Welcome to Dissected, where we disassemble a band’s catalog, a director’s filmography, or some other critical pop-culture collection. It’s exact science by way of a few beers. This time, we follow the legendary AC/DC’s career, from their 1975 debut, High Voltage, to their most recent effort, 2020’s Power Up.
The legacy of AC/DC is one of perseverance. Across their five-decade career, the Australian hard rockers have seen both sides of tragedy and glory, from their rugged ascent playing beer bars to becoming a global stadium rock institution.
When charismatic frontman and lyricist Bon Scott passed away in 1980, many wondered if it was the end of AC/DC. Scott’s vivid personality was as much the face of the band as forever-a-schoolboy guitarist Angus Young. After releasing multiple soon-to-be classic albums with the singer, including the 1979’s iconic Highway to Hell, what would become of AC/DC?
In a blaze of triumph, the band returned with Back in Black just months later, arguably the greatest comeback album in rock history. Now singing was Brian Johnson, who proved just as charming and braggadocious as Scott, but with a gravelly vocal style distinctly his own. Stacked top to bottom with timeless hits like the riff-centric title track and “You Shook Me All Night Long”, it signaled the beginning of a new era of AC/DC and a prolific string of albums that continues to this day.
While it’s fair to say the band’s post-1980 output doesn’t always live up to alarmingly high quality of Back in Black, AC/DC still managed to remain relevant and release consistent hard rock throughout the decade and into the ’90s. Along the way, the band notched MTV hits like 1986’s “Who Made Who”, the inescapable combo of “Thunderstruck” and “Moneytalks” from 1990’s The Razors Edge, and the Rick Rubin-produced one-off “Big Gun”, which hit No. 1 on Billboard‘s Rock Chart in 1993. These songs introduced AC/DC to a whole new generation of kids eager to consume any and all forms of heavy music.
However, tragedy would again strike when Angus’ brother and the band’s imitable rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young died in 2017 after leaving the band in 2014 due to a battle with dementia. As of 2016, the members of AC/DC had gone their separate ways, with Johnson stepping aside due to serious hearing loss. However, in another act of revival, the band reconvened with classic members Angus, Johnson, drummer Phil Rudd, and bassist Cliff Williams, along with Stevie Young (who had stepped in for Malcolm) to record a new album, 2020’s Power Up. Their best album in 30 years, it’s a record that — like The Razors Edge — could be a new generation’s introduction to AC/DC.
With the band’s legendary discography on the mind, Heavy Consequence undertook the task of revisiting and ranking each and every one of AC/DC’s 17 studio albums, from the classics to the lesser known works. All of these albums mean something to anyone who’s eagerly browsed the AC/DC section at a record store.
As a note, in an effort to stay true to AC/DC’s own canon, we chose to include the Australian versions of High Voltage and T.N.T. — which adhere to the band’s artistic vision — rather than the arguably more visible international release of High Voltage (which contained many tracks from T.N.T.) We also omitted compilations like 1986’s Who Made Who, live albums such as If You Want Blood, You’ve Got It, and EPs (i.e. Jailbreak ’74). Formalities aside, let’s dig in.
— Jon Hadusek
Senior Staff Writer