Swiss band Gotthard have been around 20 years and their new album BANG! follows an impressive total of 14 albums (studio and live)… That’s a catalog as extensive as Motley Crue’s! And yet it’s the first Gotthard album I’ve ever heard, largely due to the fact that most of their material hasn’t been released here in the States, if I understand correctly. But, hey, they say better late than ever and I’m very impressed with BANG! If you count all of the bonus tracks, the album runs 17 tracks long, but there isn’t a single bad song in the bunch. Every track could be a single! There are different styles of songs — hard rock, heavy metal, AOR, ballads, a duet, a song with a bit of French, etc — but they’re all superb.
BANG! is only the second Gotthard album to feature vocalist Nic Maeder, as their backstory involves the tragic death of their original lead singer, Steve Lee, who was killed in a motorcycle accident on Interstate 15 between Mesquite and Las Vegas. It was only after an extensive period of mourning that they decided to bring Nic aboard as a new lead singer. The rest of the band is comprised of Leo Leoni (guitar), Marc Lynn (bass), Hena Habegger (drums) and Freddy Scherer (guitar).
The album begins with a brief intro entitled “Let Me In Katie,” which leads right into the title track, “BANG!,” kicking off with crunchy guitar riffs galore. “Bang, bang, banging around the world,” goes the ridiculously catchy chorus. It’s not easy to describe Nic’s vocals, which are a perfect blend of melodic and raw. I wouldn’t exactly say there’s a rasp to them, but they’re not entirely clean either. The singer he most reminds me of would be Whitesnake’s David Coverdale, though he also calls to mind current Warrant vocalist Robert Mason. Suffice to say his voice was made for singing this sort of hard rock and it truly shines throughout the record, never sounding strained, even when he hits the impressive high notes.
“Get Up ‘N’ Move On” follows “BANG!” and it’s just as catchy, a massive earworm in the form of a high octane, lean and mean anthem. Both of these first two songs have a slight “boogie groove,” as the band describes it. I’m not sure who’s playing keyboards on the songs, but props to whoever it is because they’re an integral part of the songs, on these cuts and the rest of the album.
This brings us to a couple of ballads. The first is called “Feel What I Feel” and it’s a moving mid-tempo ballad that’s primed for singing along to at their concerts; it’s just got that sort of singsong vibe. If it’s not quite soft enough to demand your lighters — or cellphones — held high, don’t worry, the next track “C’est La Vie,” is a precious, almost lullaby-esque song that definitely demands a thousand lights in the air. It’s the first track the band has ever done to include a French lyric and it has an old school French chanson vibe with its soothing accordion.
Elsewhere, “I Won’t Look Down” has a Lynch Mob-esque swagger about it. Very much like something George Lynch would write. It also reminds me of the first Skid Row record, particularly in terms of the way the guitars interact in a manner that just sucks you right into the song and doesn’t let you go. Kudos to Leo and Freddy for their fine work here.
“Mr. Ticket Man” is like a cross between Bonfire and The Scorpions with its mix of melody and punchy drums, Hena especially shining here. “Over and over again,” Nic sings. “Closer to your promise land.” It would seem to be about someone trying to sell you a proverbial ticket to somewhere you don’t want to go. At the very end of the song, you even hear a ticket being torn up. Damn the man.
Finally, I have to mention the tender ballad “Maybe,” which finds Nic dueting with Melody Tibbits. Here, Nic’s vocals are more relaxed, softer even. It reminds me of TNT’s ballads. To that end, there are several moments throughout the album where Nic sounds like a dead ringer for TNT’s always impressive Tony Harnell.
Whether you’re a fan of contemporary hard rock or vintage “hair metal,” BANG! is an album that’s sure to please you. It’s rich, colorful, heavy and all that good stuff. If Guns ‘N’ Roses need an opening band for their next tour, I think Gotthard would be the perfect band for the job. But don’t wait for Axl Rose’s endorsement, do yourself a favor and check out Gotthard today.