Gotthard – 13 (Nuclear Blast)

Unlucky for some but perfect if classy hard rock is your thing.

13 is rock hard Gotthard.

The Swiss band first scratched the surface of the UK’s rock scene more than 25 years ago.

As special guests of Magnum in the mid 90s, their riff-laden potential shone through.

But return trips have been few and far between.

And, as a result, Gotthard remain underground and under-appreciated over here.

It’s a crying shame if polished pop metal is your game.

Fans of latter-day Europe and classic Leppard will find much to admire in 13.

There’s the familiar mix of upbeat anthems and trademark ballads.

And an Abba cover.

Yes, you read that right.

It’s a bold move and a decision that backfires spectacularly.

Given Gotthard’s talent for penning punchy originals there’s just no need for a dreary take on SOS.

And its mid-set position will jar with long-time admirers and late adopters alike.

As it happens, 13 takes off after Gotthard’s flirtation with the chart-busting Swedes.

A slow burner ignites behind Another Last Time.

And Better Than Love is better than every one of the first four tunes.

Marry You shines a light on frontman Nic Maeder’s considerable ability.

It’s heartfelt, affecting and very typically Gotthard.

But the set stealer is No Time To Cry as a band enjoying an Indian summer finally comes to the boil.

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Maeder and co. were headed for a rare date in London.

Fingers crossed that gig will be rebooked.

And perhaps the clamour for more Gotthard dates across the UK will grow louder.

13 is far from this brilliant band’s best piece of work.

But it’s testimony to Gotthard’s enduring class that it’s still a record to put rivals in the shade.

Looking for a blueprint for era-defining hard rock?

You just found it.