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Gotthard - 'Bang!' http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/8f/9a/17/gotthard-bang-78-1400615939.jpg Hot

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Back with a 'Bang!'? Definitely.

Continuing as a band after the tragic death of front-man Steve Lee was never going to be easy for Gotthard. Comeback effort 'Firebirth' admittedly wasn't the 'Back In Black' that many people were anticipating, the album coming in for some heavy criticism, some justified, some harsh – it was as if some quarters actually wanted the band to fail. 'Bang!', the second album with new vocalist Nic Maeder, sees Gotthard addressing some of those criticisms in the only way they can. Though it still doesn't scale the lofty heights of 'Lipservice' and 'G', it's certainly a huge stride in the right direction.

One of the biggest critiques of 'Firebirth' was the poor production. Charlie Bauerfiend (Helloween, Hammerfall, Saxon) has stepped up from mixing 'Firebirth' to being guitarist Leo Leoni's co-producer, and the effect is instantaneous, the sound still bottom-heavy but with astounding clarity. And along with the improved production comes more invention in the song-writing – simply put, the bigger melodies which the band first made their name are back, while a number of orchestral embellishments enhance a number of tracks, such as the cascading strings on the driving Rocker 'What You Get' and the Kashmir-style stomp of 'I Won't Look Down'. But the biggest example of this is the ten-minute epic ballad 'Thank You', stirring classical sounding strings competing with heartfelt vocals and stunning guitar solos, easily Gotthard's most ambitious song to date. The other two ballads on offer also show a different side to the band, the accordion accompaniment to the acoustic 'C'est La Vie' provides a Folk element, while the delightful 'Maybe', a duet with an unknown American singer Melody Tibbetts, is given a Country/Americana feel with its lilting piano melody and could easily have been included on Train's last album.

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The songs on 'Bang!' are certainly more immediate and ultimately more memorable than those on its predecessor; the likes of 'Jump The Gun', 'My Belief' and 'Red On A Sleeve' offer the kind of riff-driven Rock Gotthard are known for, with a similar level of heaviness to the direction they took on the 'Domino Effect' album, while the sprawling 'Spread Your Wings' is a Whitesnake-y Blues/Rock excursion, in a style last heard on 'Dial Hard'. Interestingly, the first single 'Feel What I Feel' is by far the most commercial sounding effort on the album, there is certainly nothing else akin to it on 'Bang!'. But the bigger melodies and arrangements have certainly given Maeder more room for expression, the singer has truly found his feet within Gotthard with a more assured and confident performance.

Back with a 'Bang!'? Definitely.

Ant Heeks

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