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Album Reviews : AC/DC – Power Up

By on November 18, 2020

Due to the long arc of their career, can anything AC/DC release at this point contribute to their legacy? Stick around because I’ve had a thorough listen to their new album, Power Up, and I’ve got an answer.

On their 19th studio album (18 if both editions of High Voltage count as a single album), little, to absolutely nothing has changed. AC/DC are still the kings of the same bar-room bruisers they perfected on their debut, High Voltage (‘75). So even though Power Up sounds like every other Brian Johnson fronted album, it’s still the group’s most significant release in a generation due to the absence of Malcolm Young (RIP).

Percussionist Phil Rudd is performing as if his very soul is on the line. Producer extraordinaire Brendan O’Brien has done a magnificent job of capturing Rudd’s signature stomp, mixing the drums on par with the vocals and still managing to give each instrument breathing space. Cliff Williams’ bass parts chug along, never playing more than bare basics except for a nice twin bass and guitar run in “Demon Fire”.

Stevie Young shares the same psychic musical connection that Malcolm had with Angus. Only a musician will understand it’s nearly impossible to imitate and emulate another musician and for the absolute life of me; I can’t tell the difference between Stevie and Malcolm’s guitar playing.

Brian sounds as gnarly as ever. His voice has bourne the brunt of thousands of performances and is still intact. The vocal harmony which he and the backing singers use throughout the first cut, “Realize”, apes the introduction to “Thunderstruck” (The Razors Edge- ‘90). That’d have to be a conscious decision from the band, given the resemblance. It’s as if the group are saying ‘Remember us?’, after the conjecture of their status as an ongoing concern post-Malcolm.

Angus has written a few belters on Power Up. The collection is his best since The Razors Edge, which is 30 years old. “Realize”, “Witches Spell”, “Demon Fire”, “Systems Down”, and “Code Red” capture his penchant for crafting a slinky verse and a meaty chorus. Of Angus’ performance on his trusty Gibson SG, it’s as you’d anticipate, only he’s turned the volume up a notch or two since Rock or Bust (‘14). The single discernable technique he’s introduced on Power Up, which sounds like a recent addition to his massive bag of dirty tricks, is the slide at the 1:20 mark of “No Man’s Land”, which repeats a few times.

Overall, Power Up is the third most important album in AC/DC’s career, behind High Voltage and Back In Black (80). Time will tell, however initial impressions suggest that on the strength of the album’s compositions, Angus can keep the riff-raff coming with whomever as long as he pleases.

It’s probably galling for purists to acknowledge, but in reality, AC/ DC needs only one man to legitimise their ongoing presence. To prove the point, Brian delivers with gusto, but Axl Rose could have sung his parts, and Chris Slade might still have his gig on the drum stool if Phil Rudd hadn’t organised his shit in time to nail the percussive swing so crucial for the group to click-clack along to William’s quarter-notes. Regarding Malcolm, I don’t offer this comment in a manner designed to detract from his enormous legacy, but there is at least one guitarist capable of stepping into his shoes, and Angus didn’t have to look beyond his Christmas card list to find the perfect choice.

Ultimately, the musicians in AC/DC only have one job, which is to follow Angus. I know there is a horde of people out there who swear on the bible Malcolm is the beating heart of the band; however, Power Up proves that when it’s all said and done, AC/DC is, and always has been, the Angus Young show.

Band: AC/DC
Album: Power Up
Year: 2020
Genre: Hard Rock
Label: Sony Music Australia
Origin: Australia


Andrew is a musician who has spent many years performing on the stages of the pubs and clubs of Queensland. A devotee of the broad church that is rock, punk, funk, jazz and of course all genres of metal... he now shares his enthusiasm via a burgeoning pursuit of music journalism. Follow him on twitter @andymckaysmith