To many, Australia is the home of fruity accents, terrifying wildlife and 'Neighbours', a god-awful soap opera my mum used to watch. To rock fans, however, Australia is the birthplace of one of rock music's most iconic and influential acts of the 70s, 80s, 90s and even today. I am of course referring to the multi-Platinum powerhouse of AC/DC.
Indeed, the likes of Buckcherry, Audioslave and The Darkness owe much of the stylistic elements of their music to the works of Angus Young, Brian Johnson et al. This is also true of the high-octane, riff-heavy music of another Australian rock act who also just so happen to be the subject of this very review...
Airbourne formed in Warrnambool in 2003, and even the makeup of these purveyors of the 'old school' art and styling of rock music follows closely in familiar footsteps, with brothers Joel and Ryan O'Keeffe offering a mirror-image of the relationship shared by guitarists Angus and Malcolm Young.
The 'yes-it's-very-obvious-they're-influenced-by-AC/DC-can-we-talk-about-something-else-now' classic rock band are set to release their fourth studio album 'Breakin' Outta Hell', and boy is it a belter. Boasting eleven tracks that weigh in at just under forty minutes of playtime, Airbourne's latest offering is hard, fast and lavishly infused with a near-dizzying amount of pure, unadulterated and hellish 'rawk' energy.
Unlike the albums that preceded it, 'Breakin' Outta Hell' has been crafted under the watchful eye of Spinefarm Records (also home to Volbeat, Rammstein, Bullet For My Valentine and many other noteable acts), and this shift in power has allowed Airbourne more freedom and flexibility with their latest release. As such, 'Breakin' Outta Hell' is the first album to be knocked together on the band's home turf, with recording and production taking place in Melbourne's very own Sing Sing Studios.
On the surface this may not seem a particularly big deal, however there's actually some science involved here that makes a huge difference to the band's sound. You'd be forgiven for not noticing it at first, but in terms of sheer sound quality, 'Breakin' Outta Hell' has been fashioned with more jagged and frayed edges than previous records, and there's a very simple reason for this: power.
As the O'Keeffe brothers explained during a recent press conference in Paris, recording in LA and Chicago in the past had actually presented the band with a little technical hitch to overcome. The standard level of power outage in Australia differs to that of America, and the band had been forced to run all their gear through step-down transformers in order to lay down previous works.
Add to that the squeaky-clean production value of American studios, and it stands to reason that we've not really heard Airbourne's sound resonating from its natural habitat. I'm speaking, of course, of the dangerous-as-fuck Aussie outback, where everything wants to kill you and eat your delicious face.
Okay, so the album wasn't actually recorded in the outback, but the loss of need for step-down transformers means that 'Breakin' Outta Hell' roars with the screams of a wild and savage beast nonetheless. Throwing out perhaps their most unapologetically raw and boisterous vibe to date, Airbourne present their latest release with a blistering vocal presence set atop a chunky, aggravated backdrop that bleeds with bite and bombast.
Once you've caught the wind of this viciously aggravated sound quality, you'll be slung head-first into a satisfying flurry of high-flying vocals, jolted guitar riffs and meaty, body-rocking rhythms. Don't believe me? Just try to sit still during the furious outcry of 'Thin The Blood'...
Ramblin' Man Festival, Maidstone, England, 24th July 2016
In terms of content, seasoned Airbourne fans (and yes, AC/DC fans too) will find themselves comfortably returning to the band's tell-tale style, with rousingly edgy lyrics and air-guitar-worthy highlights aplenty throughout. This time around, however, the band dress themselves with lashings of bluesy guitar work across the board that serve to add a new dimension of colour and vibrancy to their classic rock palette.
At the start of this article I cast a slightly throwaway attitude towards the observation that Airbourne sound like AC/DC, but pushing the thought out of your head while listening to 'Breakin' Outta Hell' is nigh-on impossible. The million-dollar question to ask is whether or not this presents a problem?
While there's some cracking original material presented here, some of the riffs laced into 'Breakin' Outta Hell' will be hauntingly familiar to seasoned rock fans, and it's true that I sat and named a bunch of classic AC/DC tracks that clearly share melodic qualities with the content offered here. Does that put me off wanting to buy this record when it hits the stores? Nope.
And why should it? For me, 'Breakin' Outta Hell' follows suit with the band's previous releases, paying heavy homage to an iconic rock band whilst adding a personalised and modern twist to the mix. Though perhaps slightly off-topic, even Volbeat infuse their sound with a dusty layer of 50s rockabilly, and d'ya know what? It works for them, just as it does for Airbourne.
There's a terrifyingly explosive quality to Airbourne's upcoming release that's as satisfying as it is addictive, and the album feels like a highlight reel of one of the greatest eras of rock music history, dusted off and given a brand new spit-shine of modern proportions. It's terribly good fun to listen to, and possibly their greatest release to date.
Case and point? Once I've submitted this review, I'll be buying a ticket to their upcoming show at the Electric Ballroom in London, purely 'cause I want to hear them perform the uplifting chorus to 'It's All For Rock 'n' Roll' in a live environment... so I can yell it back towards the stage as loud as possible.
Killer question: Does 'Breakin' Outta Hell' belong in your record collection?
Without a shadow of doubt, the answer is "yes".
1. Breakin' Outta Hell (3:52)
2. Rivalry (4:03)
3. Get Back Up (3:38)
4. It's Never Too Loud For Me (3:24)
5. Thin The Blood (3:29)
6. I'm Going To Hell For This (3:45)
7. Down On You (4:19)
8. Never Been Rocked Like This (3:07)
9. When I Drink I Go Crazy (2:42)
10. Do Me Like You Do Yourself (3:57)
11. It's All For Rock N' Roll (3:32)