The Rock And Roll Dream
It's been eight long years since 'Stiff Upper Lip', an album that was critically well received by the media. It perhaps lacked that spark of earlier releases but one couldn't deny its quality. AC/DC's output has recently become a long drawn out process with only three albums since 1990's 'Razor's Edge'. But you could say that the band have earned this luxury after their prolific early years. Plus, how many ideas can really come out of one beat, four chords and one image?
AC/DC arguably wrote all their best tunes in the first five years of their career. Since 'Back In Black' each album seems to have five quality tunes and five decidedly average ones, so from a new album you'd expect another 50/50 split. However, AC/DC have excelled themselves on 'Black Ice' by writing some of their best and most consistent material since 1983's 'Flick Of The Switch'.
I don't really need to explain what you're going to get on 'Black Ice'. Grooves, solos, solid beats and Brian Johnson's scream are all present and correct. The production is slightly heavier than it was on 'Stiff Upper Lip' and 'Ballbreaker' which is a welcome factor and makes 'Black Ice' a more satisfying experience. There are some superb songs on this album. 'War Machine', 'Stormy May Day' and the fantastic title track. It is the overall quality of the song writing that elevates 'Black Ice' above many of its predecessors. Even the also ran songs are better than most of the songs on albums such as 'Fly On The Wall' and 'Blow Up Your Video'. 'Skies On Fire', 'Decibel' and 'Spoilin' For A Fight' are all solid AC/DC tracks that epitomise the AC/DC sound and groove.
'Black Ice' is a long listen. There are fifteen tracks on offer and it'll take a while to sift through them all. This will highlight a couple of tracks that are surplus to requirements. 'Wheels' isn't as inspired as some of the others around it and 'Anything Goes' is everything that was bad about their jangly guitar sounding commercial hits of the 80s and 90s. Opener and lead single 'Rock N Roll Train' is arguably one of the weaker songs on offer and has received a mixed reaction from my circle of friends at least. But once you're passed the first four minutes the album starts to get better as it goes along peaking at the classy 'Rock N Roll Dream', which is a change of pace and feel to the rest of the disc but very much AC/DC. Angus Young is in typical inspired form and perhaps proving a point after being ashamedly overlooked on the BBC's recent guitar heroes series. But the true hero on 'Black Ice' is Brian Johnson who trades his Donald Duck impression for a more laid back yet equally potent approach.
I over heard a guy in the pub say he thought it was quite commercial but to me it just sounds like AC/DC. The fact that they're one of the biggest bands of all time suggest they've been writing commercial music since the mid seventies. There maybe a lack of anthems along the lines of 'Whole Lotta Rosie', 'For Those About To Rock' and 'Hell's Bells', but 'Black Ice' is a great listen nonetheless.