Legendary rock band AC/DC first came on the scene over 30 years ago with their debut album, “TNT.” They hit it big with 1979’s “Highway To Hell” and just a year later, exploded with their seminal album “Back In Black.” Now, all these albums were released before I was even born, but I know good music when I hear it (at least, I like to think so). And AC/DC is good music. The lyrics may not be too deep or affecting, (which is what I often look for), but it’s hard to not want to turn up the volume whenever their songs come on.
The boys are back with “Black Ice,” their first album in eight years. And it was quite a shock to learn that their 15th studio album sold a staggering 784,000 copies in its first week, which makes it the 2nd highest debut of 2008. What’s even more astounding is that the album was only sold exclusively at Wal-Mart.
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As part of the promotion, the band will also be featured in “AC/DC Live: Rock Band Track Pack,” which is an expansion of the video game “Rock Band.” The AC/DC version, featuring 18 songs from their “Live at Donington” DVD, is also only available at Wal-Mart. It kind of makes you wonder how a band composed of men in their 50’s (one of whom still dons his signature schoolboy uniform) can still come out on top after all these years.
On “Black Ice,” the band stays true to its thrashing rock roots while keeping consistent with their basic, formulaic style: a heavy, steady drum beat, dominant guitar riffs, good-time rock lyrics, and Brian Johnson’s distinct, raspy, Joplin-esque voice. For the average hard rock fan, this is the quintessential rock album… their best since the groundbreaking “Back In Black.” It’s important to go into listening to this album remembering that old adage: if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. And the boys in AC/DC definitely didn’t want to mess with what’s been working for them for years.
The theme of the album is simple: rock and roll at its core. This is very apparent in the lyrics. The phrase “Rock and Roll” is mentioned throughout the entire album, repeatedly in five different songs. It’s a hard theme to miss with song titles like “Rock N Roll Train,” “She Likes Rock N Roll,” “Rock N Roll Dream,” and “Rocking All the Way.”
By far, the best song on the album is “Anything Goes.” It makes me want to plug in my electric guitar and learn the chords myself (thank you Malcolm Young). Along with Brian Johnson’s euphonious vocals, it sounds like a metal Springsteen song. And I love me some Springsteen. “Skies on Fire” is thoroughly enjoyable, climaxing with Angus Young’s scorching solo. But I have to be honest, by the end of the album; some of the songs start to sound the same. It gets a little difficult to discern one song from another, but once you reach the final song, the title track, “Black Ice,” it’s worth it knowing they chose to end the album on such a powerful note.