Highway To Hell



by Pedro B. USER (364 Reviews)
October 4th, 2005 | 550 replies

Release Date: 1979 | Tracklist

A mammoth riff roars into our stereo. No bass, no drums, no vocals, just an all-encopassing guitar chord progression which churns along at start-stop pace. Shortly afterwards the drums join in, playing a simple yet strong beat. The voice then overlaps all of this, singing about life on the road. Finally, in the chorus, the bass comes in and the song is well and truly under way.

Thus beginneth Highway to Hell, probably the greatest album in the history of AC/DC. I know Back In Black often gets referred to rather than this one, but believe me, if you’re looking to get into Angus and company, this is the one for you. Heck, that’s how I got into them.

Highway To Hell appeared in 1979, at a time when AC/DC (Bon Scott, Phil Rudd, Cliff Williams and the Young brothers) were probably one of the five greatest touring rock outfits. They had finally managed to break through in America, and of course they were more popular than ever in Europe. Singer Bon Scott’s distinctive voice, lead guitarist Angus Young’s instantly recognizable riffs and the rest of the band’s strong backup tracks were a blueprint for rock at the time. Highway To Hell was the album that would both increase that fame and end it.

Recorded under the supervision of «Mutt» Lange, the album sounds a lot crunchier than both previous and latter AC/DC records. The guitars have the requisite bite, the drums are strong and clear-cut, the voice sounds really good and the bass buzzes discreetly on the background. Altogether, this raw-edged, shredding sound only adds to the quality of the album, although it can make it hard for less trained listeners to listen to the whole album in one go.

And then there’s the songs. The monster title track is followed up by the lighthearted Girls Got Rhythm, which in turn gives way to the huge intro to Walk All Over You, which in turn leads into Touch Too Much, one of the funniest, most captivating AC/DC singles. The album then takes a downward curve, quality-wise, but there are still good moments, such as Shot Down In Flames and of course the huge closing track, Night Prowler, which put AC/DC in some hot water at the time. Clocking in at 6.13, this is also one of the longest tracks AC/DC ever wrote, Millionaire notwithstanding.

However, let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Highway To Hell starts out exactly as described above, then evolves into one heck of a monster solo, which, despite being short, ranks in as one of my all-time favorite solos, if not the favorite. The bass in this song is incredible, simple but strong, and I actually think the group only uses one guitar (Angus’s) on this song. Listen attentively behind the chorus and you will notice just that – there’s no rhythm guitar, and the bass is doing the accompaniment on its own. All in all, this is a great song, and certainly among the Top 5 AC/DC songs of all time. (6/5).

Highway To Hell leads straight into Girls Got Rhythm (with a missing apostrophe on the title), which is a fast-paced, tongue-in-cheek song about…well, you guessed it, sex with girls. Musically, it’s built around a very catchy riff, and it features an amazing bass line from Cliff Williams, as well as some very entertaining guitar fills from the Guitar God himself, Angus Young. Good chorus, amusing lyrics, and a very good song overall. (4,5/5)

The song then ends and gives way to one of the hugest intros ever to grace our speakers. With echoes of what would later become Hell’s Bells, the intro riff to Walk All Over You is soon joined by some unbelievable drums, before developing into a quite lighter, and also quite faster, riff. The song’s minimalistic riffing structure (Bon often sings a capella) makes it insanely catchy, and the chorus…well, the chorus is a cathartic experience that words just cannot describe. All in all, this is an unfairly overlooked AC/DC gem, sure to please even the occasional listener (6/5)

But the goods delivered by this album do not end here. We’ve barely had time to recover from the greatness of the previous track that Touch Too Much starts playing. A simple, distinctly punkish chord progression, strong bass and drumming, and Bon singing about a sexual experience with a wild woman. Of course, all these ingredients could only add up to a great AC/DC song. The chorus is again huge, and the backing vocals that come up after the solo are particularly amusing. Overall, this album continues to deliver in spades. (5/5)

Unfortunately, just as we are getting ready for more divine rock’n’roll, the album gets weaker. Not that Beating Around The Bush is a bad song, it’s just less godly than the previous four. Still, it features a groovy main riff and some good soloing, although the chorus is weak. A nice song to keep us revved up, but by no means a standout in this album. Great double entendre, though.(3,5/5)

Shot Down In Flames ups the ante once again, with nice riffing and equally good soloing from Angus. The chorus is a major improvement on the previous one, although rhyming flame with insane is not exactly Shakespeare…still, a nice, catchy track that’s a worthy addition to the AC/DC roster, and which almost manages to stand up to the other four in terms of quality. (4/5)

Unfortunately, then the album gets worse again. Get It Hot, despite its good chorus, is the only distinctive filler track on the album. The thematic is clichéd, the riffing sounds a tad dejá-vu and overall this is interchangeable for any track on Powerage or Let There Be Rock. A track not worthy of the greatness of this album. (3/5)

If You Want Blood (You Got It) is, strangely enough, the title of AC/DC’s first live album, released the previous year, and in which this song is not included. Odd… Musically, it’s good, but not great, with only the chorus being memorable. Once again, this song could have been on any of the group’s previous albums and no one would tell the difference. Good song, though. (3,25/5)

Love Hungry Man is next. It’s filler, yes, but it’s much better filler than Get It Hot. Its main asset is its chorus, which slows down the tempo considerably and becomes a memorable moment on this album. The rest of the song is more «blah», but it keeps us hyped up for the album’s grand finale. (3,25/5)

And what a finale! Night Prowler is a slow, churning, dragging blues anthem about serial killers that crawl in the night. I imagine the lyrics may have given the occasional 10-year-old nightmares, being genuinely haunting and at times even scary. The musicianship is also excellent, particularly Angus’s constant solos. Another aspect of this song, which sadly made it infamous, was the fact that it caused AC/DC to be seen as a violent band. This, together with the album cover (with the horned – or horny? ;) – Angus, which gave the band a reputation of being Satanists, caused AC/DC to not be the best-loved band by parents in the early 80’s. Still, this song is awesome and that is that. (5/5)

So, yes – this album is fantastic, possibly AC/DC’s finest hour. But its release became encumbered by a looming tragedy – only six months after its release, Bon Scott choked to death in his own vomit, putting an end to a seemingly prosperous career. His replacement, Brian Johnson, who took charge with 1980’s Back In Black, veered the band in a different direction, lyric-wise, and has yet to convince some of the fans. However, Bon’s legacy remains, and nowhere is it as well-portrayed as in Highway To Hell.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
October 4th 2005


I never liked AC/DC because all of their songs sound the same. But still, your review was well written.

October 4th 2005


^ Agreed. Your review WAS well written and very good, but AC/DC does all sond the same to me.

October 4th 2005


Album Rating: 4.0

Nice review. This band continues to be one of my favorites.

You did great on judgement. Night Prowler and Walk All Over You deserve a maybe 5/5 to be a bit more fair. But I highly disagree with If You Want Blood, as that song deserves a full five from me.

Nice job. Much better than the other review. :thumb:

October 4th 2005



October 4th 2005


I don't see what everyone sees in AC/DC. Sure, Angus Young is a guitar idol, but the vocals are downright unbearable. They make me want to slam my ahead against the wall.

October 6th 2005


Album Rating: 4.5

the reason why y'all think ac/dc songs all sound the same is because...they all sound the same! :D this isn't the most varied band around.

thanks 4 the feedback, this review was a labor of love, since this is one of my top 5 all-time favorite albums.

October 20th 2005


I dont see how their songs sound the same. They are similarly structured MUCH of the time, and use the same chord progression but each has its own defining riff that you can tell apart from all others.

The vocals in AC/DC are unbelievable. Bon Scott had such a great voice when he really pushed it. Brian Johnson in the early 80s was one of the best singers ever. (I'll admit that his voice on the razors edge can get a little irksome, it had lost much power)

And for whoever said angus young wasnt great, id like to see you try to play the let there be rock or whole lotta rosie solos while duckwalking across stage.

October 21st 2005


Album Rating: 4.5


you gotta be joking hobohead!

October 21st 2005


Album Rating: 4.5

intro to H2H - power chord riffing

intro to shook me - harmonic lead

how are they similar?

October 21st 2005


Album Rating: 4.5

oh, that...ok, agreed

October 21st 2005


Album Rating: 4.5

yeah, i just wasn't making the connection, when i think of intro i think of the initial riff... IE the melodic lead thingy.

i also know my music, hehe

November 10th 2005


Album Rating: 4.0

an awsome cd no doubt

November 26th 2005


Album Rating: 3.0

this is my favorite ac/dc album, I prefer bon over brian johnson. my favorite songs are probably "girls got rhythm" and "walk all over you"This Message Edited On 11.25.05

December 27th 2005


Album Rating: 4.0

superb album from AC/DC. my favorite

December 28th 2005


AC/DC s best, and AC/DC songs may sound similar but hey, its how rock n roll should be, simple yet affective

January 17th 2006


Sure AC/DC have had some great hits, but they have released how many albums for so few good songs? Highway To Hell is a absolute classic over here in Aus, but apart from that AC/DC arnt superb. Try Sabbath.

January 17th 2006


i would have to agree with numetalmania..they are a solid band no doubt but they lack the singles to keep em going..i probably have only 3 cd's by them..livewire, highway to hell and back in black and i would say these are enough

January 17th 2006


livewire isn't an album...
Well, each of Bon albums had at least one (often more) AC/DC classics on them, back in black had no less than four classics from the band, FTATR (WSY) had the title track, and after their 80s slump they came back with thunderstruck and moneytalks. I think they've got more than enough great songs

January 29th 2006


Album Rating: 5.0

Good review. I can never decide if I like HTH or BIB better

February 23rd 2006


why do so many people think they sound the same in ever song??? they dont at all....

well done 5/5 review

my fav band!

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