AC/DC doesn’t want this record downloaded for a very simple reason — they don’t make singles, they make full albums. As singles, none of these tracks will make much, if any, sense to the listener. However, as an album this record destroys.
Here is the Gears of Rock Track-By-Track rundown. If you already own the album, feel free to pop it in and rock along.
“Rock N’ Roll Train” opens Black Ice, the new album by the legendary Aussie rock band, AC/DC. The song begins with a classic Angus Young riff, followed by steady drums and bass, which cues up the Brian Johnson growl. It is a basic rock n roll blues song with a wonderful sing along chorus. The Angus guitar solo is a little weaker than usual; I figured after waiting 8 long years he’d unleash more fury on the opening track. Overall, true fans of AC/DC will not be disappointed with this tune. 8/10
“Skies On Fire” begins with a cruising drum beat while the guitar brings in a solid groove with the rock n roll flavor. The listener can’t help but bang their head to the tune’s rhythm. Young’s guitar solo is equipped with a lot more personality than “Rock N Roll Train,” as it is extended several additional bars. 8.5/10
“Big Jack” is a classic AC/DC rock n roll blues song from the opening note to the end. There is a cool drum break [2:45] that transitions the tune into a brief guitar solo. 8/10
“Anything Goes” includes an uplifting tone that forces an uncomfortable grin upon the listener. It also does not help that there is a refreshing lead guitar part during the intro…the uncomfortable grin widens. Malcolm and Angus Young work the dual guitar attack really well on this tune. This song could be a classic on the same spectrum as “It’s a Long Way to the Top,” “Shoot To Thrill,” and “Thunderstrck.” 8.5/10
“War Machine” begins with the bass guitar and drums preparing for an eruption of molten rock and roll bliss. The guitars enter the buildup to aid the volcanic rumble. Brian Johnson’s vocals sound awesome as usual — has this guy aged? Angus Young’s guitar solo is fairly short like “Rock and Roll Train,” which was again, disappointing. Hopefully, Young will deliver some old school rock and roll heart when performing these tunes live on the “Black Ice World Tour.” 8/10
“Smash N’ Grab” wastes no time and smashes the listener right in the face from the start. This tune has the rock n roll heart that we love as rock fanatics. Additionally, the guitar solo has the right phrasing and soul that we demand from Angus. 8/10
“Spoilin For A Fight” has one of the best titles on the record and delivers the beatdown well. It doesn’t make me want to fight anyone like “Dirty Deeds” once did, but it gets the job done. 8/10
“Wheels” begins with a blues guitar intro that contains a faster rhythm than most of the other tracks. There are a few guitar fills reminiscent of the High Voltage era which is always a refreshing accomplishment. 8/10
“Decibel” opens with a guitar riff that sets up the rock stomp beat heard throughout the track. The main riff is one of the better ones on the record. Angus works, but comes close to abusing, the unison guitar bends like a monster. 8/10
“Stormy May Day” The main riff sounds like it could have been found on a Tesla or Cinderella record in 1986 [Gears of Rock compliment]. However, the song seems to end too soon before the listener finishes their ride. Towards the end, the track becomes quiet while Brian Johnson softly sings the title’s words. Rather than kick the listener in the face with a rocking final chorus, the song just ends. 7/10
“She Likes Rock N’ Roll” has the heaviest sounding guitar on the record, the most elaborate bass line, and is the most dance-able — makes sense, since this track is about a girl that digs rock music. As reflected in his lead work, Angus seems to play it up for this rock chick. After all, “she gives rock n roll?” 8/10
“Money Made” is a sing along stadium tune from the opening chorus. “Money Made” may be the catchiest track on Black Ice, as it has just the right amount of rock and cheese — I can’t wait to hear this one live. 8.5/10
“Rock N Roll Dream” seems to mellow out the record. This would be considered “the ballad” of the album, or as much of a ballad as AC/DC can muster – nope, I spoke too soon. After the first minute, the song’s choruses rock your face off. 8/10
“Rocking All The Way” is the fourth track on the album with “rock” somewhere in the title. At first, this track sounds like an album filler, but then the chorus makes the tune a more interesting. The first guitar solo is very generic and doesn’t sound like Angus put much heart into it. The second solo towards the final chorus contains more rock and soul. 7.5/10
“Black Ice” is the title track that closes the album. The song opens with a great guitar shuffle riff that may be the best on the record. It does become very redundant as it is heard consistently throughout the tune, but is probably the most fun to play. 8/10
After the early releases of “Rock N Roll Train” and “War Machine” on the internet, it was difficult to understand why Angus held back from ripping his Gibson SG. As the listener follows through on the entire record, it becomes clear that AC/DC, under the guidance of Brendan O’Brien, worked hard to assemble a full rock record. On those particular tracks an extended solo may have been deemed inappropriate.
Black Ice is not perfect, as it could have been even better if it was limited to an 11 or 12 track format. This way the listener is left wanting more instead of waiting for the end. By the 13th track, the record will become boring to the non die-hards. Next time save the extras for B-Sides on the Japanese imports.
Overall, this is another good record by these rock legends. Yes, everything sounds the same. No, their music has not evolved much since the 1970s, but that is why we love AC/DC. Some bands are meant to evolve and go through certain stages, while some should just keep the same path, forever and ever. Amen.