|Gotthard Domino Effect||Nuclear Blast|
You have to hand it to Swiss rockers Gotthard. How many bands could live through a change of line-up, management and record label, only to deliver arguably their best album ever and one which even saw them pick up a new range of fans?|
Lipservice was one of the coolest albums of 2005 - even if I did only rate it a 92 - and therefore suffer the wrath of unhappy G fans, who believed it should have been a sure thing for a perfect score.
Tell you guys what – I'll meet you half way – it should have been a 95 (is it too late to change?!) as the album continued to grow on me and impress further long after the review was added. So, in the case of the band's new album pardon me for taking my time with this review. I have had the album some 6 or 8 weeks now I guess and have absolutely made up my mind on it and how it fits into the scheme of the Gotthard catalogue.
You have to hand it to the guys again for not getting too comfortable with what was achieved on Lipservice and changing it up yet again.
I would have put money on the band recording a direct sequel to the last release, but no, Domino Effect takes the band back in a heavier, darker and somewhat more contemporary direction.
The guitar sound is the most noticeable difference here. I said initially that the band had updated and down-tuned, but I think that is now a little simplistic an explanation. Yes, the tone is different from Lipservice, but it is more a menacing and darker tone than actually being down-tuned.
Still, if I personally was given the choice over which guitar sound I would prefer, I'd stick with that used on Lipservice. I thought the band nailed it there, where as here I occasionally wish for a couple of more commercial rockers.
That said – there is nothing at all wrong with the songwriter here. Once again the guys deliver a selection of powerful and energetic numbers, all featuring a hook and chorus to hang your hat on, even if it is in a less obviously commercial manner as Lipservice.
Domino Effect flows effortlessly and I think although there is the usual number of ballads involved, on this occasion they are perfectly placed within the record and supplement the rockers rather than slowing things down.
For those wanting a second dose of Lipservice, it is the ballads which stick closest to that album's formula. I'm really impressed by the ballads here actually, they are all top quality.
I guess we should dissect this release track by track:
The opening chords of Master Of Illusion sets the tone for the whole record. A foot-stomping riff gets things pumping and immediately you know the guitar sound has changed this time around.
Vocalist Steve Lee has always had a raspy delivery and this is no different, but even he sounds a little more menacing in a take no prisoners kind of way. Nothing can take away from a cool chorus which is classic Gotthard.
Gone Too Far has a less obvious chorus and sees a little of the band's favourite influences in Led Zeppelin again seep into the song, which rocks along at a nice pace.
The killer title track Domino Effect rounds off an opening sonic assault – three hard rockers lined up in a row, with the best being this track.
The guitar sound may be dark, but the heart of the song is Gotthard at their best and the chorus is great.
Ballads are always going to be a big part of the Gotthard makeup and we now get a double dose, with two back to back ballads. Both are a little different from each other though and running them together works.
Falling is a dark and intense ballad with a dramatic chorus and remains quite heavy for a ballad. Some orchestration helps build the track and I'm guessing this will also be a single at some point. The Call is the lead single from the album and the most obvious commercially friendly track of the album. This is essentially a typical power ballad with a big sentimental chorus and a heartfelt verse. Steve's lead vocals and their raspy edge are perfectly suited to portray the emotion of the song.
The Oscar Goes To You is a feisty modern-ish rocker with a strong beat and uptempo pace. There are some production effects in play here, but a cracking chorus turns a dark classic rock song into a more anthemic proposition.
The Cruiser (Judgement Day) is another dark modern rocker but without a more obvious chorus. It keeps the pace and theme of the hard rocking album in play, but I don't find it to be one of the more likable tracks.
Heal Me is amore straight up hard rocker with a simple AC/DC style riff driving the song. Simple, effective, uptempo and rocking. Enough said!
Letter To A Friend is a cool track, building from a soft intro in to a quite intense rocker. It features a wicked heavy guitar riff – dark and moody and quite intense. The vibe of the song is added to by some multi-layered keyboard and organ parts and a ripping guitar solo mid-song.
Tomorrow's Just Begun is a far more relaxed track, which makes for a nice break from the intensity that is the album as a whole. This easy going breezy rock ballad has a simple chorus, but a strong overall melody.
A thumping drum beat kicks off Come Alive, which is a little different again. This is a groover of a track with a real swagger to it – reminding me of some earlier Gotthard material. Not the catchiest track on the album, but the groove will make it appealing to some.
Bad To The Bone is thankfully not a cover of the Thorogood staple, but rocks along nicely enough. Again, I'm not sold on this track and I'm hoping this isn't a decline in the album as a whole. Sometimes I think the band have a lot of tracks on their albums where a couple less would do no harm.
Thankfully the song Now proves my theory wrong, as this uptempo rocker slips right into the same tempo as the opening few tracks and is a strong track.
Again closing out the album with a ballad, the band chose wisely with the very classy Where Is Love When Its Gone. This is a nice, soft and sentimental track with a great melody.
I wasn't happy that Lipservce closed with two ballads in a row, this time it is only one and a damn fine track at that, so in my mind Domino Effect closes with a great rocker followed by a great ballad.
The album is clearly another winner for the guys, who continue on their merry way, blowing the competition out of the water and proving there are one of the most consistent rock acts in Europe, if not the world.
If Lipservice should have been a 95, I'll rate this a 94 and hope it is sufficient a score so as to please those core G fans!
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