So it is 11:34 PM and I am sitting down with a bottle of cheap run and my headphones. I am trying to decide what album or band I want to review next when AC/DC’s Black Ice Deluxe Edition rolls on to the docket of my iTunes.
I have listened to this album somewhere between 60 and 1000 times since I bought it and I never thought about reviewing it because well, I love AC/DC and if I had to listen to it from a critical sense I was worried I wouldn’t enjoy it.
The first thing I want to make clear is that I define myself as an AC/DC follower. That’s right. Not just a fan. A follower. Now, there are a lot of people out there that say “Every AC/DC song on every album sounds exactly the same”. Those people are idiots. They are the same douche bags that buy AC/DC shirts at the mall and wear them as a fucking fashion statement.
I got into AC/DC when I was about 10 years old. M dad was always more into country, which would definitely influence me later, but when I discovered AC/DC it became my own thing. I shared it with my friends and it was OUR thing. The first 2 AC/DC albums I ever had were “Back in Black” on C.D. and “Highway to Hell’ on tape. I pretty much compare every other rock act to those two albums.
I guess what I am saing is I started to become the person I am today because of AC/DC.
Now, I will say that there are things that are foundations of every album. First, Angus drives every song with his SG. Second, Malcom never steps up front. Third the bass and drums are always solid and never to flashy. Oh, and they all rock. But if you listen to them you can tell a difference.
For example. AC/DC has always had a strong blues influence but it really stood out on the “Stiff Upper Lip” album. The previous album “Ballbreaker” was a concept album, more or less, something else that was different for them. So yes, they stick to a formula and no they don’t do ballads or acoustic duets, but they DO rock.
All of that being said, on to Black Ice. The first track on the album is “Rock N’ Roll Train”. This song instantly put me in mind of something that may have been written for the “Razor’s Edge” album. To explain, I like that album overall, but aside from Thunderstruck, Fire Your Guns and Money Talks, the whole thing seemed like filler to me. Not bad filler but filler none the less. That is how this song hits me. Not awful but not great. Just there. Nothing to exciting yet.
The second song is “Skies On Fire”. This song puts me in mind of the last album, “Stiff Upper Lip” in particular of songs like “Can’t Stop Rock N’ Roll” and “Hold Me Back”. It is a bit more blues influenced and feature Cliff Williams on bass a little more prominently. At first I didn’t really get any chills from this song until the 2:11 mark. If you’ve been asking yourself at all up to this point “Can AC/DC still rock”? The answer is a resounding yes. This is the moment Angus lights up his lead. It is kind of like when you go to a party and you’re happy to be there because you are out and doing something but you’re worried it is going to be lame. Then you see an old friend and you know something wild is going to happen. That is this song.
“Big Jack” is the third track and though the name sounds familiar the song is a little different for AC/DC. It has a few riffs I didn’t really except from my boys. I don’t know how to say it other than it was a lot more technical than I expected. I was impressed.
Song 4 is called “Anything Goes”. I have to be honest. It isn’t one of my favorites. Again it isn’t “bad”. It is just kind of like some of the mid 80’s AC/DC albums for me. Flick of the Switch, Blow Up Your Video and Fly on the Wall were all o.k. albums for what they were but I wouldn’t recommend them to someone who never listened to AC/DC before. That’s how I was with this tune. It reminded me of a song Bruce Springsteen wrote the music for and then decided not to use.
Song five is called “War Machine”. For me this is where the album really starts to cook. At first it reminded me of the song “All Hail Cesar” from Ballbreaker because of the opening bass tones, but it starts to build and then cranks all on its own. This song is certainly more how I like my AC/DC it has more of the vibe of something “Back in Black” or “Highway to Hell”.
The sixth track is called “Smash and Grab”. I REALLY like this song. Unfortunately I don’t really ever see it becoming a hit. That isn’t to say its not a cool tune. It is actually really really cool it is just a departure from what they normally do. Think of it as something of the “Who Made Who” album and you’ll be close.
The next one up is “Spoilin’ For a Fight”. This is hand’s down my favorite song on the album. This song WILL go on to be an AC/DC standard. It is just cool all the way around.
‘Wheels” is crazy number 8 and is a good tune as well. In my personal opinion it is about 2 decades too late. It has a very 80’s feel to it, but it is still a good track. Probably my second favorite on the album.
“Decibel” is the next song up and it is one of their slower rockers. Think, “For Those About To Rock”, “Rock N Roll (Aint Noise Pollution)” or “Night Prowler”.
“Stormy May Day” is…AWESOME! While it doesn’t rock as hard as “Spoilin For a Fight” it is just plain cool. First off before any lyrics kick in there is the use of a slide, which coming from AC/DC is fantastic. Then there is a vibe to the song of standing on a back porch in the Bayou with rain misting on your face. Turns out the lyrics are about that too.
“She Likes Rock N’ Roll” Stays rocking at the same pace. It too is VERY different for an AC/DC tune. Way outside of what they normally do. At least til the chorus. The Chorus will sound a lot more familiar.
“Money Made” is another driving song. It is what I like to refer to as a drinker. Something I would like to hear cranking on a juke box in some seedy establishment while I drink whiskey on the rocks and watch some dark haired beauty shake her curves in a tight black skirt.
The next 2 songs actually kind of feel like they were written as one really long song and split up. I could go either way on them.
The final song is the title track “Black Ice”. THIS IS THE SONG. This is the one all of the AC/DC fan base has been waiting to hear. This is the “You Shook Me All Night Long” of the album. From start to finish it is hard rocking classic AC/DC.
So what is my final opinion of this album? A solid 8. It kills me that it isn’t higher, but it just isn’t. Yeah, there are some very good tracks on it, and it is a hell of a lot better than most of the other shit that’s come out lately, but lets face it. I am trying to compare AC/DC to AC/DC. It is beyond good when compared to other bands, but compared to their own stuff it isn’t my favorite.
Really, give it a listen though. It is worth the money, it is a solid record and it is AC/DC.