Sound — 7
With more than two decades of experience beneath their belt, Swiss based rockers Gotthard have discovered a distinctive chemistry which the band has stayed true to throughout the course of their longevity, which has included some significant lineup changes in recent years. The album which preceded the band's newly released eleventh studio album, 2012's "Firebirth," marked the first effort to not feature the defining vocals of original lead vocalist Steve Lee, who passed away two years prior in an unfortunate motorcycle accident. The band has also transitioned somewhat more comfortably to the departure of guitarist Mandy Meyer, who currently serves behind Krokus and previously offered some notable playing to one of Asia's strongest efforts, 1985's "Astra."
With singer Nic Maeder now standing at the helm of this veteran rock group, as well as a full-length studio album with the newly appointed frontman already established, the current Gotthard lineup rediscovers a more relaxed approach which results in a compilation of well crafted hard rock in the form of their new album, the aptly titled "Bang!" A climatic thirty-nine second instrumental "Let Me in Katie" has the listener sitting anxiously in anticipation for the album's first hard hitting track, which also happens to share the same name as the actual effort. Apparent AC/DC-fueled guitar work and a moderately melodic chorus driven by somewhat bland vocal harmonies do a commendable job at opening the album, however it's when the members of Gotthard set their foot on the gas pedal that the effort really takes a life of it's own.
Such cuts as "Get Up 'n' Move On" and "My Belief" boast more commanding chord progressions and a strikingly broader vocal range from Maeder, with the former of the two revealing primal screams reminiscent of glam metal. "Feel What I Feel" is an incontestable riff rocker which builds up to a high octane refrain, and while the opening guitar riff bears some slight resemblance to Def Leppard's "Animal" the song quickly develops a persona all it's own. Later selections such as "Jump the Gun" embody a more apparent heavy metal persona, with plenty of emphasis on palm muted guitar riffs, whereas "I Won't Look Down" borrows more of that aforementioned AC/DC inspiration.
In what is easily a diverse collection of compositions, "Bang!" manages to maintain an overall sense of cohesiveness which allows each song to effortlessly transition from one to the next, even during the brief ventures into power ballad territory ala "C'est La Vie."
Lyrics — 7
The appointing of Nic Maeder to the front of Gotthard has proved to be a welcome one; while some dedicated fans will probably never get over the loss of Steve Lee, and there's probably that audience of listeners who believe the band cannot exist without Lee's vocals leading the way of hard hitting guitar chords and melodic choruses, there's no denying that Maeder has the chops to defend his position. While he seems a bit hesitant at times lean towards his higher register, the moments where Maeder does so, such as during the previously noted "Get Up 'n' Move On," it's standout, and triumphs over the less vocally active songs such as the album's title track.
Overall Impression — 7
A concrete formula of racing distortion and slamming choruses allows Gotthard's new studio album "Bang!" to sit comfortably alongside their earlier releases, and while the effort could benefit from a few additional doses of vocal melody, it's more than enough to justify the latest incarnation of this veteran Swiss hard rock band.