GOTTHARD – Firebirth

Gotthard - FirebirthTo replace a very popular member is never an easy task. It’s even worse when that memeber didn’t leave or get fired, but died. In Gotthard’s case, we’re talking about their very popular lead singer and founding member Steve Lee. When Lee died in a motorcycle accident in October 2010, they lost not only a dear friend, but also a brilliant singer and a great songwriter, and as a frontman, he was a real crowd pleaser. Many, including yours truly, believed that with that, Gotthard was done. But the rest of the band were determined to keep going. Gotthard was Steve Lee’s life and baby and by keeping the flame burning, they would also keep Lee’s legacy alive. Enter: Nic Maeder.

To say that this 41 year old singer, born in Switzerland like the rest of the band, but living in Australia, had big shoes to fill is to put it mildly. Because not only does he have to be a great singer and frontman, he also has to win over Gotthard’s fans, which have been increasing more and more since their awesome CD Lipservice (2005). The whole band also had to make a stunning new album, that had to be at least as good as any of their three latest albums.

To start off with Maeder, he is, of course, a very good singer. He does, however, sound so alike Lee at times it’s almost scary. By that, we can draw to the conclusion that the guys really wanted a Lee soundalike for the job, and maybe that was a good thing because there is really nothing to complain about in the vocal department.

How about the songs then? Well, for starters, this album really sounds like a Gotthard record, all the elements are there. The groove, the melodies, the catchy refrains, the Whitesnake influences. But what worried me at first listen, was that the songs just didn’t feel as strong this time. It did grow on me after a while, but in the end, this album just doesn’t have the strength of its three predecessors.  If that has anything to do with the loss of Lee, I can’t tell, but I had hoped for a bit more.

Not that the album is bad in any way. It’s not. It’s a good album with songs like ”Starlight” that grooves in classic Gotthard style, the magnificent first single, ballad ”Remember It’s Me” and the uplifting party rocker ”Yippie Aye Yay”. Also, ”The Story’s Over” is a smashing groover that sounds like a heavier Whitesnake and ”S.O.S.” is an ass kicker that together with ”Right On” will probably be great live killers.  The ballads however are a few too many. ”Take It All Back” is astonishing and a hit to be, but ”Tell Me” doesn’t give me that feel I usually get with their ballads. Also, ”Where Are You” is really heartfelt and written about Lee, but as a song it really doesn’t do IT for me.

Still, even though this album might not be a future Gotthard classic and not as good as Lipservice or Domino Effect, I still feel that these guys have a lot left to offer. This album has to be seen as a learning experince for Maeder and a way for the new line up to get to know each other. I don’t doubt for a second that the boys will turn up with an ace of album the next time it’s time for a record to be made. Because what this album proves, is that there sure is a future for Gotthard, and probably a good one as well!

Jon Wilmenius (6/10)

01. Starlight
02. Give Me Real
03. Remember It’s Me
04. Fight
05. Yippie Aye Yay
06. Tell Me
07. Shine
08. The Story Is Over
09. Right On
10. S.O.S.
11. Take It All Back
12. I Can
13. Where Are You?

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