How to review the new album by one of rock’s most famous and best bands without comparison to older material is like trying to make any Western nation truly care about African poverty; nigh on impossible. So let me get that off the bat straight away by saying that Black Ice
isn’t as good as Back in Black
or Highway to Hell
. For one, it’s an unfair comparison since those works are so highly revered by hard rock fans that even if it was, Black Ice
wouldn’t ever get the credit. But what Black Ice
is, is a rampant return to the top of Rock Mountain
by the kings of bluesy rock and roll.
AC/DC can write this kind of music in their sleep (and I would think Angus Young probably only dreams about his guitar), but the fact that even now they can release a record that is, for all intensive purposes, the same formula as they’ve done to death and still sound essential is nothing short of staggering. The opening riff of Rock N’ Roll Train
is pure AC/DC gold, and I challenge anyone to get to the chorus and not be tapping their foot. And that’s always been the appeal of AC/DC; the hardy punch of their rock and roll has never been pretentious, never have they gone for anything less than good time rock. It is a triumphant return for brawny riffing, raunchy lyrical subjects and emotional soloing of a style that only Angus Young can do. Brian Johnson’s gravelly yelp is still firmly in place, and he gives a great performance here, boisterously encouraging all and sundry to rock out with the band.
But the essential part of an AC/DC album for me is the road trip song, the one that you feel as if you should be in a massive Cadillac roaring down an American highway with it blaring on your stereo. Back in Black
had You Shook Me all Night Long, Highway to Hell
had that iconic title track and Black Ice
has Big Jack
, a rock and roll stomper perfect for any road tripping. The double highlights are the ballady Rock and Roll Dream where Johnson actually sings well, and the hair metal esque Anything Goes
, two prime examples of how AC/DC can change it up successfully.
A triumphant return for the best rock and roll band that has ever walked the face of the Earth.