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I caught Antipodean hard rockers Airbourne in action at a festival once and just two memories remain prominent in my mind about their performance: frontman Joel O’Keeffe's quasi-masochistic method of opening beer cans by smashing a series of 'em on his skull in what resembled a tic-induced act of ale-Tourettes, and the fact they had the audience in the palm of their hard rocking hand. Having fully digested their third full-length offering, the long-time coming 'Black Dog Barking', it's an irrefutable given they'll continue to have audiences in palm of their collective hand across the globe as the Aussie lads are back with another series of slickly executed compositions loaded with anthemic, melodically catchy hooks and delivered with an infectiously convincing energy. These are songs that are primed for the live stage. And there lies the essence of Airbourne or, rather, the essence of the context within which their music is best experienced. As a recording act, they're wholly devoid of originality and any small degree of artistic innovation. But that would be missing the point. Musical iconoclasts they are not. And they're not trying to be such. Their modus operandi is to craft quality slabs of unpretentious classic rock sonics. Sure, their general aesthetic is entirely derivative and unashamedly pastiched from fellow countrymen and genre veterans AC/DC but that's what people love Airbourne for and, with 'Black Dog Barking', they're set to continue riding high on the current wave of retro rock renaissance.

A cognitively unchallenging listen throughout, this is music where you can turn off your brain, crack open a beer (on your head for authenticity), and succumb to its tried and tested stylistic genericism. Up-tempo, four-four song structures blast forth, one after the other, from the aptly titled opener, 'Ready to Rock', and throughout although a few breaks and changes in pace arrive in the form of mid-paced number 'Back in the Game' and the slow build-up of guitar-led instrumentation to open 'Live It Up' (where AC/DC pastiche comes very close to AC/DC plagiarism... compare it to the intro of 'For Those About to Rock...' and you'll see what I mean). Over-zealous press blurb would have you believe that 'Hungry', "the heaviest song they've ever done", recalls "an early Metallica vibe." Really? 'Whiplash'? 'Hit the Lights'? 'The Four Horsemen'? Definitely not. Well, the melody line and vocal phrasing of the verse is perhaps ever so slightly reminiscent of 'Jump in the Fire' and there is a bias towards palm-muted riffage over lengthy passages of the track although palm-muted guitar in itself doesn't justify comparisons to classic work of the Bay Area legends. 'Hungry' does carry a marginally heavier sound for Airbourne but only compared to their own output so is better regarded as veering to the heavier end of the hard rock spectrum rather than suggestions of thrash. As a whole, if you take the album for what it is, then 'Black Dog Barking' is an undemanding, yet enjoyable, slice of easy-on-the-ear rock 'n' roll à la AC/DC. Expect anything else and you'll be disappointed. If, however, you're in search of a well produced, adeptly executed rehash of retro rock idioms then look no further than Airbourne's latest as they've delivered the goods once again.
Roadrunner Records
Review by Mark Holmes
20th May 2013
1) Ready to Rock
2) Animalize
3) No One Fits Me (Better Than You)
4) Back in the Game
5) Firepower
6) Live It Up
7) Woman Like That
8) Hungry
9) Cradle to the Grave
10) Black Dog Barking
"...they're set to continue riding high on the current wave of retro rock renaissance."