Rock or Bust is the 16th studio album by Australian hard rock band AC/DC. It is their fifteenth internationally released studio album and the sixteenth to be released in Australia. It is the shortest studio album ever released by the band; at approximately 35 minutes, it is two minutes shorter than their previous shortest album, Flick of the Switch, which was released in 1983. The album was released on November 28, 2014. Rock or Bust also was the group’s first album without founding member and rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, who had retired from the band in 2014 due to health concerns, although he co-wrote every track on the album. Bass guitarist Cliff Williams has also retired since Rock or Bust was released, drummer Phil Rudd was unable to participate in the supporting tour after being sentenced to house arrest, and vocalist Brian Johnson was forced to exit the band after the fifth leg of the album’s supporting tour as a result of hearing loss.
The group released the debut single from the album, titled “Play Ball”, on 7 October 2014. The song has been a commercial success, reaching the top 40 charts in various countries such as Spain (at number 28), France (at number 39) or Switzerland (at number 19).
Rock or Bust peaked at #1 in 12 countries, including Australia, Canada, Germany and Sweden. It reached the top 5 in a further 12 countries, including New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States and Italy. The album earned AC/DC a 2015 ECHO Award for Rock/Alternative (International).
Released on 28 November 2014 in Australia and 2 December 2014 elsewhere, Rock or Bust marks the band’s first album since 2010’s Iron Man 2 and first album of original material since 2008’s Black Ice.
Rock or Bust is the band’s first album without founding member and rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, who left the band in 2014 for health reasons. Malcolm’s departure was later clarified by the band and their management, who stated that he was officially diagnosed with dementia. While Malcolm has writing credits for every track on the album, all of his guitar parts were recorded by his nephew Stevie Young. He died on 18 November 2017, weeks after his older brother George Young.
Before the album was officially announced, Brian Johnson admitted that it was difficult to make the album without Malcolm. He brought about the idea that the album could be called Man Down but believed the title might be too negative towards Malcolm’s situation and overall health.
On 6 November 2014, drummer Phil Rudd was arrested for attempting to procure the murder of two men. AC/DC made a statement the same day: “We’ve only become aware of Phil’s arrest as the news was breaking. We have no further comment. Phil’s absence will not affect the release of our new album Rock or Bust and upcoming tour next year.” It was not yet clear whether Rudd would remain with the band or not, or who might be his replacement. The attempted procurement charge against Rudd was dropped the following day; charges of possession of methamphetamine and possession of cannabis and a charge of threatening to kill remained.
Josh Cheuse of the Arcade Creative Group handled the art direction, and decided to add more features to the physical edition, considering that “If you don’t make something special, there’s no point in even making any packaging at all.” Thus the cover is a lenticular, and the booklet has 24 pictures featuring the band. The agency Curb did a special video to promote the album in a Polish quarry, where a rock exploded to reveal a carved AC/DC logo.
The first single “Play Ball” was first used on 27 September 2014 in a trailer for Major League Baseball on TBS postseason coverage, and the single was released on 7 October, the same day as the track listing and artwork were revealed. It became available on iTunes for those who pre-ordered the album. The second single is “Rock or Bust”, the official video for which was filmed in front of 500 fans in London on 4 October 2014. The single was released on 17 November 2014. The song leaked by accident when it was uploaded to the AC/DC YouTube account instead of “Play Ball”. Rudd was absent from both video shoots for the singles, and was replaced by Welshman Bob Richards, who had previously played with Man, Adrian Smith, Asia and Shogun.
The album received generally favorable and warm reviews; it garnered a score of 75 on the website Metacritic, based on 22 reviews. In particular, the magazine Truckingpublished a praising review by Andy Stewart in which he wrote, “Short, but definitely sweet, this long-awaited new album from Australia’s biggest band contains a raft of excellent riffs, signature screeching and rock ’n roll boogie-woogie rhythms that are all but impossible not to tap your feet along to.” As well, Charles Pitter of PopMatters commented that the album had “a keen focus on catchy choruses and riffs for those who are inclined to practice righteous, gnarly air guitar.”