The 6 years since Rock Or Bust have been bumpy for AC/DC. Just before the album’s release, Malcolm Young left the band due to dementia and succumbed to it 3 years later. At the same time, longtime drummer Phil Rudd was wrapped up with a number of legal cases in New Zealand and was replaced by Chris Slade on the Rock Or Bust tour. Then to top it off, Brian Johnson, faced with impending deafness if he continued touring left as well in 2016 and was temporarily replaced by Axl Rose, who was in the midst of his reunion with Slash and Duff McKagan for the Not In This Lifetime tour. Now it’s 2020, and Johnson and Rudd are back in the band along with new rhythm guitarist Stevie Young. The result is Power Up, a collection of new tunes from one of the if not the only band on earth that can consistently make the old school sound fresh.
As always, Australia’s finest stick to tradition and barely deviate outside of their golden mold. This succinctly describes the opener “Realize”, a riffy combination of “For Those About To Rock” and “Thunderstruck.” “Rejection” harkens back to their Fly On The Wall days, while “Shot In The Dark”, the big single that preluded Power Up is a through-and-through Back In Black throwback. “Through The Mists Of Time” switches up the feel a bit, as does “Kick You When You’re Down” to an extent. “Witch’s Spell” steers back to trademark AC/DC and the mean rocker “Demon Fire” channels the Bon Scott era to a tee. “Wild Reputation” calls back to “Sink The Pink”, “No Man’s Land” to “Hells Bells” and “Back In Business” and so on. “Systems Down” sounds more unique to Power Up than any prior release, while “Money Shot” and “Code Red” round off the record with a double dose of the straight-ahead, four-on-the-floor flavour we’ve all come to know and love.
As noted before, this isn’t anything new or innovative and nobody expected it to be. AC/DC is an oddity in that it can (admittedly) do the same thing over and over again and still hold colossal appeal over the masses, whereas virtually any other band doing it would have been long thrown into the dustbin of music history by now. In addition to that, it speaks to their ironclad foundations and sheer endurance that after 47 years, the deaths of two members, the shuffling around of a couple more along with every other challenge that comes with being a prominent legacy act, they still stand tall as ever- and rock hard as ever too. It’s a solid, rocking, grooving release from a band that’s perfected their craft down to a science and continues to do so, and we can’t ask for much more than that.