Gotthard are Switzerland’s answer to Bon Jovi. Having sold millions of albums over the last two decades, they’re only slightly less popular in Geneva than yodelling cuckoo clocks. The tragic death of Steve Lee in 2010 very well may have meant the end of the band, but here they are reborn in fire.
I don’t want to spend the next 300 words talking about the new vocalist, so I’ll get it out of the way now. Australian/Swiss hybrid Nic Maeder is just as good as Steve ever was. The raunchy American swagger of the vocals still remains, with the mid-tempo opener Starlight. Nic’s voice is everything Gotthard could have asked for, he oozes the same charisma that has been vital to the band’s success. Even displaying his softer side on Where Are You, a song dedicated to Steve’s memory, his he could have been in the band for years.
That said, at times I could hear Steve Lee singing at some points in my mind he sounds that similar. It’s not a Matt Barlow/Tim Owens situation where the new vocalist brings something new, but he comes in a does a sterling job.
Enough about dudes’ mouths, it’s a little creepy and chicks dig guitars. Fight‘s hard hitting opening riff and thundering persistent bass are as hook ridden as anything Gotthard have ever done. Leo Leoni has got the hard rock riff down to an art; for someone like myself who only really dived into music in the last decade or so, it great to hear an older band that stick to their hard rock roots instead of deserting the hair and playing mum-rock. My mum would hate this kind of stuff, so by default it’s brilliant. Even Yippie Aye Yay with it’s annoying as cat piss on your cereal hook riff still has a stadium-smashing chorus.
S.O.S takes us back into classic Gotthard territory with it’s chorus of “I’m no saint, I’m not a sinner” and relentlessly drumming and bubbling aggression ready to boil over. To a large extent, it’s what makes Firebirth such a great album. It’s not played up to be a comeback and Gotthard do what they have always done; massive chorus, giant riffs and bitchin’ guitar solos.
Gotthard was never about one man. Firebirth is a testament to that and Gotthard have proved they can pick themselves up and carry on. The album title and artwork certainly don’t hide it.