CoreLeoni – II

Rating: 4/5
Distributor: AFM Records
Release: 27/09/19
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Leo Leoni (Guitar)
Ronnie Romero (Vocals)
Hena Habegger (Drums)
Jgor Gianola (Guitar)
Mila Merker (Bass)


01 – Waltz No. 2
02 – Standing In The Light
03 – Love For Money
04 – Open Fire
05 – Angel
06 – And Then Goodbye
07 – She Goes Down
08 – No Tomorrow
09 – I’m Your Travellin’ Man
10 – Cheat And Hide
11 – Make My Day
12 – Mountain Mama
13 – Queen Of Hearts
14 – Don’t Get Me Wrong
15 – Boom Boom
16 – Il Padrino


Gotthard founding member and guitarist Leo Leoni has made a name for himself as one of the most skilled, passionate, hard-working and true-to-form rock musicians since the debut Gotthard record in 1992. Not one to rest on his laurels, Leoni would go on to create CoreLeoni in 2018 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Gotthard, and release the album “The Greatest Hits Part 1;” a collection of classic Gotthard tracks from the early days re-recorded with modern production techniques and a beefed-up, thicker sound.

From the outset, it’s absolutely clear Leoni is incredibly passionate about his music, and he has an obvious affection for this genre; hard-hitting, melodic, bluesy hard rock. He’s very good at what he does, and what he does is very good, and Leoni wasted no time in gathering the best of the best of hard rock musicians and close friends. Joined by vocalist Ronnie Romero (Lords of Black, Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow), Hena Habegger (Gotthard), Jgor Gianola (Gotthard, U.D.O., Jorn Lande), and Mila Merker (Soulline).

Photo taken in Lugano (Switzerland) on 02/28/19.

On September 27th CoreLeoni will release their second album, simply titled “II“. Along with re-recorded Gotthard classics, the band have recorded two brand new songs in the form of ‘Queen of Hearts’ and Don’t Get Me Wrong,’ as well as an inspired cover of John Lee Hooker’s ‘Boom Boom.’

“When we play shows, we nowadays have to leave out a lot of the old songs as there are so many new ones that have to find their place in the setlist… but especially a lot of the old songs really mean a lot to me and will always be a big part of me. That’s why I decided to record them again and bring them back into the current times, also sound-wise.” – LEO LEONI

This album is a real treat, from beginning to end. It hits the sweet spot between melodic hard rock and classic rock so well, you would be forgiven for thinking it’s an early eighties album upon first listen. As mentioned earlier, the modern production values brings these early nineties songs kicking and screaming into the 21st century with a new lease of life. Kicking things off is the brief opener ‘Waltz No. 2,’ a short piece of classical music composed originally by Dmitri Shostakovich, a Russian composer and pianist, and it’s a surprising inclusion on a hard rock album, but somehow it works.

‘Standing In The Light’ is a fantastic way to properly open the album, as its simple yet effective guitar riff shows that the band mean business. It’s an attention grabbing tour-de-force; and that’s before it’s gotten to the chorus. The track’s subdued guitar use in favor of drums and bass reels us in during the verses and keeps us wanting more before its sublime stadium-built chorus. Ronnie Romero adopts a David Coverdale of Whitesnake fame howl on the majority of “II,” and it suits the Gotthard songs really, really well.  This is none more obvious than on ‘Angel,’ one of the only ballads on the record and at times I kept having to check that I was in fact still listening to CoreLeoni.

Out of the original Gotthard songs that have been given a fresh coat of paint, the most successful is arguably ‘Open Fire,’ as the track rips and roars along at a breathless pace. It brings to mind a runaway train; threatening to derail at any second, only anchored by the pounding, solid rhythm section. Romero’s impressive vocals shine the most here too, as he shrieks the chorus lines like a demon possessed. It was this moment that made me realise just how skilful he is as a vocalist; his range is truly incredible and unlike anything I’ve heard since Jay Buchanan of rock revival group Rival Sons. It’s easy to see why Ritchie Blackmore hand-picked Romero to be the touring singer for Rainbow recently.

Photo taken in Lugano (Switzerland) on 02/28/19.

As great as the re-recordings of classic Gotthard tracks are, I was more concerned about the two brand new recordings the band has written and if they’d be able to stand up alongside the originals. Could the guys still produce those classic sounding hard rock stadium-sized songs? The answer? That’s a resounding yes. ‘Queen of Hearts’ is an incredibly fist-pumping rock song, with an addictive chorus melody, a fantastic rumbling drum pattern and a blistering guitar solo. ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’ begins with a dirty, bluesy guitar sound drenched in reverb and distortion, before the huge bass sound kicks in. It’s a slower track, leaning heavily into an eerie, menacing blues sound, and when the chorus hits it’s got me singing along and raising both fists in the air.

Also worth mentioning is the unbelievably catchy ‘Make My Day’ with its slithering guitar riff and cowbell-led drum intro, along with the inspired use of a talkbox guitar effect on ‘Mountain Mama,’ especially for the guitar solo, and the John Lee Hooker cover of his classic track ‘Boom Boom’ is also a noteworthy addition to an already brilliant album. I’d say there are only two songs that I’m not as keen on, and they are ‘She Goes Down’ and ‘No Tomorrow.’ The latter plods along without really going anywhere and ‘She Goes Down’ just didn’t grab me like the rest of the album. Not necessarily bad, but they don’t quite match up to the other songs and I found myself starting to skip them when listening through the album.

II” is a masterclass in melodic rock music. It’s an extremely well recorded album, with the whole band giving everything they’ve got and firing on all cylinders. CoreLeoni should be very proud of what they’ve achieved here, and it’s damn near the perfect rock album. Fans of WhitesnakeStryper and Eclipse will dig this record.

Watch the video for lead single ‘Queen of Hearts’ below!

Be sure to catch CoreLeoni out on the road, check dates and available tickets here for the European tour!