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Full Throttle Rock

Album Review: Gotthard - Bang!

Posted on July 14, 2014 at 9:00 PM

Gotthard – Bang!

Written by Antony Scholefield


If I could play music, and not just write about it, I'd hate to have my band change singers. From the record-breaking success of AC/DC's Back in Black to the vitriolic opposition to INXS's Switch, it's a roulette ride of potential reactions. It's a game that Swiss rockers Gotthard were forced to play in 2010, after singer Steve Lee tragically died in a motorcycle accident. For their next album, Firebirth, the band debuted replacement singer Nic Maeder, backed by old hands Leo Leoni and Freddy Scherer on guitar. Now they’ve released their second offering with Maeder: Bang!

Like most of Gotthard’s work, Bang! delves deep into the traditions of ‘80s glam rock without enslaving itself to convention. Leoni and Scherer pump out chunky guitar riffs that overshadow any fancy solo, especially on late-album X-factor ‘Mr Ticket Man’. For ‘My Belief’, the band call in some subtle keyboard work inspired by Deep Purple’s Jon Lord. Songs like ‘Spread Your Wings’ and ‘I Won’t Look Down’ are borderline OTT [Over The Top], and would probably cause cynical Gen Y-ers to raise their acne-encrusted eyebrows in scepticism. For normal human beings, however, they’re still highly enjoyable.

In a perfect world, listeners would judge Nic Maeder on his own merit, at least after his first album. On crappy old planet Earth, however, I’ve got to compare him to Steve Lee. Gotthard aren’t pushing me away from this either, with the fast-paced rocker ‘Get Up ‘N Move On’ actually using the line “Was I the best you could find?” So here goes. Like Lee, Maeder mixes bluesy growls and David Coverdale-esque screams. Unlike Lee, Maeder is surprisingly clean and earnest, lacking the sleazy rock and roll leer of his predecessor. On the title track, it’s quite conspicuous. Despite the groovy riff, the chorus comes across as unexpectedly tame and wholesome.

Still, let’s keep it positive. Maeder can certainly sound like his heart’s being shredded. ‘Feel What I Feel’ injects some serious desperation, yet still feels good overall, while ‘What You Get’ gropes towards symphonic rock territory. Sometimes the heartstring-plucking fails epically, like the ridiculously drippy ‘C’est La Vie’. In general, though, Maeder has the passion and the pipes to honour Steve Lee’s memory. He even adds a touch of sleaze – just enough - to the heavy riffing of ‘Red On A Sleeve.’

Bang! is an interestingly familiar album. It’s a glam rock style we’ve heard before, but it’s pimped up with bits of metal, pop, prog-rock and power ballads. Similarly, Gotthard haven't rewritten their modus operandi since Steve Lee’s death, but Nic Maeder still brings a slightly different flavour to the band. Purists and anal-retentives may pick apart the differences between the two, but anyone else can just climb aboard the still-enjoyable ride. The king is dead, long rock the king.

Categories: Album Reviews

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