AC/DC’s new album rocks despite hardships

AC/DC released their 15th studio album, "Rock or Bust," Dec. 2, amidst losing a band member to dementia and another having been arrested.

AC/DC's 15th studio album,

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AC/DC's 15th studio album, "Rock or Bust," which was released Dec. 2.

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It’s been a rough year for legendary Australian rock band AC/DC, but the Dec. 2 release of the band’s 15th studio album, Rock or Bust, should prove to be a worldwide hit.

Early in the year AC/DC revealed that founding member and rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young would not be playing on the new album or on their 2015 world tour. The reasons behind his absence were obscure until it was finally stated that Malcolm had dementia and would be replaced by his cousin Stevie Young.

Further problems plagued the band when drummer Phil Rudd, who is absent in both the “Play Ball” and “Rock or Bust” music videos and the album booklet photos, was arrested for illegal possession of drugs and threatening to kill someone in New Zealand. He was also arrested for plotting to hire a hitman, but the charges were dropped because of insufficient evidence.

Despite these unfortunate circumstances the band released “Rock or Bust,” their first album since the number one hit, “Black Ice” in 2008 and only their third album of the 21st century. The album does not stray from the signature AC/DC sound that has been present on every one of their albums, but it does offer a different approach.

The band sounds and looks rejuvenated and recorded an album that is not only their best single effort since 1990’s “The Razor’s Edge,” but also the shortest and one of the greatest in their catalog. The album clocks in at only 35 minutes in length with the longest song reaching three minutes and 41 seconds.

The album has been ranked within the top 10 rock album pre-orders on iTunes, but became the number one overall album on the Apple music service on release day. Stores such as Target were stocked full of physical CD copies of the album, anticipating the biggest rock release of the year.

As soon as the first note on the song “Rock or Bust” begins to play, the listener will already recognize it as an AC/DC song. As with their previous album, lead singer Brian Johnson’s vocals are less scratchy and gnarly and much more in line with his abilities that made “Back in Black” in 1980 and “For Those About to Rock We Salute You” in 1981 so successful.

“Play Ball” was the album’s lead single, debuting Oct. 7 to rock radio everywhere. It was also featured during the post-season of Major League Baseball, even if the song isn’t really about baseball. It has picked up airplay at Seattle’s KISW much like their last album, which wasn’t too surprising. KISW was, afterall, the first American station to play AC/DC in the mid-1970s.

The album’s third song, “Rock the Blues Away” is yet another rock-themed AC/DC track. It’s a great song with a softer quality about it and amazing vocals by Johnson in the bridge and the chorus. However, the song does sound a bit too similar to a previous song by the band from 2008 called “Anything Goes.”

From the first few seconds of “Miss Adventure,” it instantly sends the listener back to AC/DC’s heyday. The song has a very repetitive chorus that composes the majority of the song with plenty of backing vocals, setting the listener up for hours of singing the song in their head.

“Dogs of War” sounds much like a “Ballbreaker” era song at first, but it quickly morphs into the sound developed by the early ‘80s AC/DC, which proves that their sound is timeless. The bridge is structured differently from other songs by the band and it seems more commercially ready for a mainstream audience than their more usual tracks. The song also has vocals similar to Krokus, which was ironically criticized in the ‘80s for trying to sound like AC/DC.

“Baptism By Fire” is the best song on the album. The guitar parts and drums are powerful and ready to knock pop music off its pedestal with hard, loud and ugly rock n’ roll. This is the kind of track every rock fan longs for, and it is a wonder why it hasn’t been released as a promotional single for the album.

The guitar parts and drums are powerful and ready to knock pop music off its pedestal with hard, loud and ugly rock n’ roll.”

“Sweet Candy” marks the second return of Johnson’s low register and almost wolfish singing on the album at the start of the song, which has been used on some of their best over the years. The backing vocals by Angus Young and the rest of the band sound like a kid in a candy store, but perhaps just a bit more haunting and mature. This song is a definite stand-out track.

Other tracks on the album include “Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder,” “Hard Times,” “Rock the House” and “Emission Control,” which all live up to the AC/DC name.

AC/DC stuck true to their word, offering an 11 song collection of non stop hard rock with no filler, a force the band has been missing since 1995. The album certainly rocked and didn’t dare bust. It just goes to prove why AC/DC is the greatest musical act to ever rock the earth.

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