“AC/DC – Black Ice (Deluxe Edition)” Music Review
AC/DC is, in my opinion, one of the best rock bands in the world. Few bands have written so many classic songs over so many years. While Back in Black is without a doubt their magnum opus, today I’ll review their disappointing new CD – Black Ice.
The first thing you’ll notice about Black Ice is that this is an AC/DC album, no doubt about it. Fans will recognize the band’s style in full effect here: minimalist bass and drums, Brian Johnson’s unmistakable shouting, and Malcolm Young’s loud and steady guitar chords that always launch his younger brother Angus into some crazy solo. Admittedly, a lot of AC/DC’s songs sound the same, but when that song is so great, I don’t mind hearing it over and over again.
However, with Black Ice, the band is showing its age, I’m sorry to say. Brian Johnson sounds like he’s straining his voice throughout the album, and Angus’s guitar solos are disappointingly short. Also, the band’s choice to not sell Black Ice (or any of their albums, for that matter) on online retailers sounds like something a stubborn old man who doesn’t know any better would say.
I bought the deluxe edition of the CD for $2 more than the normal release just because I like the band so much. The music in the deluxe edition is the exact same as in the normal version, but the deluxe package contains 30 pages of lyrics and photos. This brings me to one of the album’s biggest problems, though. The terribly written lyrics. Honestly, I would pay extra not to have them included in the booklet, as they have done nothing but soil my opinion of this album. AC/DC has always been about the music, and not so much the lyrics, but in this album, that fact gets taken a bit too far. In other words, none of the lyrics for any of the songs make sense at all. Seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if Brian came up with them right on the spot. Take a look at this:
From “Rock ‘N Roll Train”
One hot angel
One cool devil
Your mind on the fantasy
Livin on the ecstasy
Give it all, give it,
Give it what you got
Come on give it all a lot
Pick it up move it
Give it to the spot
Your mind on fantasy
Livin on ecstasy
(Running right off the track)
What is going on? Is there a hot angel and a cool devil because I’m livin’ on ecstasy? But what am I picking up and moving? Give what to what spot? Now a train is running away? Okay… maybe the next verse can explain it a little more:
One hot ringin’ bell
Old school rebel
A ten for the revelry
Diamond of the agency
Shake it, Shake it
Take it to the spot
You know she make it really hot
Get it on, get it up
Come on give it all you got
Your mind on fantasy
Livin on the ecstasy
Yeah, I’m giving up. Here’s a verse from another song:
From “Smash N Grab”:
Seems like you run a mile
Hey try to unwind
Come on let’s blow your mind
It’s no use you ain’t got time
Without a sound come on let’s get around
Oh I hear the crash
I could give you more examples of the awful lyrics on this album, but for the sake of space I won’t. The only song that makes even a lick of sense to me is “Stormy May Day”, which is about… a storm in May. Laaa-ame.
I hope I’m not giving Black Ice a terrible name here. It can be a fun album to listen to, once you stop trying to pay attention to the lyrics and repetitive nature of the band. I’m still a fan of AC/DC, but this new album is far from the near-perfection the band has reached in the past. Let’s go into each song with a little more detail now…
1. Rock N’ Roll Train – This hit single is actually one of the best songs on the album. With a memorable guitar riff and lyrics, stupid as they are, that will undoubtly be a hit at all the live shows, this song might be around for a while. The worst part of this song is how short the guitar solo is. Seriously, just as I realize that the solo has begun, it’s over.
2. Skies on Fire – Pretty forgetable.
3. Big Jack – Generic.
4. Anything Goes – Good, something different. It might not please every AC/DC fan, but this song’s “lighter” sound actually works. Angus’s solo is short once again, but this time it’s pretty good.
5. War Machine – This second single isn’t as good as “Rock ‘N Roll Train”, but I like it. And… hold on… is that the bass I hear? This is an AC/DC song, right? Well, it’s too bad more wasn’t done with the bass – it’s just straight eighth notes of the same thing. Whatever, I’ll be nice and give this song a higher score than average.
6. Smash ‘N’ Grab - This sounds a bit more bluesy and western than the band usually plays. An average song.
7. Spoilin’ for a Fight – Hm… more of the bluesy, western sound we just heard.
8. Wheels – Even more of above sound. Brian sounds especially strained during the chorus of this song.
9. Decibel – Okay.
10. Stormy May Day – The apex of the western sound in this album. The topic of the song - a dangerous storm in may - seems pretty hillbilly. The actual lyrics are best described as a dumbed-down version of “Hells Bells”. Near the end of the song, the band cuts out mostly to let the singer do the work. I would have just said “Brian” instead of “singer”, but the non-shouted vocals at that part of the song sound so radically different from what Brian normally sounds like, that it could be some guest vocalist. I can’t find any evidence that it is in fact a guest vocalist though, so I have to assume it’s Brian. Honestly, he doesn’t sound all that terrible when he isn’t shouting.
11. She Likes Rock ‘N’ Roll – I like the slow, building sound in the chorus, but other than that this song is completely forgettable.
12. Money Made – “Work. Work. Money Made.” This is a good song to listen to get you through monotanous work. Is that a compliment or an insult? Both.
13. Rock ‘N’ Roll Dream – A “slow” song by AC/DC standards. It’s pretty boring for the majority of it, but at around the 1:15 mark, the guitars give it a little life -though not enough to save it from mediocrity.
14. Rocking All the Way – Very bluesy. Well, I guess this is the “new sound of AC/DC”, if you actually can in fact say that AC/DC has a new sound. This particular song is not my favorite.
15. Black Ice – Whew. I was beginning to lose faith in AC/DC here. This song, however, is by far the best on the CD, definitely deserving to be the name of the entire album. In all honesty, it sounds a lot like “Decibel” from earlier, but I assume this song was written first, and then with that tune fresh in the heads of the band, “Decibel” was written as a sort of dumbed-down version of this great song. The lyrics make no sense to the point of being comical, but by now I’ve already ignored that fact as I’m listening through the album. The riff is repetitive but memorable, and most importantly, very catchy.