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AC/DC - "Black Ice" (CD)

AC/DC - "Black Ice" CD cover image

"Black Ice" track listing:

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
8. Wheels
9. Decibel
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

Reviewed by on January 31, 2009

"From the first blast of Angus Young's guitar on the album's opener, the instant classic 'Rock 'N Roll Train,' it becomes apparent that the fire that drove the band to create 'Back in Black' has returned."

Black is a good color for AC/DC.

In 1980, "Back In Black" brought them back from the brink of disaster, with new singer Brian Johnson filling in for the recently deceased Bon Scott, whose death could have ended the band for good. In 2008, "Black Ice" brought the band back to the forefront of rock, after more than a decade of middling efforts.

From the first blast of Angus Young's guitar on the album's opener, the instant classic "Rock 'N Roll Train," it becomes apparent that the fire that drove the band to create "Back in Black" has returned. By the time the infectious chorus hits, it's only the most jaded of rock fans that won't be doing some version of Angus' headbanging duckwalk across their living room floor.

The songwriting team of Angus and his brother, rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, took their time in crafting these tunes (this is the first disc from AC/DC since 2000's "Stiff Upper Lip"), and it shows.

AC/DC is often mocked by "serious" rock critics for having songs that all sound alike (they're praised by their fans for that same reason — but that's another story). Sure, there's nothing on "Black Ice" that doesn't have the distinctive AC/DC groove — but there are some cool tweaks to the winning formula.

"Stormy May Day," a song reminiscent of Led Zeppelin's "When The Levee Breaks" and "In My Time Of Dying," features Angus playing slide guitar for the first time on an AC/DC disc.

Also, the band's rhythm section, bassist Cliff Williams and drummer Phil Rudd, definitely get their moments to shine. "She Likes Rock 'N Roll" is definitely Cliff Williams' moment in the sun, with a funky walking bass line that takes the song into Aerosmith territory. Rudd's drumming powers "War Machine" as much as Angus and Malcolm's dueling guitars.

Brian Johnson's voice must have had a chance to recuperate over eight years, because he sounds better than he has in nearly two decades, hitting power-drill high notes on songs like "Wheels" and "Skies On Fire."

The lyrics are the same dirty cleverness we've come to expect from AC/DC, rhyming "Santa ain't the only one who's got a big sack" with "Big Jack" during the song of the same name. You've got to admire a band that never saw any reason to appeal to anyone above the mental age of 14.

At 55 minutes, the album does seem a little on the long side. The band could've probably chopped lesser lights like "Decibel" or "Smash 'N Grab" and had a slightly tighter album.

Still, "Black Ice" is that rare album that grabs you from the first note and never lets go. It's rumored that this could be the band's last album and tour. If so, it's an amazing note to go out on.

Highs: The infectious chorus of "Rock 'N Roll Train," Angus' slide work on "Stormy May Day" and Cliff Williams' bass work on "She Likes Rock 'N Roll."

Lows: None to speak of, though a couple songs could've been cut to make the album a little tighter.

Bottom line: AC/DC maks no slips on "Black Ice," the band's best album since "Back In Black."

Rated 5 out of 5 skulls
5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)