(quick note: Yeah, AC/DC's not technically metal. Still, they're one of my favorite bands dating back many years, and so many metal acts draw from them that I couldn't help but review this album.)
Hesitant? No, I don’t believe it. That’s just one of a long list of words that I never thought I would ascribe to an AC/DC album. It’s just plain impossible. I immediately went to my CD rack and grabbed three albums that I figured would help me narrow my focus, convince me that what I was thinking couldn’t be true.
So, I listened to sections of “For Those About to Rock,” and “The Razor’s Edge.” Just for perspective, I also snagged Airbourne’s “Runnin’ Wild.” For those who haven’t heard, I can only define Airbourne as “AC/DC: Turbo Edition.” Anyway, after sorting through those three, I came to a new conclusion. “Black Ice” is a rich man’s version of “For Those About to Rock.” It has some highlights, doesn’t have any awful songs, but a fair number of them bleed together.
Ultimately, I was hasty to call this album “hesitant.” However, I will admit that Brian Johnson’s assertion that Angus had written some of his most aggressive stuff for this album may have fallen a little short. However, that doesn’t mean that Angus didn’t cook up some good hooks. There’s just no “Thunderstruck” or “If You Want Blood” here. In the end, “Black Ice” is a good album that doesn’t take chances. I’m forced to remember an interview with Malcolm Young where he admitted that AC/DC would never play another style of music because they didn’t really know how to. This album for better or worse may prove that point. Truth be told, any fans who thought that “Black Ice” would be a reinventing of AC/DC for the first time in thirty-three years were probably fooling themselves. Keep in mind, this is the band that lost an icon in Bon Scott and replaced him with another in Brian Johnson, never really missing a step.
AC/DC fans, it’s time we made a confession. With a mountain of evidence to support this claim, we can’t deny it anymore. Phil Rudd is an average drummer at best. That’s why I listened to “The Razor’s Edge,” just to remember how Chris Slade wasn’t a superstar, but injected a little life into the basic rhythms. Ultimately, Rudd’s beats are part of the reason some of the songs sound similar; they’re all set to roughly the same cadence and time. The lack of variety is damaging.
Still, don’t let me get too far down on this album. There are certainly some toe-tappers and head-nodders on this one. The second half of this album is where the money’s made, so to speak. It almost feels like walking into a room filled with cigarette smoke, beer bottles placed about, and the band practicing amidst it all, relaxing and playing some rock. I admit that I’m impressed with the song “Stormy May Day,” even if the riff is a rip-off of Zeppelin’s “In My Time of Dying.”
Aside from that, there are a few other gems. “Rock n’ Roll Train” is a good enough song. I like the lines on “War Machine.” “Wheels” and “She Likes Rock n’ Roll” sound like AC/DC songs, as simple as that may sound.
Said and done, I like this album. It’s more relaxed than maybe I expected, the album isn’t as bombastic as some of AC/DC’s previous work. However, it grows on me a little each time through, and there’s much more to like here than not. If you’re fan, give it a shot, though don’t expect to be blown away. Take “Black Ice” for what it is; a classic rock album from an amazing classic rock band. (And if you’re out there picking it up, buy Airbourne’s album, too. It's one of my favorites this year. You’ll love it.) I'm still amped for the concert. Should be a great show.
Nuclear Edge updates and thoughts while I'm here:
-November 23rd for Chinese Democracy? Raise your hand if you believe that's actually true. All I want to know is where can I get my free Dr. Pepper like we were all promised...
-I've heard an unconfirmed rumor that Motograter is back in the studio. For a young band to take five years to think about another album can't be a good sign. Keep in mind, that rumor is unconfirmed.
-A friend/coworker of mine was asking me how the GWAR concert was. We got on the subject of bands that try to be similar GWAR, and I mentioned Slipknot (this is not an endorsement of Slipknot. I said "tries to.") Being in his early fifties, he said "yeah, what's their deal? When I heard the name 'Slipknot,' I thought 'Marshall Tucker meets the Allman Brothers.' Figured it was some kind of cowboy-rope thing." I admit, I laughed. A lot.
-The Oakland Raiders are now 2-4, and with Baltimore on the schedule, stand a fighting chance this weekend.
-Whaddaya know, I just might watch a couple World Series games after all.