The loss of a frontman can surely put an end to a great band. Fortunately for us (and for them), after the death of the hilarious and beloved Bon Scott, AC/DC carried on to deliver one of the most powerful and well written album of their career.
The classic “Hells Bells” opens the hostilities and the listener find himself struck by the hard hitting of drummer Phil Rudd and the sharp guitars of the Young brothers. The song contains one of the many classic riffs that any apprentice axeman should meticulously study. A live staple of the band since its inception, it gives a first look in the new AC/DC who tends to be more metal than during its bluesy heydays of the 70’s. “Shoot To Thrill”, one of my all time favorite, comes second and by now, the band full-on transformation is complete. Johnson delivers killer vocals and impose its own style without trying to imitate its predecessor. Same goes for “What Do you Do For Money”, a violent rant on Lady’s trying to take advantage of the hard-earned wealth of the rock star dedicated to its art. “Let Me Put My Love Into You” closes side 1 by adding a more explicit sexual dimension to the overall feel of the disc. “Let me put my love into you, let me cut your cake with my knife”…definitely an exercise in modern poetry by Mr. Johnson.
What makes this record so enjoyable can in no small part be attributed once again to producer Mutt Lange, already present on the band’s previous album. While he retained a certain bluesy feeling on the masterpiece Highway to Hell the year before, this time he gives the band the tools to strike once and for all on the US market and to dominate it. The sound is precise, meticulously put together and is as sharp as a razor blade. No unnecessary guitar intervention or ego here, only pieces of great music put together to serve one purpose: deliver a classic.
Side 2 opens with what may have become the Aussies’s most recognizable song: “Back In Black”. Here, the band re-establish themselves. Against adversity, we will stand up and stay united (and destroy your eardrums by the same occasion). A simple riff turned into an immense hit but make no mistake, there is no compromise here: this is heavy metal at its finest. Drums pounding, groovy bass, cutting guitars and screaming vocals make this song an all time hard rock/heavy metal classic and a fan favorite.
“You Shook Me All Night Long”, the next single gives a chance to the listener to catch his breath as it is the softest song on the record. We are not talking about a ballad here but another sex-driven hit where Johnson praises his lover for her endurance.
The album closes with a fist in the air anthem defending the flag of Rock’n Roll, a music genre easily targeted by the establishment in these days. “Rock’Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” is probably the bluesier song on the LP and proves that the band while considerably hardening their songs and tone, remains true to its first love: the blues. The circle is complete with this one as it allows AC/DC to make clear they won’t give up, on their band or on the music they live for.
In one record, AC/DC proves they are now a force to reckon with. They managed to prove their detractors wrong and those who thought they were dead after the tragic loss of Bon Scott. It is debatable how the Johnson era can compare to the Scott’s one, but AC/DC were certainly off to a great start when they released Back In Black in 1980. Also, can 50 millions buyers can be wrong…?