Swiss Classic Rock band Gotthard’s career has been a bumpy ride for me. When they first showed up in the early 90’s, they did nothing for me at all even though I never thought they were crap. Until Lipservice showed up in 2005. That album and its follow-ups Domino Effect (2007) and Need To Believe (2009) made me a Gotthard fan. Then disaster struck. Lead singer and co-founder of the band Steve Lee was killed in a traffic accident in 2010 and nothing would be the same again. The band found a replacement in the very talented Nic Maeder but none of the albums Gotthard have made with him has been up to par with said trilogy. However, the band’s latest effort Silver (2017) was a real step-up and I began to see some hope again. But when it comes to the pre-Lipservice albums, they have still failed to make any impact on me, despite some very solid attempts to change my own mind about them. I don’t hate them but I just don’t get them.
So, with Gotthard in fine shape again and with a brighter future than in a long time the news that guitarist and the other-co-founder of the band, Leo Leoni was about to release a new album with his side project CoreLeoni. Nothing strange about that at all, many musicians have side-projects these days, but this one feels a bit peculiar, I think. With him he brought Gotthard compadre, drummer Hena Habegger, bassist Mila Merker and the newest of vocalist finds, Ronnie Romero (Lords Of Black, Rainbow, The Ferrymen). What’s peculiar about that, then? Well, Leoni decided to re-record a lot of old Gotthard songs that he feels have never gotten the recognition they deserves. Yes, I know that bands re-record their stuff all time and I’m cool with that. But why do it with an entirely new band then? Why not do it with Gotthard and let Maeder have a shot at giving his own input? I think it’s weird but I was also curious of how it would sound, especially with Romero who has mostly been singing metal songs. How would he sound doing Gotthard stuff? And would this album really be anything to write home about. I wasn’t convinced beforehand, I must admit that.
“Theme From The Godfather” that opens the album as an intro is just that, the theme from “The Godfather” and it leads us right into the opening track “Firedance” (Gotthard, 1992). The tune keeps the big groove of the original version and the Classic Rock with the big classic Whitesnake influences are still all over the track. It’s a bit heavier than the original and when it comes to Romero, the guy really nails it. I like this version more than I thought I would. Very good indeed. “Downtown”, also from the self-titled debut, is more straight ahead, classic Hard Rock. I’m not really familiar with the song but it does comes with a good groove. However, it feels like the chorus never takes off and in my book, there are lots of better songs in Gotthard’s catalogue. “Higher” (Dial Hard, 1994)is a rough, heavy and tough rocker that goes straight for the throat and sports a bad-ass rhythm and a killer chorus that hits right off the bat. A damn good one, this.
“Get It While You Can” (Dial Hard) is a slow to mid-pace blues injected rocker that lands somewhere between Whitesnake and Great White. Again, I like the groove and it’s memorable enough but the tune never really move me. It’s good but it doesn’t last. “In The Name” (G, 1996) is a darker and moody bluesy hard rocker where the groove is tight and the vocal melody is very memorable. It goes in a mid tempo and it catches on to me really fast – a great tune. From the same album comes “Let It Be” (no, it’s not a Beatles cover) and with that it is power ballad time. To my ears, it sounds like a heavier – and better – take on Whitesnake’s “Is This Love”. It’s not a clone but there are clear similarities. Romero is the tune’s real winner and since I’m a sucker for a great power ballad, I think this one’s awesome. “All I Care For” takes us back to the debut album and it’s another ballad we’re given here. This one is more stripped, raw and earthy than “Let It Be” so it’s not a power ballad for the charts. It comes with a soulful atmosphere which brings up the dynamics – a good one.
We also get a newly written tune here called “Walk On Water”. This one’s a pretty rough, ballsy and rhythmic melodic Hard Rock number with an infectious groove and killer refrain that reminds me not so little of modern-day Treat. Why Leoni didn’t save this one for Gotthard is beyond me. The best track so far. We go back to Dial Hard with “Here Comes The Heat”, a classic Hard Rock tune in a much faster pace than the rest. It kicks, it bites and it roughs things up but song wise it doesn’t do anything for me even though I like the ass-kicking. The same with “Tell No Lies” (Open, 1999). It’s heavy, punchy and quite rough and it comes in mid pace with a slight metal twist. It’s ok but it falls flat to me and is easily forgotten. “Ride On” (G) leans heavily on its classic Whitesnake influence but it holds a tougher punch and it’s heavied up. I like it but the chorus could be more effective. Last song out is “Anytime, Anywhere” (Lipservice), easily the best tune on the album – and also the least necessary to be rerecorded. That said, they make very good version of it and Romero fits it like a glove but it can’t really hold a candle to the original. But it does its job as an album closer.
So, no songs from Homerun (2001) or Human Zoo (2003) then. But I guess that’s why they added the “Part 1” to the title here, there is probably a plan for a sequel. I still can’t put my mind to why Leoni decided to re-record the old Gotthard songs with a new band instead of doing it with Gotthard but the fact is, this album is much better than I thought it would be. Firstly, Ronnie Romero really nails the vocals here which is a bit of a surprise, to be honest. To me, Romero is more of a (Power) Metal singer and I wasn’t sure that he would do Gotthard’s Classic Rock and power ballads justice but he does – the guy fits the tunes like a glove and at times he sounds so alike Steve Lee it’s scary. The production is a bit more “Metal” than Gotthard’s usual sound but it never takes over, it’s still melodic, Classic Rock. The only downer for me is that I still think that too many of the earliest Gotthard songs are a bit too bland and I still can’t embrace them fully, even though I don’t find them bad. If this band exist only to pay tribute to Gotthard or if they will turn into a band that write originals as well – the new track says they might – remains to be seen. Personally, I think it would be more fun that way.
1. Theme From “The Godfather”
5. Get It While You Can
6. In The Name
7. Let It Be
8. All I Care For
9. Walk On Water
10. Here Comes The Heat
11. Tell No Lies
12. Ride On
13. Anytime Anywhere