Album of the Week 12-2012: Gotthard – Domino Effect

Out of all the tragic deaths of musicians of the last few years, Steve Lee’s is most likely the one that hit me hardest. An exceptional vocal talent with a charisma many frontmen wouldn’t even dare to dream of, passed away at the much too early age of 47 in 2010. His penultimate effort with Switzerland’s number one Hardrock band Gotthard, ‘Domino Effect’, is his finest hour and one of the albums that gets the most spins overall at the Kevy Metal residence. This is one of those rare albums where every song strikes gold. And the vocals are a testament to Lee’s greatness.

For those unfamiliar with Gotthard’s music, their albums are generally a mixture of eighties Hardrock – the larger than life choruses and general atmosphere – and a seventies edge – the bluesy lead guitar, Lee’s powerful voice – which sounds surprisingly contemporary. ‘Domino Effect’ is arguably their hardest rocking album. Leo Leoni and Freddy Scherer’s riffs are quite heavy and their sound is huge and the songs just rock. Even the ballads. Every song on the album is extremely well-written, focusing on strong, catchy melodies and dynamics that give every song an identity of their own.

Every song therefore claims its position on this album and this is also the reason why Gotthard can put back-to-back ballads on this record without getting on my nerves. These ballads aren’t nearly as predictable as usual in this genre and all of them sound totally different. My favorites are ‘The Call’ (that clean guitar melody in the beginning is goosebumps-inducing, great sound too!), ‘Letter To A Friend’ (which has Lee showing every side of his voice) and the somewhat poppy closer ‘Where Is Love When It’s Gone’. The Rock songs are even better; ‘Master Of Illusion’ is the perfect opener with its stomping riff and brooding atmosphere,’Come Alive’ swings delightfully and has Lee pulling out all of his registers, ‘Th Oscar Goes To…’ has a distinct eighties vibe with its keyboard melody and incredible chorus and ‘Gone Too Far’ combines a Heavy Metal riff with fantastic singing and an exuberant atmosphere. But really, all the songs are worth hearing.

Production-wise, this is also one of the best post-1990 Hardrock outputs. Gotthard’s albums have always sounded good and their tasteful vocal harmonies and servicable keyboards have always been executed really well, but to these ears, ‘Domino Effect’ is basically the moment where it all comes together and really shines. The sound truly enhances the songs and makes this album truly a record for the 21st century, rather than an eighties nostalgia thing.

Anyone who thinks Hardrock went extinct after the eighties should give this record a chance. ‘Domino Effect’ combines all the elements that made the genre so amazing in the early days in a bunch of incredibly well-written songs. That’s what makes this band better than so many revivalists: they have the songs to back them up. Sadly, Steve Lee is no longer with us to share the experience with us, but luckily for us, at least our planet has been graced with such an incredible singer. Steve, you will be missed.

Recommended tracks: ‘Master Of Illusion’, ‘The Oscar Goes To…’, ‘Gone Too Far’, ‘The Call’

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