Written by Alex Stojanovic
Shot In The Dark
Through The Mists Of Time
Kick You When You're Down
No Man's Land
Release Date: November 13, 2020
Label: Columbia Records
Brian Johnson - Vocals / Angus Young - Guitars / Stevie Young - Guitars / Cliff Williams - Bass / Phil Rudd - Drums
With Chris Slade back in the drum seat, and after a pretty successful year of touring in 2015, the start of 2016 was really when the shit hit the fan, when it was announced that Brian Johnson had to step down due to risk of permanent hearing damage, only to be followed by the band's controversial decision to move forward without Brian. Losing a singer of a stature like Brian Johnson at this stage is life-threatening to a band as big as AC/DC. The band then finished the tour with Axl Rose, which was a pretty polarizing move. At the end of the tour, Cliff Williams then announced his retirement. This left Angus Young as the only original member left, and at that point, it looked like the end had arrived for the band. In late 2017, Malcolm sadly passed away, which was a massive loss to the music world. As sad as that was, it brought the remaining classic members back together.
After Malcolm's death, there was nothing but constant rumours, photos and conflicting reports from a lot of pretty unreliable sources that were claiming that Angus and Stevie Young were back with Brian, Phil and Cliff, and that a new album and world tour was going to be announced "at any time". With all the rumours that were circulating regarding what AC/DC was up to, there was not one official peep from the members to confirm whether the rumours were true or not. As a result, we had Boy Who Cried Wolf syndrome for 2.5 years with AC/DC. However, now it's been confirmed that the Rock Or Bust lineup is back and armed with new music. All I can say is that it feels so good and refreshing to hear fresh new, yet typical, riffage from the lads. On top of that, we still have 4/5 of the lineup that made the biggest rock album of all time (Back In Black).
I think it's pretty safe to say that the first single "Shot In The Dark" is already an instant classic, and it's bound to be up there with "Hells Bells" and "Thunderstruck". That being said, I think that song should've been the opening track. Aside from a pretty decent main riff, the opener "Realize" lacks that compelling factor to make it a great opener. The chorus lacks the hook that sucks you in and makes you want to sing along at the top of your lungs like "Shot In The Dark" does, or even "Rock 'n Roll Train" from Black Ice. It's also a pretty layered track with quite a bit of extra guitar lead parts going on underneath the chords during the chorus. "Rejection" follows it up, and it serves as redemption for what "Realize" lacked. The main riff will get you wanting to do your best version of Angus' duckwalk across your living room or bedroom floor.
Everyone shines on the album, but let's be honest, the real star is Brian. At 73 years old, he has lost nothing off his signature razor-sharp bluesy, soulful rock 'n roll scream. The pitch might not be as high as it was on Back In Black and For Those About To Rock, but it's still powerful, and you can hear him reaching the higher register in certain spots. Even if Cliff Williams is just doing typical eighth note bass lines for the most part, the way he and Phil Rudd lock in together is what gives the songs that great feel that gets your feet tapping, heads bobbing, and entire bodies moving. "Through The Mists Of Time" is an instant favourite of mine with its laid back, poppy riffing in the verses, and catchy groove. The pace picks up on "Demon Fire", and the stops in the intro make the track sound reminiscent of "Whole Lotta Rosie".
There isn't a song on the album that doesn't have that signature AC/DC groove. Usually on an album where many of the songs are in the same vein, the second half tends to teeter off when compared to the first half. One of the highlights of the second half is "Money Shot", as it's one of the catchiest cuts here. "Wild Reputation" is another laid back track with a more minimalistic tone in the guitars, much like in "Through The Mists Of Time", but it still grooves really smoothly. With the closer "Code Red", the first thing you will be saying is that the first riff sounds so much like "Back In Black". You could say that this is Cliff's moment in the sun where he gets the chance to do a slightly different bass line rather than just the usual eighth notes. Sometimes, I honestly wonder if he ever gets tired of playing eighth notes for the most part.
Many are calling AC/DC as the saviours of 2020 with the release of Power Up. After listening to the album, I can certainly say that they are one of the main saviours of the year. We've been waiting a long time for this album, and it's finally here. Malcolm may not be here with us anymore, but he has a writing credit for every song along with Angus, because for the album, Angus raided the vault full of unreleased ideas that he and Malcolm had written over the years. Just like Back In Black was dedicated to Bon Scott, Power Up is dedicated to Malcolm, and he would be more than proud of the boys. I think it's also worth noting that this is also the first album since Fly On The Wall that doesn't have a song with the word "rock" in the title. After a pretty rough few years with a lot of uncertainty, AC/DC is back.......in BLACK!
Highs: "Shot In The Dark", "Through The Mists Of Time", "Wild Reputation" and "Money Shot".
Lows: "Realize" should've been swapped with "Shot In The Dark" as the album's opener. If you're tired of hearing the AC/DC formula, this certainly won't change your mind.