Rock or Bust is the sixteenth studio album by Australian hard rock band AC/DC. It is their fifteenth internationally released studio album and the sixteenth to be released in Australia. It is the shortest studio album ever released by the band; at approximately 35 minutes, it is two minutes shorter than their previous shortest album, Flick of the Switch, which was released in 1983. The album was released on November 28, 2014. Rock or Bust also was the group's first album without founding member and rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, who had retired from the band in 2014 due to health concerns, although he co-wrote every track on the album. Bass guitarist Cliff Williams has also retired since Rock or Bust was released, drummer Phil Rudd was unable to participate in the supporting tour after being sentenced to house arrest, and vocalist Brian Johnson was forced to exit the band after the fifth leg of the album's supporting tour as a result of hearing loss.

The group released the debut single from the album, titled "Play Ball", on 7 October 2014. The song has been a commercial success, reaching the top 40 charts in various countries such as Spain (at number 28),[86] France (at number 39) or Switzerland (at number 19).[87]

Rock or Bust peaked at #1 in 12 countries, including Australia, Canada, Germany and Sweden. It reached the top 5 in a further 12 countries, including New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States and Italy.

Overview

Released on 28 November 2014 in Australia and 2 December 2014 elsewhere, Rock or Bust marks the band's first album since 2010's Iron Man 2 and first album of original material since 2008's Black Ice.

Rock or Bust is the band's first album without founding member and rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, who left the band in 2014 for health reasons.[2] Malcolm's departure was later clarified by the band and their management, who stated that he was officially diagnosed with dementia and will possibly never play again. While Malcolm has writing credits for every track on the album, all of his guitar parts were recorded by his nephew Stevie Young. Malcolm does not appear on the album as a performer.

Malcolm Young lost his battle with dementia on the 18th of November 2017 in his home town of Sydney, Australia, at the Elizabeth Bay Lulworth House care facility, passing away peacefully in his sleep surrounded by his family.[88] His older brother George Young had only passed away himself some few weeks earlier.[89]

Before the album was officially announced, Brian Johnson admitted that it was difficult to make the album without Malcolm. He brought about the idea that the album could be called Man Down, but believed the title might be too negative towards Malcolm's situation and overall health.[5]

On 6 November 2014, drummer Phil Rudd was arrested for attempting to procure the murder of two men.[118][86] AC/DC made a statement the same day: "We've only become aware of Phil's arrest as the news was breaking. We have no further comment. Phil's absence will not affect the release of our new album Rock or Bust and upcoming tour next year." It was not yet clear whether Rudd would remain with the band or not, or who might be his replacement.[86] The attempted procurement charge against Rudd was dropped the following day; charges of possession of methamphetamine and possession of cannabis and a charge of threatening to kill remained.[86]

Recording

The album was recorded at Warehouse Studio in Vancouver, Canada, with producer Brendan O'Brien and mixer Mike Fraser.[2] When Rudd was ten days late for the recording sessions, O'Brien was ready to replace him with another drummer, but Rudd arrived and recorded his parts.

By Angus Young's reckoning, recording took, "about four weeks. We had all the material – we were well prepared to do the album and that helped a lot. We'd done a lot of the work before going in the studio. Brendan is a very accomplished musician, so that's part of why we work with him. He knows all his instruments."[86]

The songs were constructed largely by Angus Young from material accumulated by the brothers during the recording of previous albums.

On some lead tracks, Angus Young used the Schaffer Replica, a device that emulates the Schaffer-Vega Diversity System. The device was donated to him by AC/DC fan Fil "SoloDallas" Olivieri.[86]

Release and promotion

Josh Cheuse of the Arcade Creative Group handled the art direction, and decided to add more features to the physical edition, considering that "If you don’t make something special, there’s no point in even making any packaging at all.” Thus the cover is a lenticular, and the booklet has 24 pictures featuring the band.[86] The agency Curb did a special video to promote the album in a Polish quarry, where a rock exploded to reveal a carved AC/DC logo.[86]

The first single "Play Ball" was first used on 27 September 2014 in a trailer for Major League Baseball on TBS postseason coverage,[86] and the single was released on 7 October, the same day as the track listing and artwork were revealed.[86] It became available on iTunes for those who pre-ordered the album. The second single is "Rock or Bust", the official video for which was filmed in front of 500 fans in London on 4 October 2014. The single was released on 17 November 2014. The song leaked by accident when it was uploaded to the AC/DC YouTube account instead of "Play Ball". Rudd was absent from both video shoots for the singles, and was replaced by Welshman Bob Richards, who had previously played with Man, Adrian Smith, Asia and Shogun.

Rock or Bust World Tour

In 2015, the band embarked on a world tour to promote Rock or Bust and celebrate the band's 40th anniversary. Malcolm was replaced by his and Angus's nephew, Stevie Young.[2] At first, it was not yet clear whether Rudd would participate in the tour. On 6 January 2015, it was announced that AC/DC would be headlining at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, performing on 10 and 17 April 2015. Chris Slade, who played with AC/DC between 1989 and 1994, was announced as the drummer for the tour.

Reception

Critical reception

The album received generally favorable and warm reviews; it garnered a score of 75 on the website Metacritic, based on 22 reviews.[87] In particular, the magazine Trucking published a praising review by Andy Stewart in which he wrote, "Short, but definitely sweet, this long-awaited new album from Australia’s biggest band contains a raft of excellent riffs, signature screeching and rock ’n roll boogie-woogie rhythms that are all but impossible not to tap your feet along to."[87] As well, Charles Pitter of Popmatters commented that the album had "a keen focus on catchy choruses and riffs for those who are inclined to practice righteous, gnarly air guitar."[20]

Commercial performance

Upon its release, Rock or Bust became the sixth most pre-ordered studio album of 2014 on Amazon UK.[87]

In the US, the album sold 172,000 copies in its first week of release and debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200.[87] As of January 2015, it has sold 500,000 copies in the US[87] leading to a Gold certification by the RIAA,[87] the band's 22nd album to reach such status.[87] In Canada, it debuted at #1 on the Canadian Albums Chart, selling 31,000 copies in its first week of release.[26]

Worldwide, Rock or Bust sold a total of 2.8 million copies in 2014.[37]

Track listing

All tracks composed by Angus Young and Malcolm Young.[28]

No.TitleLength
1."Rock or Bust"3:03
2."Play Ball"2:47
3."Rock the Blues Away"3:24
4."Miss Adventure"2:57
5."Dogs of War"3:35
6."Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder"3:22
7."Hard Times"2:44
8."Baptism by Fire"3:30
9."Rock the House"2:42
10."Sweet Candy"3:09
11."Emission Control"3:41

Personnel

AC/DC

Additional personnel

  • Brendan O'Brien – backing vocals, production[29]
  • Mike Fraser – engineering
  • Billy Bowers – additional engineering
  • Tom Syrowski – additional engineering
  • Richard Jones – equipment technician
  • Geoff Banks – equipment technician
  • Rick St. Pierre – equipment technician
  • Ryan Smith – mastering

Charts and certifications

Notes

  1. In September 2014, the French web site highwaytoacdc.com leaked a complete different set list which later appeared to be (almost entirely) wrong: "Play Ball", "Sign of the Times", "Ain't The Way", "Rock or Bust", "Done Her Good", "Steal My Meal", "Watching Games", "Cardhouse Blues", "Bulletride", "Rumble" and "Back in the Zone".