Sound — 10
I've read lots of negative reviews about this album on Amazon and on other sites. I simply don't understand. Many people slam this album because it is 'overmixed and it sounds the same as all the other albums.' That is what people don't understand. AC/DC never HAS and will NOT change their way of playing music. When I read reviews online before I actually bought the album, I was a bit apprehensive about several songs on the album, namely ANYTHING GOES and ROCK N ROLL DREAM. Once I heard those songs, I knew I was wrong to believe those reviews. To a tough AC/DC listener (a fan who's been listening to them since the beginning), those songs DO take some time to get used to. It took me a few listens to adjust my preferences to accomodate ANYTHING GOES, because that IS one of the more brisk, snappy AC/DC tunes. It's not much more like hard rock, it's more upbeat, more bright sounding. It's a brilliant track nevertheless. As for Rock N Roll Dream, I don't understand at all. AC/DC did take half a step out of their dominated rock territory, but don't all artists do? Any real fan that this is not an AC/DC ballad. If you want to hear a ballad by AC/DC, go listen to their song 'Love Song'. Rock N Roll Dream is inspirational. Brilliant. It shows us that the boys also have a new side to them: it's darker, but still amazing. I'm going to lay out the tracks one by one now: 01.Rock 'n Roll Train: the first single from the album. Before I heard this song on the 'net, my breath was held up and my head was pounding. Thoughts were churning in my head. I was wondering, what was this song going to be? I mean, this would be the first new AC/DC material after a wait of 8 YEARS. This song did not disappoint. Classic AC/DC chords, an awesome solo, and the classic gang-chorus. Couldn't ask for more. 02.Skies On Fire: Phil is the first to start on this track. Some solid tom work, and then the rest of the band kicks through the door and comes in. Brian's voice is phenomenal on this track. Great lyrics. 03.Big Jack: what can I say about this? Right from the first two notes hit (B5 and E5)you can tell you've got a skull-crushing song ahead of you. The verse is simply astounding. Classic AC/DC lyrics and the Young brothers obviously don't want to take any prisoners. What let me down about this track, though, is the chorus. After the amazing intro and verse, the chorus is a big turn-off. The chorus goes in the style of Anything Goes. But the song is still stupendous. 04.Anything Goes: ah, here we go. This is my least favorite track on the album. It's not really POP style, but more upbeat, more... er... I don't quite know how to put it. It's a pretty good song, but it did take me quite a few listens for it to grow on me. 05.War Machine: starts out with Phil and Cliff, pumping up the audience with a tight bassline and some strong tom beats. Then some oddly-placed chords, then the sheer evil of the song sinks in. What we've got here people, is a real destroyer. It's mean sounding. And the backup vocals up Cliff and Malcolm make the song just more badass. War-machine! 06.Smash N Grab: this song starts with a kind of more sleazy, dirty, apprehensive sounding intro. Makes me think of driving through the bad part of town, at night, seeing the night residents coming out. Then the verse comes in. The lyrics are inspirational here as well. Telling you the story of how people take advantage of you when you can't defend yourself. Then the chorus. Simply brilliant. "Smash, grab, taaaake it! Aaaaaah, aaaaaaah, aaaaaaaaah!" You've got to hear the song to appreciate the sheer awesomeness. 07.Spoilin' For A Fight: an opening riff reminiscent of a ZZ Top song I can't remember, but still, this is one of my favorites. This is the song to listen to when you need to get pumped up. It gets your blood flowing, it makes you want to go and have a freakin' GANG WAR! Angus's solo on this is one of my favorite of all time. 08.Wheels: I think this song is more reminiscent of the Highway to Hell album. That said, it's left to you to know that this song surely must rock. And rock is what it does. A funky, cool intro riff and then Brian kicks in, telling you the story of a woman that gets you goin'. The chorus is also in the badass 'gang' style. I'm listening to this track right now. 09.Decibel: oh, wow. Here's what you've got to do. Drive home late at night, when all the lights are on, when the traffic is gone, and you can't see shit outside. Turn this track on. I swear, as soon as you hear Angus playing that rough intro riff, you know that you'd keep driving all night just to listen over and over to this song. Why does this song rock? It just does. Something about it just makes it amazing. 10.Stormy May Day: ah, something different. That doesn't mean anything. Angus is the highlight of this song, at least in the intro. This song is a standout from ALL OTHER AC/DC songs, because it's just so damn good and because Angus plays slide guitar on it. Apparently, slide guitar can also kick my ass, because it did. Raging lyrics, a greasy, tumbling riff and minor chords? I'm all for it. 11.She Likes Rock N Roll: I agree with everyone on this. This should going to replace 'Girls, Girls, Girls' as the stripper anthem nationwide. A sharp, awakening riff in the beginning. Sexy, slinky classic Angus licks are spread generously throughout, among the tasty lyrics. Just makes you wonder, who's the girl? Amazing song, a definite standout. 12.Money Made: this song doesn't have a solo. Now that I've notified you of that, I can now safely say that this song flat-out rocks, just like all the others. From the beginning, you automatically start tapping your foot to Malcolm's riff. And once Angus kicks in, you know that we have a winner! Lyrics are really good here, and some great chords in the verse. 13.Rock N Roll Dream: I've already said in the first paragraph what I think of this song, but I'll say it again. It's a really great song, but for some hardened AC/DC listeners like myself, it WILL takes some listens to actually learn to really, really like this song. 14.Rocking All The Way: sounds like it should be a Christmas tune, right? Wrong! This song sounds like it should be from Stiff Upper Lip, because it's really got the feel of the blues in it. Any blues is a-okay with me, because I really like it. This song has some serious pump-up factor. When Brian is screeching that two women is trouble and telling you about a woman comin' your way, you know you've got classic AC/DC on your hands. 15.Black Ice: okay. This song is a bit... er... I don't quite know how to put it. This song isn't your classic AC/DC rock 'n roll. This is... more... different? It's a bit intimidating, which makes it good. It's got a really weird riff that sound incredibly cool and easy to play, but at the same time it kind of sets you on edge. Still, it's a good song to close the album.
Lyrics — 10
The lyrics on this album generally don't make sense overall, therfore they're awesome. They fit into the songs perfectly, seamlessly. But then again, when you're listening to gut-busting, skull-crunching, brain-smashing rock 'n' roll like AC/DC, you don't give a damn about the lyrics. What really struck me about this is Brian's voice on this album. In some tracks, Brian screams as loud as you think is possible. You begin to think that that's all he can do. But in other tracks, like Decibel or War Machine, he goes low and deep. This album gets a lot of criticism for Brian having a bad voice. Oh man, people are so wrong on this. His voice is amazing on Black Ice! I don't mean "amazing" as in "good". Brian's voice is like a shrapnel laden limb being thrust through your chest on this album. It's hardly a voice; it's more of a sound, like another instrument. And that's just the way to go with it. Brian's not trying to fool anyone on Black Ice. He's not trying to "sing" per se. Most of those old blues guys didn't either. Brian does what they all did: Growl and spit. He just sounds bad, grizzly-mouthed. You can smell the cigarettes and whiskey on his voice; you can hear the history of rocking out perhaps too hard, like on Flick of the Switch. You hear a man. A primitive, rocking MAN that's squinting and bending over. And he rather implode than not give 100% of his machismo. He totally embraces his ruined voice and uses it for all it's ragged worth. Somehow it just makes the album sound meaner, more kickass. This is the closest Brian ever came to sounding like an underground act. There's no pretense here. There's no nonsense. It's perfect.
Overall Impression — 10
Ever since I got the album (I bought the Deluxe Edition), I don't even think of Black Ice so much in terms of a collection of songs; it's more like one giant song that keeps kicking your ass. AC/DC prove on Black Ice that just because they're middle-aged, it doesn't mean they'll get all tasteful and change their style. There is almost nothing I don't like about this album, and to specify, it took me some time to get to like anything goes. Apart from that, the entire album is very, very good. If this album was stolen from me, I'd find the mofo that did it and bash his head through the wall. If I lost it, I'd definitely go buy another copy, without a doubt. I'd recommend this album to anyone who appreciates music that incorporates guitar. Black Ice. Ring ring, we have a winner!