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Black Ice: AC/DC still skidding on. And on and on and...
Black Ice - AC/DC
Member Name: cheffrey
Black Ice - AC/DC
Date: 18/03/12, updated on 18/03/12 (33 review reads)
Advantages: One or two songs conjure a groove
Disadvantages: One or two songs constitutes a single, not an album.
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.
Summary: Another pretty bland affair from AC/DC