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Angus Young, AC/DC's school-uniform clad lead guitarist, once gave a music journalist a quick reprimand when his band was accused of never deviating from a tried and tested formula. His defense went something like this: "I'm sick of hearing people saying that we've made fourteen albums that all sound exactly the same. They're wrong. We've made FIFTEEN albums that all sound exactly the same".
Well, Angus, time to chalk up another one.
'Black Ice' was released in 2008, a year that promised quite a lot. Various rock heavyweights that were (and still are) racking up the years were ready to release some albums, namely Metallica with 'Death Magnetic', Guns n' Roses with 'Chinese Democracy', and AC/DC with this, their first album in over seven years. And like those other two, it turned out to be a rather underwhelming affair.
I could, at this point, delve into a track-by-track breakdown of this record, but I won't, as it has no less than fifteen tracks on it. This is the first thing that struck me as a potential problem with this record. I've long thought the CD format to be a curse on music. "Hurray!" cry the recording artists. "We've got a platform that can store over 70 minutes of music! Let's use ALL of it, nobody will notice it's full of misfires and get bored!". Gah.
There's a reason 'Highway to Hell' worked so well. Like AC/DC's sound, it is direct and punchy, clocking in at a tidy 40 minutes or so (not to mention its songs are just better). 'Black Ice' pushes the hour mark, and its repetitive nature is soon pretty noticeable. Phil Rudd's drumming plods on at a pedestrian pace throughout, with little in the way of fills or tempo changes to break things up. 'Stormy May Day' is the exception to this, chucking in some Led Zeppelin style slide riffs, and it kicks up quite a groove and has quite an unconventional structure.
Lead single 'Rock n Roll Train' is more like a DMU than a thundering Mallard, but is bound to become a live favourite. 'Anything Goes' skips along, but by the time I'd reached the very uninspired 'War Machine', I found myself brewing a cup of tea, rather than headbanging in my living room in unfettered, hedonistic joy. Not very rock and/or roll at all. Though if you stick it out to the end, the title track is pretty cool, with the Young brothers swapping guitar lines and hooks in a manner reminiscent of the Stones, albeit in a much harsher way. But with songs like 'Rocking all the Way', 'Spoiling for a Fight', 'She Likes Rock and Roll', you can tell by the titles they're more suited to a Status Quo record. Or the cutting room floor, where they belong. At least they've dropped the toe-curling lyrics found on the likes of 'Ballbreaker', where they confused tongue-in-cheek raunch with embarrassing sleaze.
Being overly long and full of filler aside, this album also sounds pretty lousy. It's another victim of the moronic 'loudness war' that seems to be raging across mixing desks, conducted by Pro-Tools wielding idiots who have no idea how to master a record. Although not as terminally wounded as 'Death Magnetic', it's compressed to the point of sounding flat and totally lacking in dynamics.
AC/DC used to be an exciting, fiery rock and roll band. And while they may still cut it live, really they've struggled for the past thirty years to fill up an album's worth of material that can maintain a level of excitement throughout. 'Black Ice' is no exception. Since 'Back in Black' (the last really good album they've released), one could cherry-pick their best ten songs since then, whack them on a CD-R and it would still struggle to create a long-player that could match it. In fact, I'll do it for you. To find AC/DC's best album since 1980, get all of these from Amazon or iTunes and cobble them together:
For Those About To Rock, The Razor's Edge, Are You Ready, Landslide, Thunderstruck, Who Made Who, The Furor, Safe in New York City, Stormy May Day.
So before I get hounded to death by the online AC/DC fans, I'll let it be known that I do have time for AC/DC, and 'Highway to Hell' is one of the most kickass rock and roll records ever cut. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be too much spark left these days. The diehard fans will have already gone and bought this, so my advice to those who haven't would be - don't bother.
AC/DC have changed in many ways over the years but some habits die hard. Luckily for AC/DC their habits are writing hard rocking riffs, lighting leads and witty vocals sharp enough to cut down to the bone. This album is no exception. The album consists of 15 tracks with each one of them pulling many times its own weight.
The guitar-work from the Young brothers has always drawn inspiration from the likes of 'Chuck Berry' but right from the start they created their own very distinctive trademark sound. Throughout this album they pull together all the slight variations of that trademark sound and blend them into a modern well refined product without ever departing from their early roots. One of my favourite AC/DC albums has always been "If You Want Blood" which I felt spectacularly captured the live energy of AC/DC on stage in audio. The lyrics on that album were delivered in a sonic storm of wit. This new album seems to capture all that energy but this time in the studio with a more modern finish.
The bottom line is you like AC/DC's material whether it be their classic material such as "Highway to Hell" and "Back in Black" or their very early albums then you're going to like this album. Black Ice somehow rolls it all up together into one six inch package leading to a clear re-iteration of the old saying "big things come in small packages".
AC/DC's latest release - Black Ice is certainly one of their better albums of recent times. It features 15 hard rocking, head banging, classic sounding AC/DC tracks.
The first track on the Album, Rock n Roll Train opens with an extremely powerful guitar riff that then breaks into a brilliant mix of hard hitting drums and guitar. This song, whilst not the title track has probably become the most famous of the new album and was used as the opening song for the Black Ice World Tour which I was lucky enough to see at Hampden Stadium, Glasgow.
The highlights of this album for me are Rock n Roll Train, Big Jack, Anything Goes, Wheels and Black Ice. All feature Angus Young as good as ever ripping out guitar solos and Brian Johnson's voice is still fantastic. The difference with this album over previous ones is AC/DC have gone back to their hard rock routes and really delivered fans with an all out great package.
As there is no section for reviewing a live performance I'm going to add this in here. I was priviledged to see part of the Black Ice world tour as I mentioned earlier and whilst Brian Johnson is over 60 and Angus Young is dam near there, these guys have still got it! They were rocking as hard as they ever have. The best songs of the night were Shook Me All Night Long and Thunderstruck but that's just my personal taste. They performed a repitoire ranging from classics like Back In Black and Highway to Hell to newer offerings such as Anything Goes. The crowd loved it! The stage set was amazing too, pyros, props, you name it!
All in all I think Black Ice sparked a massive revival of AC/DC bringing them again into the headlines of the music world and making themselves known to a younger generation rather than just the old time fans.
Look who's back in black nonetheless, yep AC/DC one of the greatest rock bands ever with songs such as back in black, highway to hell and shook me all night long are back with another album, not content with their earnings from their 16 previous albums, their induction into the rock and roll hall of fame and their own rock band game they have recorded another album. This is classic AC/DC as is made painfully obviously by the opening song Rock and roll train. Yes they may be getting older but not any less full of passion for rock as the guitar work shows on this album. You get a lot of bang for your buck with 15 songs.
My favourite songs on this album are:
(1) Rock and roll train, as soon as you hear the opening riff you know that this is AC/DC I'm surprised Angus and Malcolm haven't run out of ideas yet. This was the first single released and we can see why, it's very catchy and sounds very professional.
(2) Skies on fire, another awesome song, I love the lyrics and the great voice work done by Brian.
(6) Smash and grab, again another great riff, this song flows together perfectly.
Before I get into his album I think I should explain how I stand on AC/DC just so people understand my view. I'm a big fan of AC/DC, I loved some of their previous albums especially the live stuff but I don't own every album and know them like the back of my hand. I'm into their style of music, I was a fan of Iron Maiden, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath before hand so it was no surprise I enjoyed AC/DC. However I wouldn't class myself as an AC/DC maniac, I wouldn't make the effort to go see them live and I have found their music to be quite repetitive sometimes. None the less I was still eagerly awaiting Black Ice, especially as it came 8 years after their previous album in 2000. Albums after long periods of time can be very hit and miss however after The Who made a successful return a few years ago I was hoping for a similar outing here.
The track list:
1. Rock 'n' Roll Train
2. Skies on Fire
3. Big Jack
4. Anything Goes
5. War Machine
6. Smash 'n' Grab
7. Spoilin' for a Fight
10. Stormy May Day
11. She Likes Rock 'n' Roll
12. Money Made
13. Rock 'n' Roll Dream
14. Rocking All the Way
15. Black Ice
This album is classic AC/DC. Killer riffs, strong vocals, guitar solos and a loud and lively tempo. It's what rock n roll should be like. It's very similar to their old stuff so fans of AC/DC will love this to bits. You can tell that a lot of the songs from this album will be amazing live. Normally I'd write a good chunk if the album is a good one however this time I'm struggling for words. Simply because its too similar to their old stuff.
I mentioned in the intro I used to find some of their old stuff a bit repetitive and sadly this album is no different. It might be classic AC/DC but we`ve heard it all before. AC/DC haven't changed one bit in the 8 year gap; this might not be a bad thing for those who love AC/DC but for me this is a great disappointment. Don't get me wrong I like this album, it's a good listen and enjoyable from start to end but it sounds like I've heard all the songs before. Due to the repetitive nature of the songs it's difficult for any particular song to stand out. I've given the album several listens to but nothing is leaping out at me so far. This is what disappoints me the most; even in an average album there's normally 1 or 2 songs which stand head and shoulders above the rest but that doesn't happen here. If you consider the fact there are 15 tracks on the album this is quite disappointing.
The riffs are solid but are clearly beaten by their older ones. However I wouldn't consider this a major gripe as it's difficult to better classic songs like Highway to Hell and Back in Black. The one thing I did pick up on was that Angus Young seems to be more restricted in Black Ice. His solos are shorter and less impressive than before. I used to love it when he went off on a crazy solo but that doesn't seem to be the case here.
This is a shorter review on my behalf simply because this album is almost identical to every other AC/DC album out there. There's not much to say because it's all been done before. Die hard AC/DC fans will go crazy for this and I don't blame them because it's more of what they want. Those who like AC/DC here and there shouldn't bother giving this a listen, their older albums are better. Funnily enough if you have NEVER listened to AC/DC I would actually recommend giving it a listen. I think you have to be at one end of the scale, either an AC/DC maniac or know very little about them. Only then can you enjoy this album to the maximum.
It was a long wait. 8 years to be exact, but October last year saw the highly anticipated released of AC/DC's 15th studio album, 'Black Ice', and in my opinion this is one of their best albums.
The band :
Angus Young - Lead Guitar
Malcolm Young - Rhythm Guitar
Brian Johnson - Vocals
Cliff Williams - Bass
Phil Rudd - Drums
In their 8 year absence, Angus and Malcolm Young had continued to write music and although there were several rumours of a new album coming, I must admit as the years rolled by I was beginning to think it was not going to happen.
If it had not been for an injury to bassist Cliff Williams, which left him unable to play the guitar for eighteen months, and also a change of record label, then the album may have been released back in 2006.
I bought the album on its day of release as both myself and partner are fans of the band and decided after listening to it that it is full of great hooks, riffs and also showing more vocal range from singer Brian Johnson, which apparently he was encouraged by producer Brendan O'Brien to show his more soulful side. The trademark guitar solos's from Angus Young are in evidence, particularly on the track 'Decibel' which is simply Angus at his best.
The idea for the title 'Black Ice' came as Angus recalled playing gigs in Scotland (the Young brothers birthplace) in the winter, and the 'black ice' warnings.
There are 15 tracks on the album, which kicks off with 'Rock n Roll Train', a solid opening track which is also the first single release from the album, and is typical AC/DC, with great riffs and rousing chorus with Phild Rudd providing his relentless drumming.
'Anything Goes' is one of my favourite tracks, with a great rhythm and catchy chorus, as is 'Stormy May Day' which sees Angus playing slide guitar on a slower, blues-rock track with a simple but solid rhythm and bassline.
'Skies On Fire' is another favourite of mine with good guitar riffs and chorus.
There are a few 'slower' tracks on Black Ice, but then again the guys are getting on! However, it is still typical AC/DC with the brilliant pounding rhythm's and still contains Brian Johnson's screaming vocal, although as I pointed out earlier, you do see a 'softer' side to his voice on this album, where he injects a little bit of soul into his vocals and has never sounded better!
'Big Jack' is a big song which is certain to be a crowd pleaser on tour if played live. Fast-paced with rousing vocals and chorus, as is 'War Machine' which I think is the hardest track on the album.
There are no tracks that I dislike on the album but in my opinion 'Money Made' is the weakest, a slow song which still plods along nicely, with catchy guitar work, but just not a favourite of mine. Another one I am not as keen on is 'Spoilin For A Fight' which features excellent drumming from Phil Rudd, and is not a bad song by no means, just not one of the better songs on the album in my opinion.
I won't really mention the lyrics other than to say they are just good, solid rock n roll lyrics, that fit the job. AC/DC have never been a band who have a message in their lyrics, other than to say 'we just want to have a great time, get out there and rock'. They never take themselves seriously in this respect and therefore you are never left wondering what the meaning of the lyrics are!
The tracks :-
Rock n Roll Train
Skies On Fire
Smash n Grab
Spoiln For A Fight
Stormy May Day
She Likes Rock n Roll
Rock n Roll Dream
Rocking All The Way
Within a week of its release, Black Ice had shipped 5,000,000 copies worldwide and made its debut at No.1 in the UK album charts.
The band announced a worldwide tour which commenced last year and is continuing right through 2009. Tickets for the concerts were snapped up within minutes of release, and I was lucky enough to be able to purchase tickets online, seconds after their release, (and with much refreshing of the page in the seconds counting down to 10am!) to see the band perform in Glasgow at the end of this month.
I am really looking forward to it, as it will be a homecoming gig for the Young brothers, and also I have never seen the band live before.
Black Ice is a long-awaited album from AC/DC and does not disappoint. The band are back doing what they do best - making great rock music!
Black Ice is currently available to buy from Amazon priced at £5.98 new, and from £3.89 used.
Angus, Brian and the boys are back after an 8 year long hiatus, with nothing but a few DVDs and the odd hint at what was to come to tide us over. We were promised harder riffs (we are always promised harder riffs! It is AC/DC after all!) and Brian back on lyric writing duties in what was shaping up to be a very big release.
When I first put it on I had already heard the lead single Rock'n'Roll (or Runaway) Train so it was good to hear this kicking things off. A solid stomper which was also used to great effect as the opener at the live shows in April 2009. After that, I have to confess that on first listen, the album washed over me without a lot of standout tracks. I was a little disappointed in that it felt that 8 years had been spent on making perfectly acceptable music but ultimately filler.
Then I put it on again - I started to hear a few tracks I liked. The third time - I was absolutely hooked. I will probably get crucified for saying so, but I think this is genuinely their most consistent album since the glory days of Back In Black. Every AC/DC album has at least 2 great songs on it which usually wind their way into the live shows and become fan favourites, but this album has track after track of great songs. My favourites on the album include:
* "Big Jack" - great sing-a-long rock song, simple chorus used to great effect.
* "Anything Goes" - a much lighter, almost pop song with a riff/chorus as catchy as swine flu.
* "Money Made" - again, a much different, almost funky sound for the band.
The album will probably not convert non-fans - after all, if you are going to play a non-fan anything, you are bound to start with Highway to Hell or Back In Black (aren't you?) - but for us long term fans, I honestly think it was worth the wait. The stagnation that hit a number of the mid-period DC albums has completely vanished - the band sound fresh, hungry and keen to do what they do best - rock!
This album is vintage ACDC back at their best! Their first single off the album "Rock N Roll Train" in my opinion is up there with there legendary tracks such as "Highway to Hell" and "Whole Lotta Rosie". ACDC's first album in 8 years, having bought Metallica's "Death Magnetic" and Motley Crues "Saints Of Los Angeles", both artists having not released album material for a similar amount of time, I can't choose between them. With 15 tracks on the album, there is plenty of variety with the unique sound of ACDC to keep you entertained for hours. I hope to see similar material released by ACDC again in the near future. I feel 8 years was too long to wait, but considering the step up from their 2000 album "Stiff Upper Lip", it was worth the wait. I highly recommend this album for any music fan as the material is very likable as are ACDC themselves.
Black Ice is the first AC/DC album in 8 years and surprised me a bit, I wasn't aware it was coming out until a month before its release when it was advertised at the local metro station.
Intrigued how the old school rockers would sound now, I knew it was one that had to be added to my collection. My initial thought was that it was a bit haggard, the first track Rock N Roll Train didn't really have me rocking out as I had expected it to - in fact it sounded like a melange of tracks from older classic albums but without the catchiness in lyrics, Brian Johnson's vocals are nasally as ever and in the first two tracks - he could be saying just about anything, this continues in to the 3rd but the rythm is there, this has the possibility to become a classic.
My opinion swinged into completely the opposite direction by the time we got to the foot tapping Anything Goes, the air guitar wielding War Machine and by the time we got on to Smash n Grab and Spoilin' for A Fight, I was in full swing - enjoying a new classic album, the lyrics aren't particularly educational but they are fun, upbeat and uplifting. Simply enjoyable and although the album gets a bit groovy for a while with tracks like Decibel and Stormy May Day, it finishes off in full throttle in a classy manner...as classy as the Aussie guttersnipes get that is!
This is a top album - don't be fooled by thinking they are has-been's, AC-DC like Motorhead haven't changed their style over the years and are of the school of thinking - "Don't change it if it's not broken", they also retain the catchiness of mid 60s rock a la Rolling Stones but pump it up in to a heavier sound but unlike the boys from Dartford - these guys can actually put out a decent record in 2008 - which is some feat.
1. "Rock 'n' Roll Train" 4:21
2. "Skies on Fire" 3:34
3. "Big Jack" 3:57
4. "Anything Goes" 3:22
5. "War Machine" 3:09
6. "Smash 'n' Grab" 4:06
7. "Spoilin' for a Fight" 3:17
8. "Wheels" 3:28
9. "Decibel" 3:34
10. "Stormy May Day" 3:10
11. "She Likes Rock 'n' Roll" 3:53
12. "Money Made" 4:15
13. "Rock 'n' Roll Dream" 4:41
14. "Rocking All the Way" 3:22
15. "Black Ice" 3:25
I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that AC/DC had released this new album; their first album for eight years! I had no idea that they were recording a new album until it was advertised on television and then to my even further surprise, I heard that it had reached number on in the UK album charts. This on it's own in an impressive feat in a time when heavy rock music is only just managing to rear it's head from the underground into which is was pushed all those years ago.
If it wasn't for the likes of the Guitar Hero computer game and Gene Simmon's Rock School then I imagine that rock music would still be underground, so to speak. In all honesty, I don't think that this is that impressive an album for AC/DC though it is an improvement on their last release, Stiff Upper Lip, which seemed to go a little off the rails.
The classic style of AC/DC comes crashing back to life on this album, bringing memories of one of the greatest rock bands in the world with it, though the boys (or should I say men!?) are not quite as wild or raw as they used to be.
Made up of groovy riffs and screeching high pitched vocals, this is one modern day album which does rock music a bit of justice in a time when it is sorely needed. However, the impressive lead guitar antics and wild behaviour of lead guitarist Angus Young seem to have been left behind.
If I'm honest here, I would have preferred to hear much more of Angus's wailing impressive lead guitar playing on this album, but long drawn out show off guitar solos now seem to be a thing of the past. The album is entertaining enough to listen to and Brian Johnston still retains that raw magical screech to his vocals, though those with a trained ear will notice his voice isn't quite as high and as raw as it used to be.
The only track on this album which really stands out as a classic for me is Money Made. All the other tracks seem to bear a very strong resemblance to each other and I don't think there is much originality here. Lyrically the album is full of stereotypical cliches and overall the band are now starting to sound a little dated.
Still, this is a new release from AC/DC - one of the worlds greatest rock bands ever! What more can I say!
Black Ice is AC/DCs first album in eight years. And you'll be glad to know that it sounds like AC/DC. After stiff upper lip (in 2000) changed the formula a little bit it is good to hear AC/DC back to what they are good at.
Rock 'n' Roll Train is the first track on the album and also the first single. This is classic 'DC. With a great riff, catchy chorus and great angus solo, its probably the best track on the album. After this song the album pretty much continus along the same vein. "Skies on fire" is a nice little number. You do notice, listening to ths album that all the songs sort of blend into one another. With similar structures and similar style throughout. This isn't really a bad thing as you don't really expect the band at their age to change the winning formula, its just that some variety would be nice. You also realise that almost all of the choruses in the song involve Brian Johnston just singin the title, again not necessarily a bad thing but does get a little boring.
So to some up, this is definately no "Back in Black", but did you really expect that. A good buy for any fan.
A track by track summary is:
Rock N Roll is highly infectious, catchy, punchy, energetic, anthemic rock and a brilliant single choice. Classic AC/DC. I do wonder if Runaway Train may have been a better title for it given the lyrical content of the song but who's gonna argue with the mighty AC/DC?
Skies On Fire is also very catchy and very typical of AC/DC without sounding generic or boring. It's rather more chilled than Rock N Roll Train but still has that fire behind it, no pun intended.
Big Jack is somewhere in between Rock N Roll Train and Skies ON Fire in terms of being punchy, energetic, catchy, classic AC/DC but still not as powerful as the opening track.
Anything Goes sounds like AC/DC especially as with Brian's vocals it could never really be that far removed anyway but it sounds different from the first 3 tracks which are all rather similar. It is still catchy and brilliant though.
War Machine has some seriously cool guitar action. It is anthemic and punchy, much as the rest of the album has been.
Smash N Grab returns to the same level of energy as Rock N Roll Train and is a favourite track, along with the opening song. I can't wait to see this one live in concert and think it would be a brilliant single choice.
Spoilin' For A Fight is classic AC/DC and is upbeat and easy to sing along to.
Wheels is another favourite and another possible single; very catchy, anthemic and with a chorus I defy you not to sing along to while dancing with your air guitar.
Decibel is slow, groovy and cool and a bit more laid back in terms of tempo but never letting go of heavy guitar and cool riffs and vocals.
Stormy May Day is much like Decibel. It sounds different of course but has the same vibe to it although sounds slightly less heavy and a bit lighter.
She Likes Rock N Roll is another highlight of the album and an instant classic. Very anthemic and one I can imagine everyone singing along to on tour next year.
Money Made is classic AC/DC but nothing exceptional.
Rock N Roll Dream has some brilliant instrumentals in it and sounds really cool. It's easy to listen to and the most mellow, chilled song on the album but for those who know AC/DC will know it's still got bite!!
Rocking All The Way is another favourite of mine and again it's anthemic with a very catchy set of lyrics and guitars. Another great single choice (potentially!)
Black Ice is again, classic AC/DC and a good track to end on. It is riff-tastic and punchy.
Overall, this album is well worth the wait and I actually rate it even higher than Powerage. Already a classic in my opinion. Welcome back, lads!!
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Rock 'n' Roll Train
2 Skies On Fire
3 Big Jack
4 Anything Goes
5 War Machine
6 Smash 'n' Grab
7 Spoilin' For A Fight
10 Stormy May Day
11 She Likes Rock 'n' Roll
12 Money Made
13 Rock 'n' Roll Dream
14 Rocking All The Way
15 Black Ice