After what proved a difficult year for the band, AC/DC released has their first album since 2008 and sixteenth studio album of their career today.
During September of this year, founding member Malcolm Young departed from the band. Just less than a month ago, drummer Phil Rudd was faced with multiple charges including attempt to procure a murder, which was withdrawn the next day. While the other charges remained, the Australian band confirmed nothing would interfere with their world tour to promote the new album. AC/DC has never been one to go down without a fight. The death of their lead vocalist in 1980 is even further proof that they can’t be held down. If a band can persevere through that, it’s clear passion for the music is their first priority. They formed in 1973 and are still reluctant to retire, despite the ever-changing members. Earlier this year, Rudd said the band would have to be dead before they stop making music.
Rock or Bust is the first album without Young, who left due to health concerns. It was later announced his leave was due to a diagnosis of dementia. Replacing him is his nephew, Stevie Young. It will be interesting to see how the band incorporates him in live settings and how he contributes to the future of the band.
Overall, the album has been generally well-received. While it’s not the next Back in Black (sadly), it establishes a solid return for the band. Rock or Bust doesn’t delve much outside the realm of the traditional AC/DC we’ve been hearing since they formed, which is good or bad depending on what kind of fan you are. Monumental guitar riffs filter through the album in true AC/DC fashion. The band’s career was made by these creative instrumental takes, so why wouldn’t they include them?
The album contains 11 songs, but is the band’s shortest album of their career, clocking in at just less than 35 minutes. The album flies by in a blur of timeless rock fury. Even though the lead vocalist is pushing 70 years old, Brian Johnson’s voice is persistent and pushes the limits created by his age. The album dives straight into the title song, drawing in the listener with Johnson’s wail of “In rock n’ roll we trust, it’s rock or bust.” Two more notable tracks are “Hard Times,” not to be mistaken for a sad song about the band’s difficult situations, and “Emission Control.” Rock or Bust is not a depressing album filled with the woes that come with being a band that has been around for the last 40 years. They brought none of that to the studio, just passion for music and the need to express it.
While four of the 11 songs have “rock” in the title, each is distinctive and reestablishes the band’s prominence in the genre. By listening to the album, it’s apparent that age plays no part in the band’s enthusiasm. Throughout all the hardship, the album emanates a band reluctant to give up having a good time making their music. Because they’re still making music in 2014, this album has the ability to capture a younger generation of fans. While sticking to their traditional hard rock style, Rock or Bust rejuvenates an older generation’s need for the classics while introducing a new generation to truly good rock music, as opposed to whatever garbage the kids are listening to these days.