It's been eight years since the last AC/DC studio album 'Stiff Upper Lip,' an average album that got mixed reviews across the world. When I heard 'Rock N Roll Train,' the foretaste of 'Black Ice,' several weeks ago, I wasn't sure how high my expectations should be after so long. The song had a typical AC/DC groove, but seemed to plod along. Inevitably it got better and so my expectations increased for some vintage AC/DC in a modern context on 'Black Ice.' Honestly, I should have kept my expectations in check.
'Black Ice' is another case where less would have been more, much more. Without doubt, in terms of skill and execution, AC/DC has never sounded better. Johnson's gravel gargling vocals are phenomenal. Angus impresses by delivering new licks out of his old fret bag of tricks. Malcolm, Williams, And Rudd are steady and complete; you won't find a better rhythm section anywhere. However, the boys could have chosen their songs more wisely. AC/DC has always been at their best when they have that famous boogie rock and roll groove going. And this is where they shine on this work.
Songs like the aforementioned 'Rock N Roll Train,' 'Big Jack,' 'War Machine,' 'Spoilin' For A Fight,' 'She Likes Rock N Roll,' and 'Black Ice' are definitive AC/DC living up to their latest promotional punch line: rock and roll is back. If you tack on 'Anything Goes,' a more melodic rock song, 'Decibel,' with it's savory slide guitar, and, possibly, 'Money Made,' a great chorus, then you would have a satisfying and streamlined AC/DC album. Others may trim out five or six different songs, but I think the result would be the same.
Possibly AC/DC was simply trying to please their fans by issuing an album with 15 tracks. After all, they haven't been in the studio for eight years. 'Black Ice' will please fans and I'm one of them. Still, I wish they would have trimmed the fat and given me more meat.
After eight years away from the studio, I guess AC/DC wanted to reward their fans for waiting by packing this album with 15 songs. This is commendable, but hardly necessary. There's probably 9 or 10 great tracks on 'Black Ice,' after you trim the fat.