By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy
When I was a kid, whenever I go on errands with my dad, he would put in a cassette tape or CD (depending on the truck he had at the time) of his favorite rock groups. He was a huge fan of the classic rock and hard rock groups. Some of his favorites included ZZ Top, the Who, Bob Seger, Led Zeppelin, and one of his all-time favorites, AC/DC. Boy, did I love listening to the rag-tag hard rock heroes of Australia. From “Back in Black” to “You Shook Me All Night Long,” “Thunderstruck,” “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” and my all-time favorite, “T.N.T.,” their simplistic power chord style of rock has made them household names. I thought for sure they were done after putting out 2014’s Rock or Bust, where group faced many challenges and hardships. Alas, that would not be the case, for they have returned stronger than ever with their 17th release, Power Up. Time to head back down the Highway to Hell and see what these schoolboys of rock have up their power chords.
“Realize” kicks off the record with the striking of the chords and Brian Johnson’s screeching voice. This song is razor sharp with blistering riffs by legendary lead guitarist Angus Young and his nephew, rhythm player Stevie (RIP Malcolm). This song will wake you up feeling energized. “Rejection” is full raw, progressive energy where Johnson gets mean, demanding whatever he wants despite rejection. Longtime drummer Phil Rudd simple beat plays beautifully with Cliff Williams’ upbeat bass beats. This down-and-dirty rocker is dripping blues and whiskey. We now approach “Shot in the Dark,” the lead single. That lead strutting riff Angus pulls out of his little hat is astounding. When he hits that solo, oh does send chills down my spine. Stevie compliments that strut with his commanding rhythmic beat, channeling his uncle Malcolm. This song is a message that AC/DC was back with a vengeance. “Through the Mists of Time” chugs a little bit slower than anything that I have heard them do. It has the adhesive of country music mixed with power ballad. This song is incredible, armed with a sensational solo. The lyrics of a mystic feel to them, as if the Young brothers were influenced by the legends of Avalon. This is one of their most ingenious songs ever created.
Things pick up again with “Kick You When You’re Down.” Sheer intensity rumbles through the eardrums with intimidation. Rudd, Williams, and Stevie are as sturdy as rock with the raw beat they are putting out there. “Witch’s Spell” continues AC/DC journey into malevolence as Johnson tells us our sinister fortune. The wicked, jolting licks from Angus’ signature SG is sinfully pleasurable. Never straying too far off their already craved path, this song conjures up the right beat that makes me want to do the duck walk. “Demon Fire” is a swampy, Southern rock gumbo stew that is very tasty. What really sets this song apart is Johnson’s approach in tackling the verses in a devilish voice. Angus’ solo, to me, pays homage to all the Southern rock guitarists who sizzled on the rock ‘n’ roll grill like Duane Allman and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Allen Collins. “Wild Reputation” starts off with a simple yet solid bass line works wonders with Stevie and Angus’ infectious power chords. Lyrically, I can see the Old West, where someone drifts into a seedy town where crime thrives. You want to avoid it, but for some reason, you feel right at home.
“No Man’s Land” slows things down once again, but we still feel AC/DC’s mighty tremors. A slow-burning tune where Johnson is a fighter to the end with his revved up voice. The guitar work is very impactful, with Angus slowly annihilating you with his progressive lead riffs. “Systems Down” certainly lights a spark in all of us. With the entire world shut down, AC/DC challenges us to go into maximum overdrive. Stevie lays down a guttural riff that pounds onto the concrete with such force, while Angus throws more coals onto the fiery strength his of SG. “Money Shot” is a pleasant number that is very old-school of the band. Enjoyable without too much complexity surrounding it. With Johnson as the doctor, he prescribes rock ‘n’ roll with Angus injecting us with it right up our backbones. This tune is contagious, with rock as the cure. We conclude Power Up with “Code Red.” This tune as the same staying riff power as “Back in Black” and “Thunderstruck.” AC/DC refuses to go quietly into the dead of night. The main riff is righteous, and any rock would be crazy to deny that. This was the right song to make the album come full circle.
After over 50 years together, AC/DC shows no signs of slowing down. Power Up is your quintessential AC/DC record, impactful and to the point. Sure, they just rewrote the same album for the umpteenth time, but who cares!? They are walking proof that a familiar formula is not always a bad thing. Thank the Metal Gods for Johnson returning after dealing with hearing issues or else it would feel like AC/DC. Moreover, you can feel the passionate spirit of Malcolm in the words and music, for he co-wrote them with Angus before he passed on. Produced once again by the legendary Brendan O’Brien, Power Up is a record my dad would have loved to hear. To AC/DC, who are always about to rock, I salute you. Horns up, and FIRE!!!
03. Shot In The Dark
04. Through The Mists Of Time
05. Kick You When You’re Down
06. Witch’s Spell
07. Demon Fire
08. Wild Reputation
09. No Man’s Land
10. Systems Down
11. Money Shot
12. Code Red
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