Firebirth (Nuclear Blast)
Ok, so more than one person reading this site is going to say “why are they featuring GOTTHARD, who cares about them, they aren’t metal”. Well maybe they’re right based on what metal is in 2012, but this is a band that is extremely popular all over the world. They play all of the bigger festivals in Europe, and are the most successful act to hail from Switzerland. They are consistent chart toppers, having eleven straight number 1 albums, and selling millions of albums worldwide. How many “cult” or “pure” bands can do that? Are they more AOR than MASTODON? Yeah, you’re probably right with that assessment, but they aren’t exactly RHIANNA either!
Firebirth is their first release in three years, and the first after the tragic loss of their lead singer STEVE LEE. For those of you that don’t know, Steve died in a freak motorcycle accident, 50 miles outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. I have to assume the title comes from the fact that the band was forced into a re-birthing process of sorts. On a side note, I have always found it interesting when fans of a band are in an uproar over the switching a lead singer, as opposed to someone dying, and the band moving forward with a new component. Why is one usually accepted, while the other isn’t? People seem to forego the notion that musicians are humans, and humans are in and out of relationships, namely marriages all the time. Why is this accepted for the most part with someone’s personal life, but not in a band atmosphere?
Getting back on point, Firebirth is chalked full of anthems, a few ballads, and what you would expect to hear from an AOR band. The musicianship is there, but so are all of the cliché’s you have come to expect as well. I already mentioned the ballads, but ever since SCORPIONS, and later BON JOVI started using a talk box, it made it a necessity to use the effect on ever album that sounds remotely like the latter band. As a result you’ll hear it on the track “Right On” which is a mix of BON JOVI, and Dr. Feelgood era MOTLEY CRUE. The track n’t the strongest on the album, but it is solid none the less. And let’s be honest, there is nothing new under the sun, so if you can pull something off that’s entertaining, and maybe tips your hat to your influences, why not? It isn’t a carbon copy rip off, which would be worse in my opinion, and quite frankly there are enough bands doing this at the moment. Ripping others off, or ripping themselves off in an effort to rekindle past glories (if they even exist).
The strongest tracks on the album are the first two, “Starlight” and “Give Me Real”. The opening track sounds as if it should have been on the logical follow up to DEF LEPPARD’s Adrenalize. The second track “Give Me Real” is one the heaviest track on the album, drawing influences from old school WHITESNAKE. “Fight” probably takes the title as the heaviest on the album, and is another solid track off of the album. “Yippie Aye Yay” is a country flavored track that could honestly land them on CMT, or on any of the poppier country stations out there. “The Story’s Over” is a mid-tempo bluesy track that showcases NIC MAEDER’s range as a singer. “S.O.S.” or Saint or Sinner, is another mid-tempo rocker that mixes a blues influence with some 80s hard rock shredding.
Firebirth is a nice return to form by the band after having to deal with such a difficult situation. Although new lead singer NIC MAEDER doesn’t sound exactly like STEVE LEE, he does a good job at filling such a difficult position. The band isn’t doing anything new here, and this is in line with previous albums they’ve released. That said, it is a must listen for anyone that is remotely interested in AOR.
by Victor M. Ruiz