Gotthard – #13 (Album Review)

Alpine Rock masters Gotthard have returned with #13, their simply and appropriately titled new album set for release on Friday, March 13th through Nuclear Blast Records.

One of the most successful Swiss acts ever, the original lineup of Vocalist Steve Lee, Guitarist/Vocalist Leo Leoni, Bassist Marc Lynn, and Drummer Hena Habegger came together almost three decades ago, releasing their self-titled debut in 1992. Amidst some lineup changes, and the tragic loss of Steve Lee to a motorcycle accident in 2010, Gotthard has survived with each of their last 11 albums reaching number 1 in the Swiss album charts. Currently consisting of Leoni, Lynn, Habegger, along with Freddy Scherer on guitar and Nic Maeder on vocals, they are set to strike big again with #13

A follow-up to 2017’s Silver, the new LP may open with “Bad News,” but it is hardly that. This is mostly because the band seems almost incapable of slowing its tempo for more than a few bars, or dampening the mood for more than a chorus or two. Admittedly, the cover of ABBA’s “S.O.S.” is a bit slower than the chipper original, and the band does sneak “Marry You” just past the halfway point, as well as “I Can Say I’m Sorry” just before the otherwise rocking closer “Rescue Me,” but the tracks that remain all take the Hard Rock genre and run wild. The mix helps with this effort, as the bass and drums are equal partners with the twin guitars and lead and backing vocals, leading to a richer sound and a true sense of a band as each member is present in the finished product.

Additionally, the band shot a provocative video for the Eastern-themed first single, “Missteria,” as Francis Rossi of English legends Status Quo makes an appearance writing and playing on the track. Similar off-beat rhythms infect the closer of the aforementioned “Rescue Me,” which is hardly the cry for help its name would imply, but is closer to an exhaustive summary of all the good, healthy things that come with life.

Then backed by a driving, jaunty Rock-n-Roll vibe, “Save the Date” features some lyrical wordplay. Doing this is alternates between the title phrase—commonly associated with an early announcement of a wedding date, and the permanency associated with that institution—and “seize the day,” the common English translating of the Latin term carpe diem; the idea of making the most of today, as tomorrow is unknown. From here comes “Marry You,” a heartfelt ballad that manages to incorporate strings and acoustic guitars with an almost somber tone. Later, “I Can Say I’m Sorry” has serious, heartfelt lyrics, but the music constantly breaks an aural smirk with upbeat piano and guitar tones that meld well with the lead and backing vocals.

Overall, #13 is another strong collection of Rock-n-Roll songs from Gotthard. Their inclusion of the ABBA track returns the band to an old habit of including one cover per album, something they had gotten away from recently. Where expletives and superlatives may help describe other bands, Gotthard shows again they are at their best simply laying down thoughtful, expressive Rock music, with lyrical wordplay and instrumental skill to boot. With these traits in mind, Cryptic Rock gives their 13th gem 4 out of 5 stars. 

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