AC/DC: Black Ice

Sure, AC/DC has been writing the same album since 1975. (In other news, the sky is blue.) Still, even within such narrow parameters, it's possible to release the occasional dud, and outside of a steady stream of "fan favorites" (polite talk for inconsistencies), the Australian band hasn't released a head-to-toe inspired album since 1990's The Razors Edge. With Black Ice, however, AC/DC acts as if everything between that album and today—a generation's worth of rock evolution included—didn't happen. Not that there was much excess to be stripped, but Black Ice's 15 songs still cut to the essence of past glories (1981's equally dark, driving For Those About To Rock is an obvious companion piece) while sounding harder, hungrier, and more relevant than anything AC/DC might sit next to on contemporary radio. Though mastered for modern ears—Angus and Malcolm Young's guitars still rip in separate channels, but everything feels mixed into the middle—Black Ice retains the tension and open space that were AC/DC's earliest trademarks. Bassist Cliff Williams and drummer Phil Rudd stick to lean 4/4 grooves and eighth-note lines throughout, while the Youngs parse the blues, and on "Wheels" and "Anything Goes," chime and ring out in triumph. Brian Johnson's growl, meanwhile, shows signs of neither age nor Auto-Tune, delivering a million lyrical variations on rocking, rolling, and revving up for a fight. Black Ice will trigger nostalgia in the devout, but inasmuch as the album reaffirms AC/DC's power, there's nothing backward-looking about it.

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