My relationship with Gotthard’s music hasn’t been the same since their very talented singer Steve Lee bit the dust back in 2010. Fact is, I was never much a fan of the band from the beginning. Sure, I saw some of their videos on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball back in the day but I never found them that interesting. It would take up until 2005 and the amazing Lipservice album, an album that still gets me fired up on all cylinders when I hear it. The two follow-up’s, the almost as brilliant Domino Effect (2007) and Need To Believe (2009) turned me into a real fan and I decided to give their older albums a shot again. My judgment to pretty much all of them is still that they’re good but they couldn’t hold a candle to three mentioned records. When Steve Lee passed away, Gotthard was very close to finally get their long-awaited major break-through but instead they now had to focus on whether they would stay together or not and if they would, who would be the singer?
In November 2011 they announced Nic Maeder as their new singer, a singer quite similar to Lee in sound but still with his own identity – a damn good singer in other words. What was not that good was Maeder’s debut album with Gotthard. Firebirth (2012) was, to me, a massive disappointment. It was a decent record but I had expected so much more and that record just didn’t deliver the goods. Since then, Gotthard has gotten better and better with every release and their last album Silver (2017) proved that Gotthard still had what it took to deliver meaty, crunchy yet melodic classic Hard Rock. The new songs that has been featured on guitarist Leo Leoni’s side project CoreLeoni also helped bringing up expectations for the new record.
Opener and latest single “Bad News” hits the ground running and jumps all over us with rough edges, kicking and biting guitars and a rhythm-section that strikes hard and takes no bullshit. It’s hardly the most obvious choice for a single as I wouldn’t call the refrain hit-catchy, this is more a dirt under the fingernails rocker as to show us that they mean business and that business is mean. There are hardly any bad news over this tune, this is a perfect live-opener that will kickstart any crowd out there. Great. They keep up the roughness with the faster paced “Every Time I Die”, a straight-forward hard-rocker that also could work as an opener, both on record and live. Organic and groundy, the song also brings on some memorable melodies and a striking refrain. Good one.
Leading single “Missteria” – co-written and guested on by Status Quo’s Francis Rossi – is one rhythmic, swinging rock-groover. The tribal, slightly African sounding rhythms and the upbeat crunch of the song leads my mind in the direction of Lift U Up (Lipservice) and the highly memorable melodies and the effective and very catchy chorus, which have its title chanted all the way through, screams hit. Bloody awesome! It’s followed by arena-rocker “10 000 Faces” with its meaty guitar-riffing, bouncy and upbeat rhythms. It’s an energetic rocker with both grit and crunch that holds hook-laden verses and a distinct and direct chorus that catches on right off the bat. Great stuff indeed.
Once of the most unexpected efforts on the album is the cover of ABBA’s “S.O.S”. Gotthard’s version starts out stripped, organic and atmospheric with with only piano and vocals on a sombre note. Still a ballad, a heavy guitar comes in and sends some staccato riffing our way and a drum beat heavies it up even more and then the tune speeds up towards the end. It’s easy to hear that it’s the ABBA song but Gotthard has given it their own treatment and put their own identity on top of it. It’s a brilliant version, catchy as can be – it really should be a future single. Very, very good. “Another Last Time” is a mid-paced rocker that holds both some crispy guitars and a crafty rhythm section with hooks all over the place. The tune actually sounds like it could have been taken from the Lipservice or Domino Effect sessions albeit a bit rougher around the edges. The tune had me from hello and will without a doubt go down great live.
On a more pop-laden note, “Better Than Love” goes out of its way to fill our heads with gluey melodies on an upbeat, straight-forward pace and another catchy refrain that won’t be kicked out of bed once it jumped in. The organ brings it into Classic Rock land and the crunchy guitars makes sure no syrup is being poured into the mix. Said chorus, on the other hand, is full-on Pop – and that’s a compliment – making it a single-contender with big hit-potential. Very good. “Save The Date” opens with a rowdy and rootsy guitar and continues on a faster beat and a blues-rock outlook with a stompy rhythm and a gritty groove. It’s a driving rock ‘n’ roller brought in to kick up dust – and so it does – but also with more of those juicy, catchy melodies present. What’s not to like about that, huh?
“Marry You” is a cute little love-song written by Leoni to his wife. It’s a stripped, acoustic ballad with some smooth strings in the background and a piano solo to go with it. It never goes mawkish at all but at times the lyrics turn a bit cheesy, I must admit. That being said, the lyrics are saved by the honest and emotional performance by Maeder. It’s a somber song, a breather, with a heart-warming atmosphere and a gorgeous main-melody. I just have to surrender. “Man On A Mission” is a groovy, mid-paced and earthy number, Classic Rock on a heavier track with a bluesy twist. As a whole it’s a beefy rocker but it really doesn’t stand out all that much. Not bad, though.
“No Time To Cry” is a fairly edgy rocker that holds a mid tempo and a darker ambience with a shaking, kicking rhythm and a fat back-bone. After the solo-break, the song speeds up and goes more rowdy and in-your-face but with all the memorable melodies intact. The chorus is of classic Gotthard style – very catchy. Great tune. Also a ballad, “I Can Say I’m Sorry” is more upbeat with a prominent groove. With verses more on the laid-back side, the mesmerizing and very catchy refrain grabs a hold by first listen. This felt like a hit right away – try this as a single, guys. Great work. Closing track “Rescue Me” opens with an acoustic guitar riff, upbeat with a chunky groove, 70’s Classic Rock style. When the rhythm section and a little later, the electric guitar, comes in, the song turns into a groove-monster. It’s a very melodic number that holds some slightly trippy, Led Zeppelin laden arrangements that rests over the tune. Awesome!
With Silver, Gotthard proved that they were getting back on their feet for real. It was a really good album even though the 8/10 was with a minus-sign in front of it. This one do not come with a such a sign. Gotthard is back for real with #13, easily the best album with Maeder, even their finest effort since Domino Effect. The whole sound comes across as it is something that’s been on their minds as well because this record sounds like a band screaming for vengeance, a band that once and for all wants to show people that they has a shitload to offer. It’s a crunchy, pretty raw and robust record that brings on some fitting grit but also with amazingly catchy and accurate melodies all over, all of which comes with a comprehensive aplomb. The new-found spark shows the band firing on all cylinders and the band lets us know that with an album full of cocksure attitude. I tip my hat off and say: Welcome back, lads!
More Gotthard reviews:
1. Bad News
2. Every Time I Die
4. 10.000 Faces
6. Another Last Time
7. Better Than Love
8. Save The Date
9. Marry You
10. Man On A Mission
11. No Time To Cry
12. I Can Say I’m Sorry
13. Rescue Me