Given the recent events surrounding AC/DC, Rock or Bust should be viewed as a triumph for the band, even for one of their calibre. Moreover, given the length of time between the last few albums, it becomes something of an event. It’s hard to believe Black Ice was unleashed six years ago.
Having heard the lead single “Play Ball” before general release, my hopes for Rock or Bust were slightly dashed. But I knew I’d be listening to the full album regardless. It’s AC/DC at the end of the day, even if it’s not their finest album.
However, with the album opener, the title track is AC/DC doing what they do best: squealing, crunching riffs with lyrics about rock music and how it will never fail. Pretty much standard fare, so far.
The band does deviate further into blues than normal with the appropriately titled “Rock the Blues Away”. It’s a great change of pace from the rest of the album but when it comes down to it, on an AC/DC album, I enjoy the usual consistent barrage of riffs.
Elsewhere, it’s business as usual. The rest of the album contains the usual, raw, in your face riffs from Angus Young while Brian Johnson growls and howls his way through the lyrics. However, during the entire album, there’s a sense of wanting. Nothing jumps out as being a classic for years to come but not a single one fails to make you nod your head along to Angus’s riffs.
Once the album’s finished, I’m left a little underwhelmed, wanting more and I realise what it is: Malcolm. It’s only when you take the elder Young brother out of the band that you realise how integral he was to the band’s sound. His nephew, Stevie Young, fills his place. While he does a great job, it’s not the same. The album has a Malcolm Young-shaped hole which no one can fill.
In a year filled with great albums, especially with heavyweights like Foo Fighters, Slash, Slipknot and many more, Rock or Bust was always going to have a hard time getting a look-in regardless of their pedigree. It’s not the best album I’ve heard this year but it’s far and away from being the worst either. It’s not exactly For Those About to Rock or Highway to Hell or even Black Ice. But it won’t rank amongst the band’s worst outputs. It’s just missing that spark. It’s missing Malcolm.