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Airbourne

Stepping back in time, some three decades or so, AIRBOURNE take the relative absence of their fellow Aussie hard-rock boogie merchants AC/DC (or followers, ROSE TATTOO), to churn out their paint-by-numbers version of the highly-revered combo. Instead of applying the usual traits to be a competent tribute act, this bunch from Warrnambool in Victoria, Australia write their own identikit cuts – but boy can they rawk!
Formed in 2003 by brothers Joel and Ryan O’Keeffe (vocals/lead guitar and drums respectively), plus rhythm guitarist/vocalist David Roads, and later, bassist Justin Street, AIRBOURNE went viral after the release of their demo mini-CD, “Ready To Rock” (2004), securing support slots to the likes of MOTLEY CRUE, The ROLLING STONES, and, in turn, an afternoon spot at their nation’s Big Day Out festival of 2006.
Unperturbed at being subsequently abandoned by the merge of Capitol and Virgin Records (E.M.I. Australia delivered their debut, Bob Marlette-produced set), AIRBOURNE inked a global deal with Roadrunner, whom one assumes were better equipped with their retro blend of hard rock and heavy metal. Said album, RUNNIN’ WILD (2007) {*7}, was re-pressed for mass consumption early the following year, an album hoping to fill the void left by AC/DC’s lightweight “Stiff Upper Lip” set, delivered at the turn of the millennium. A tad “Spinal Tap” in their cloning of their heroes, in their derivative titles at least (`Stand Up For Rock’n’Roll’, `Fat City’, `Blackjack’, `Cheap Wine & Cheaper Women’, etc.), the no-nonsense, unfussed AIRBOURNE played to the Easy Jet fans of the rock market, rather than Quantas. Still, without turning into a snobby baldy geezer at the back of a gig, if head-banging one’s bandana off was one’s bag, then getting AIRBOURNE had to be a must.
NO GUTS. NO GLORY. (2010) {*6} was another typical testosterone-tugging trial (and error) of sounds from the seventies. The band’s hard work seemed to pay off when the set almost reached the UK Top 30, while in America, it gate-crashed the Top 100; for an Aussie band that was no mean feat. The shirtless six-pack of Joel O’Keeffe on the cover sleeve recaptured days when macho albums by MANOWAR, WHITESNAKE, et al, existed, although if it was down to the hard-driving music, AIRBOURNE could live or die by the swashbuckling `Born To Kill’, `No Way But The Hard Way’ and `It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over’.
The loyal faithful of AC/DC will have been a little stretched to tell the uninitiated that 2008’s “Black Ice” was the answer, and while these cool cats were “air miles” away from the play, rock’n’roll hijackers AIRBOURNE navigated their way to an equally riveting third set, BLACK DOG BARKING (2013) {*7}. Okay, these hounds of hair-metal were never going to be everyone’s cup of char, but if one couldn’t get one’s head around `Live It Up’ (featuring SAHB-like keys), `Ready To Rock’, `Animalize’ and the chauvinistic `No One Fits Me (Better Than You)’, then one was fated for the album’s penultimate dirge, `Cradle To The Grave’. The legend of Bon Scott lives on.
Chewing up the AC/DC songbook and spewing up every clichéd phrase and mannerism with no fear of reprisal from the ghost of Bon, BREAKIN’ OUTTA HELL (2016) {*6} was another exercise in old-school hard-rock. Pulling no punches, and boxing clever as they pooh-pooh’d any clever-bastard critic lambasting their every scream and riff, Australia’s AIRBOURNE were even bigger in Britain (Top 10) than on home terra firma. Will they ever develop their own sound in the future? Well, simply, in a word, no. The band had now proved beyond doubt that there was room at the top if one wanted to rock’n’roll and, in their bombastic title track, plus `Rivalry’, `Get Back Up’ et al, they’d be flying high for some time to come.
© MC Strong/MCS May2013-Sep2016

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