Album Review: AC/DC - Power Up (2020)

By Sergio Ariza

Roaring from the edge of extinction 

In times of crisis it is good to hold on to something familiar - something that is known to be reliable, lasting and that cannot fail you. This is what Power Up offers, the essence distilled from 100% AC/DC, a band that neither the worst year in memory, nor the worst circumstances in its history, have been able to stop.


And things didn't looked good, since the appearance of the now distant Rock Or Bust, released in 2014, AC/DC has been on the verge of extinction on several occasions. In fact in 2014 one of their two main composers,
Malcolm Young, had to retire from the band because of his damned dementia, drummer Phil Rudd got into a spiral of legal problems that almost put his bones in jail after being convicted of death threats, Brian Johnson also had to retire due to hearing problems - and was replaced by Axl Rose -, and Cliff Williams left the band in the middle of the 2016 tour…

The final blow came in 2017 with the death of Malcolm. Presumably it was then that Angus Young decided that the band could not say goodbye like that, and that if 40 years earlier they had been able to recover from the devastating death of Bon Scott with their best album, Back In Black, now his brother deserved a similar tribute. So he searched among the ideas they had previously sketched out until he found 12 hymns that Malcolm would be proud of, and little by little the rest of the components fell into place. To ‘replace the irreplaceable Malcolm’, there was no one better than his own nephew, Stevie Young, who has inherited several of his uncle's Gretsch Jet Firebirds.

The album opens in style with Realize, a clear heiress to Thunderstruck. Angus still thinks that the best AC/DC song is the one that sounds like AC/DC, something he shared with his brother Malcolm, who chucked away anything that didn't sound like themselves. Because to make a song like those of the Stones, the Ramones or AC/DC, there's no one better than the band itself. Rejection and Shot In The Dark follow the same path, with riffs that are ‘mark of the house’, and a huge force that is hard to believe for a band that has more than 45 years on the boards.    

Through The Mists Of Time
, which would be a blast for most of today's rock bands, is possibly the most meaningful thing the band has ever done, taking their foot off the gas for a moment to remember those who have fallen. But Johnson's menacing voice already tells us from the beginning of Kick You When You're Down that it has been just a little bit of a breather.


Witch's Spell
is another blow to the jugular with which they defy the passage of time, reminiscent of Shoot To Thrill; just as Demon Fire has a direct line from Whole Lotta Rosie. In case anyone had any doubts, Angus continues to play as well as ever on each and every one of the twelve songs that make up this album.

Maybe the world and the band are a wreck but the message of Angus and his gang is clear, nobody is going to cry they are going to continue being themselves until the end, one of the biggest fucking rock & roll bands of all times.  And when the times seem troubled, what AC/DC does is turn up the amps to 11 and prepare for the storm open-chested, with sculptural riffs, a raspy voice that cuts like sandpaper, and Angus putting the cherry on top with his GS sparking as if he were still a teenager and not a sixty-year-old dressed as a schoolboy. It's a long way to the top in what we call rock & roll, but it's much harder to do what they've achieved - to stay there with dignity.