Ross The Boss – Born Of Fire (Album Review)

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Like a pure metallic boot to the skull.

The years may be taking their toll on America’s original heavy metal prognosticators of all things Conan The Barbarian, but they’ve been fairly kind to original guitarist who helped put said New York pioneers on the map. This isn’t to say that Manowar has lost any of their fire while on stage, but with a growing number of re-recordings of classic albums and little in the way of new material, their former old school six-string maestro Ross The Boss have been one-upping them in the studio of late. Following about 8 years of sparse activity and a recent lineup shift, which saw iconic Symphony X bassist Mike LePond and former Meliah Rage front man Marc Lopes enter the fold, they fielded a respectable conservative outing in 2018’s “By Blood Sworn” after the spirit of “Sign of the Hammer”, complete with several well realized Manowar covers to boot.

While not quite as overt of a rehash of the good old days as the aforementioned third studio offering out of this project, “Born of Fire” definitely comes chock full of those classic early to mid-80s heavy metal vibes that burn hot enough to melt steel. The tempo tends to be a bit more on the swift side, resulting in a number of modernized takes on the more straight up, speedy anthems that dominated much of “Battle Hymns”. For his part, the guitarist who shares this outfit’s name makes an impressive showing, laying down biting speed metal riff work with about the same degree of intensity as what the likes of Primal Fear, Metalium and Mystic Prophecy were bringing to the table back in the early to mid 2000s. Alongside a vicious display by the rhythm section and specifically LePond’s chunky and active bass work, the entire instrumental battery on display is a veritable force of nature unto itself.

Yet curiously enough, this album’s tone and tenor is defined most of all by the jagged-edged, often over-the-top vocal display of Marc Lopes. For anyone who remembers the shout-happy, gravely vocal display that Eric Adams brought to “Kings Of Metal”, this comes off as a more steroid-injected variant of the original, adorned with occasional moments of cleaner, quasi-operatic moments that dovetail with the likes of Henning Basse and Alan Tecchio, occasionally giving way to a higher end shriek somewhat in line with James Rivera. The resulting catharsis of raw aggression between the vocals and fast-paced instrumental thunder makes straightforward and compact speed metal anthems like “Glory To The Slain”, “I Am The Sword” and “Denied By The Cross” into formidable offerings, with the latter song and biting riff-monster “Born Of Fire” going so far as to blur the lines with thrash metal.

“Born Of Fire” Album Artwork

Though this is a bit more of a streamlined approach to metal relative to the occasional forays into long-winded epic material that often adorned 80s Manowar, there are some moments where Ross and company opt for more varied material. One of the more noticeable interludes into slightly deeper territory is the folksy, quasi-symphonic coaster “Maiden of Shadows”, which features some solid keyboard work out of Lopes and a lofty, almost Viking-like aesthetic. Generally swift yet more melodically-tinged cookers like “Undying” and “Demon Holiday” spare little in the aggression department; yet come off as a tad bit more European in demeanor. But the closest this album ventures into recreating something along the lines of epic Manowar anthems like “Defender” and “Bridge Of Death” is the slower-paced closer “The Blackest Heart”, though even here things have more of an early 80s, Black Sabbath-influenced vibe than anything else.

There isn’t really much to complain about here if pure, uncompromising heavy metal with an abundance of attitude is the preferred poison. About the only real strikes against “Born of Fire” is that formula is almost one-dimensional in character and the vocal display does get a tad overbearing in the rawness department. It sports a crunchy, almost saw-like production that puts heavy emphasis on both body and edge, giving it a bit more of a metallic luster when compared to the bulk of Manowar’s post-2002 output. The melodic hooks on display here are maybe a tad less catchy, but the overall impact factor at play here is about as explosive as it can get without abandoning the heavy/power metal paradigm. It’s definitely a solid listen for fans of the older, more primeval side of Ross’ original band’s first 4 albums, all the while being crushingly modern enough to play well with younger power/thrash trustees.

Released by: AFM Records
Released Date: March 6th, 2020
Genre: Heavy Metal

Musicians:

  • Ross The Boss / Guitars
  • Marc Lopes / Vocals
  • Mike LePond / Bass
  • Steve Bolognese / Drums

“Born Of Fire” Track-listing:

  1. Glory To The Slain
  2. I Am The Sword
  3. Fight The Fight
  4. Shotgun Evolution
  5. Denied By The Cross
  6. Maiden Of Shadows
  7. Born Of Fire
  8. Demon Holiday
  9. Godkiller
  10. Waking The Moon
  11. Undying
  12. The Blackest Heart
8.1 Great

While American power metal pioneers Manowar continue to founder in the seas of nostalgia, their original axe-wielding soldier of death continues a sparse, yet consistent output of old school metallic fury…

  • Songwriting 8
  • Musicianship 8.5
  • Originality 7.5
  • Production 8.5
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