nor is it in any way intended to be.

The most notable difference on Black Ice however, is that Angus, Malcolm, Brian and the boys actually sound reinvigorated here. I’m not sure if that’s producer O’Brien’s doing, or if the nearly decade long layoff simply just did them some good. But this is the first AC/DC release in a very long time where the band doesn’t sound like they are simply phoning it in. While the riffs don’t really represent anything groundbreaking or new, they stick in your head like AC/DC songs haven’t done since the days of For Those About To Rock We Salute You.

But even though songs like “Big Jack” harken back to the gutbuster sort of rock that made AC/DC one of the world’s biggest rock bands on albums like Back In Black, there is actually some previously unchartered territory here. “Anything Goes,” for example, could almost pass for a pop tune with its feel good sort of – and AC/DC will probably kick my ass for saying this – “bounciness.” This doesn’t just sound like a single, but one that conceivably could get played in formats beyond album-rock.

And when was the last time that happened? “Smoke On The Water” maybe?

Likewise, “Rock And Roll Train” rocks like a rock radio friendly mainstay should, but features the added bonus of – get ready for it – actual harmonies. “War Machine” is another of those catchy as hell little songs that also has a riff that simply won’t quit. There have been some complaints that O’Brien’s production on Black Ice is a bit too clean. Don’t listen to em’. The riffs here are as muscular, big, and ballsy sounding as ever. There is just more of a clarity about the sound that actually serves to make these songs rock a bit harder. Less mud and more crunch is a pretty good description of what you’ll find on Black Ice.

The fact of the matter is AC/DC haven’t sounded this hungry, or this good, for a very long time. Maybe it’s just that there hasn’t been a whole lot of this type of old fashioned, ball busting rock and roll around lately. In that regard, Black Ice would be welcomed as a breath of fresh air regardless. The icing on the cake is that this album represents such a return to form. This album kicks so much ass, I can almost forgive them for the WalMart deal. Well, almost anyway…

Anyway, God bless em’ for it, and bring on the tour. Just hold your nose at the WalMart checkout line.
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