Ross The Boss – “By Blood Sworn” (AFM Records)
A legend in his own right, Ross ‘The Boss’ Friedman has been dishing out the deals since 1973, when he co founded The Dictators, then went onto play in Shakin’ Street and more famously, Manowar. Despite constantly working on projects like Death Dealer, his involvement with Manowar has never been forgotten, resulting in plenty of guest appearances and more recently, playing all Manowar sets with guest musicians. Clearly a winning move in the true metal market, the inevitable call for a new songs based on that classic formula has long been in the asking, and true to form, Ross has risen to the challenge to deliver “By Blood Sworn”, a modern take on that 80s sound that took him to mega stardom! Recruiting screaming vocalist Marc Lopes (who certainly gives Eric Adams more than a run for his money), Mike LePond on bass and Lance Barnewold on drums, “By Blood Sworn” is 10 red hot battle hymns very much rooted in early Manowar but equally drawing in modern and classic touches from Priest and Death Dealer. It’s a very wise move indeed, clearly aimed at the ‘true metal’ market appealingequally to both old and new lovers of pure heavy metal, especially those preferring warrior or epic styles. Ross has found an absolute gem in Lopes, and his guitar which continues to blend hard rock and metal, has found a vocal counterpart to match his undoubted talent in both aggression and passion! It’s all here in abundance on the majestic tracks that hold nothing back and induce instant headbanging from start to finish thanks to the sterling musicianship not just from Ross (as you’d expect), but actually the rest of the band too. From the ear shattering (literally!) ‘This Is Vengeance’, it’s right back to the glory days of “Hail To England” as Lopes screams ‘taste your blood on my blade!!!’ while on the epic passion of ‘Faith Of The Fallen’ its the exquisite Spanish guitar and Ross’s synth skills that make the heart breaking atmosphere on this epic ballad – not forgetting his own incredible drawn out solo. Also executive producer on this album, Ross really shows the full range of his skills and what has made him such a sought after musician over the decades. Even so, there were numbers here that really surprised me from the 7 minute+ ‘Lilith’, that really took me back to the monumental tracks of “The Triumph Of Steel” with heaps of fiery technical guitar and bass work, accompanied every step of the way by Lopes and not forgetting the anvil pounding drum work of Lance Barnewold. Equally, ‘Circle Of Damnation’, despite its very metal title, turned out to be a hard rock n roll number rooted from Ross’s history in the 70s, but given a fiery metal sheen thanks to ‘The Boss’! Favourite tracks for me though were the albums closer ‘Fistful Of Hate’ with its fast razor riffs contrasting superbly with Lopes’s soulful vocals and screams, and ‘Play Among The Gods’ which really brought all Ross’s styles together brilliantly melding rock n roll coolness, aggressive metal and catchy melodies into one incredible song resplendent with thundering drums, jaw dropping guitars and ear piercing screams. So get ready for “By Blood Sworn”, for Ross The Boss is his name, and man, this dude right now bringing his game!!!