Formed in 1973 and now still going strong here in 2014, Australian hard rock/metal legends AC/DC have seen their fair share of hard times recently. After the triumphant success of 2008s Black Ice, which saw the band back in fine form selling albums in droves and touring the world, it was recently announced that founder Malcolm Young was suffering from dementia at the age of 61 and would have to step down and retire from the band. Quickly, in stepped Malcom & Angus' nephew Stevie Young to take over the rhythm guitar slot in the band, just in time for the recording of this latest album Rock or Bust, which had already been written by the Young brothers. Then, in early November of this year, drummer Phil Rudd was charged with attempting to set up a homicide (a charge that was later dropped) as well as found in the possession of various narcotics in his home. Since then, other legal matters have come up for the drummer, so his place in the band for the upcoming world tour is very much in doubt. But despite all that, Brian Johnson, the two Young's, Rudd, and bassist Cliff Williams have put together a very fine recording here, one that's immediately accessible and a fine addition to the AC/DC legacy.
Though this is the first record from the band without the presence of Malcolm Young, Stevie does a fine job stepping into his shoes, and really, not a step is missed other than perhaps a slight bit of 'thunder' in some songs. From the very first spin, tracks such as "Dogs of War", "Hard Times", and the single "Play Ball" are instantly memorable, chock full of catchy riffs and memorable choruses. The title cut rocks really hard, one of the heaviest tunes on the CD, and you can really hear how much better Johnson's vocals sound. He still has that gravelly roar, but his voice seems to be in much better shape than on the previous few releases. "Rock the Blues" away has a great hook, almost like AC/DC doing, dare I say, Bruce Springsteen styled rock, and both "Rock the House" and "Emission Control" contain some splendid blues-metal riffing in classic AC/DC fashion. Angus as always is a house of fire, spewing off a never ending assault of scorching lead guitar work from his Gibson SG, and the rhythm team of Stevie, Phil, and Cliff are locked and loaded throughout.
There's really not a bad tune here, and while Rock or Bust might not be quite up to Let There Be Rock, Highway to Hell, or Back in Black levels of lofty metallic mayhem, it's a damn good album that easily as good or better then anything they've done over the last 20 years. Sure, it's a little on the short side at barely 35 minutes, but the tracks are roughly 3-minutes & change each, to the point, with the intention of grabbing the listener, kicking their ass, and getting out of dodge. You'll be hooked by each song right from the get-go, and that's a sure sign of a successful album if you ask me. Two thumbs up from a band we can always count on to give us exactly what an AC/DC album should sound like.
See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!
1) Rock or Bust
2) Play Ball
3) Rock the Blues Away
4) Miss Adventure
5) Dogs of War
6) Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder
7) Hard Times
8) Baptism By Fire
9) Rock the House
10) Sweet Candy
11) Emission Control