Gotthard – Firebirth

After the untimely death of original singer Steve Lee on that fateful autumn of 2010, it seemed to most that the band would hang up their gear and call it a day, as would many bands facing a similar situation. Which is why when I found out the news that Gotthard were auditioning for a new singer I was at once elated to hear that my favourite band were to continue. 

The name of this new album, Firebirth, represents a new era for the Swiss rockers, a literal rise from the ashes of who they once were, to what they are now and where they want to be tomorrow. It promotes strength, energy and the perseverance to pick oneself up and keep going. And after 9 previous studio albums before this one, the name is rather apt. They bring Nic Maeder aboard; Swiss-born and residing in Australia, providing another guitar, keyboard and most importantly the voice to the Gotthard collective.

First up is Starlight. Slow and easy in its approach, tinged with a little southern rock, this is an okay – but not the best – opener I had hoped for. It doesn’t immediately hit you with the power an opener needs; it tries to invite you inside and offers you a beer and a pat on the back, rather than shove you head-first into the rabble, however it displays Nic’s raspy vocals well and that typical guitar tone familiar of the Gotthard sound. Give Me Real shows off Nic’s high-pitched wail as soon as the track opens and the guitars chug into play and provide many good opportunities to show off throughout the track. I feel this should have been the one they opened with as it provides the power that Starlight lacks. Third up was Gotthard’s first present to us and a rather fantastic introduction to Nic. Remember It’s Me was released to test the waters, and it boded them well with their fan base. This track is probably as close to the original sound as you’ll get, the chorus is a humble reminder that despite the new beginnings that deep down, it’s still the same band, the same heart, the same passion, and the same love. Fight is one of the more aggressive tracks on the album, and Tell Me is the softest ballad. Both of them, despite the obvious differences in tempo and sound, have the marvellous ability to be consistent with Leo and Freddy’s trademark guitar tone.

Personally, for an album that’s meant to be their return from the ashes, the bird of theirs seems to be more gliding albatross than soaring phoenix. There are too many ballads for my liking and I would rather prefer to see them on future works. A comeback album should be something comparable to 2005’s Lipservice (again, my own opinion) as it’s fierce, catchy and powerfully moving. The only feeling stirred within me was from last track Where Are You, a tear-jerking tribute to former vocalist Steve Lee. Stripped right down, this acoustic number seeps emotion, Nic’s voice almost cracking with honest and deepest sadness. It reads almost like a letter, “How is life for you out there?” Nic asks; the band reaching out for reassurance that their old friend remains alive in their memories. Undoubtedly so, and Steve’s influence will surely keep with them as they continue with Gotthard.

I am still unsure of how to take this album. It’s not one of the best but it’s far from being bad. The guitars are crisp and clear, drums are unimposing and steady. Perhaps I just need time to adjust to the changes; I have the greatest of respect for them to carry on in the face of such a tragedy and technically speaking they haven’t really lost the sound that defines them. Nic’s vocal ability is close enough to Steve’s standards that it doesn’t encroach, nor is it too different that Gotthard has become anything unrecognisable. I definitely feel that there’s a lot more to this phoenix they’ve set loose from the ashes than they’re ready to give us yet. And I’ll be waiting for studio album number 11.

01: Starlight – 4:27
02: Give Me Real – 3:39
03: Remember It’s Me – 3:28
04: Fight – 3:27 
05: Yippie Aye Yay – 4:39 
06: Tell Me – 3:16
07: Shine – 3:49
08: The Story’s Over – 4:09
09: Right On – 3:54
10: S.O.S – 3:23
11: Take It All back – 3:16
12: I Can – 3:13
13: Where Are You – 4:19

Total playing time: 48:59

An honest and well-composed attempt at a comeback album. Will be warmly received by most fans, but feel like they’re holding back somewhat. 6/10

 

Firebirth will be released on Nuclear Blast records on June 1st. Catch them at Firefest in Nottingham this year, or at various festivals in Europe.

About Del Preston

So there I am, in Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, at about 3 o'clock in the morning, looking for one thousand brown M&Ms to fill a brandy glass, or Ozzy wouldn't go on stage that night. So, Jeff Beck pops his head 'round the door, and mentions there's a little sweet shop on the edge of town. So - we go. And - it's closed. So there's me and Keith Moon and David Crosby, breaking into that little sweet shop, eh. Well, instead of a guard dog, they've got this bloody great big Bengal tiger. I managed to take out the tiger with a can of mace, but the shop owner and his son, that's a different story altogether. I had to beat them to death with their own shoes. Nasty business really. But sure enough, I got the M&Ms and Ozzy went on stage and did a great show.
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