Moving on from Stiff Upper Lip (2000), today, I’ll be focusing on Black Ice (2008). It is the band’s 15th (14th internationally released) studio album. Black Ice‘s development got stalled due to bassist Cliff Williams recovering from a hand injury and AC/DC changing record labels. Not only is it the band’s longest gap between studio albums (eight years), but it is also the last album to feature founding rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young. The latter alone should be a reason to get Black Ice.
“Rock ‘n’ Roll Train” kicked off the album, and it is a banger! I couldn’t figure out what Malcolm Young and Williams were singing in the chorus for the longest time. Once I searched up the lyrics, I eventually got into it. It’s got a great riff, and Phil Rudd lays down the groove. Besides “Thunderstruck,” “Rock ‘n’ Roll Train” is the only song after the For Those About to Rock era that the band still performed live. Rudd’s loose hi-hat is all over “Skies on Fire,” it has a brilliant guitar solo and a good chorus. I enjoyed the lyrics too; “I know you / And, you know me / Tell me what is you want it to be.”
“Big Jack” is ok, but there’s nothing special about it, other than Rudd’s simple but effective drumming and the riff. I’ll listen to it on the album, but it’s not my go-to track on it. “Anything Goes” is more of a happy tune, probably because of the melodic feel and the bells featured in it (sounds like bells to me). The music video is very bittersweet because it’s one of the last to feature the late Malcolm Young, the final being “Shoot to Thrill,” which includes footage from Iron Man 2 (2010).
I covered “War Machine” on my post titled Songs with the Same Title – Kiss Edition, but again, it’s a bad*** track! The opening riff, the bass line, and Rudd stomping on the kick drum set the tone for it. I’m not sure about the lyrics, but that’s AC/DC! “Better catch her name / Come on in / Gimme that thing / That thing gone wild.” The next song, “Smash ‘n’ Grab,” sounds very similar to “Skies on Fire,” in fact, I used to get those two mixed up. They both have a similar melody, and of course, the same simple drums.
“Spoilin’ for a Fight” sounds almost exactly like “Big Jack.” It features the most annoying chorus on the entire album, which repeats “spoilin’ for a fight” nonstop. “Wheels” was more original, and it depicts Brian Johnson’s love for motorcars. I love how poetic the chorus is: “Wheels / Spinnin’ around my brain / Driving you insane / Wheels / Rolling ’round my head / Going through the red / Wheels / Goin’ down the road / Ready to explode.”
Other than the bass riff and guitar solo, “Decibel” is average to me. The lyrics simply talk about rock ‘n’ roll, but maybe too simple! “Stormy May Day” has a nice bluesy riff, and it features Angus Young on the slide guitar. “She Likes Rock ‘n’ Roll” is fun and a good party song. The drums are kicking; it has an edgy guitar riff, there are some soft parts where you can hear the bass, and it features good backing vocals from Young and Williams.
“Money Made” has a slower tempo for safe headbanging, and while the chorus is not the strongest, I give the boys props for poking fun at the U.S. for being all about money. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Dream” takes a deep meaning because I think of Mal and how AC/DC was his baby. He and Angus dreamt of playing rock ‘n’ roll and entertaining people. After Mal’s death, Angus continued with the rest of the Back in Black lineup (and Stevie Young) and gave us Power Up (2020) in honor of him.
“Rocking All the Way” is another fun song with a cool guitar solo, and you can’t help but tap your foot when Rudd works that hi-hat. Mal’s riff on “Black Ice” ended the album on a high note, despite not being a fan of the song. The lyrics didn’t stand out to me, but that’s fine!
The difference between Brian Johnson’s voice on Stiff Upper Lip and Black Ice is quite noticeable, as it does sound a bit worn out, but he was good still. I would give this album a 3.8 out of 5 stars because although some songs lacked originality and quality lyrics, it was Mal’s last album with the boys, so it’s a treasured gem in a way.
Have a favorite song from Black Ice? Let me know in the comments below!
Take care and see ya real soon!