AC/DC is back and fighting off the black with new album

Brian Johnson, left, and Angus Young, of AC/DC, perform on the Rock or Bust Tour on Feb. 17, 2016, in Chicago. (Photo by Rob Grabowski/Invision/AP, File)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Through decades, deaths and disasters, AC/DC keeps thundering on.

Forty-seven years along, and with the closest thing possible to their original lineup, the rockers on Friday are releasing “Power Up,” their first album in six years.

It’s also the first since the 2017 death of Malcolm Young, who founded the band in Sydney, Australia in 1973 with his little brother, Angus. “Power Up” is dedicated to the elder brother and is shot through with his spirit and songwriting.

“We all felt Malcolm around us, he was there. We’re not spiritual type people, but, boy, oh boy,” lead singer Brian Johnson, 73, told The Associated Press in an interview via Zoom from his home in Sarasota, Florida. “Malcolm was a very strong character in real life, and him passing away wasn’t gonna stop that. He was there, everywhere, and I think you can tell it on the record.”

All 12 tracks are co-written by Malcolm and Angus Young, selected by the younger Young from a trove of unused songs that piled up during the band’s long life.

“Malcolm and myself over the years, whenever we’d come to an album we always walked in with a lot of A-grade songs,” the 65-year-old Angus Young said via Zoom from his home in Sydney. “We always had a stack full more left that were all great, great tracks.”

Most of the songs came from a fruitful writing period in a long gap between albums from 2000 to 2008, and Angus Young chose those that most evoked his big brother.

“I concentrated on the ones I knew were Mal’s favorites,” Young said. “It’s a fitting project for him. He always liked being simple and direct, so I felt, what better than his music?”

“Power Up,” their 17th studio album, whose first single and video, the blues-inflected “Shot in the Dark,” were released in October, is overflowing with the same thundering chords and schoolboy sneers that made them legends with albums like “Highway to Hell” and ”Back in Black.” The latter was also dedicated to a recently deceased essential bandmate, original singer Bon Scott, who died in 1980.

“There is the similarity between Bon’s tragedy and Mal’s,” Angus Young said.

With Malcolm Young suffering from the dementia that would lead to his death, his nephew Stevie Young stood in for him on 2014′s “Rock or Bust,” and did it again on “Power Up,” though at 63 he’s hardly the new kid.

“We’ve known Stevie forever and ever. He’s been around us for decades,” bassist Cliff Williams said via Zoom from his home in North Carolina. “So there was no trying to fit him into any kind of thing.”