• Ross The Boss – Born Of Fire (AFM Records) Album Review

    Ross The Boss – Born Of Fire (AFM Records) Album Review
    Released by: AFM Records
    Released on: March 6th, 2020.
    Purchase From Amazon

    Ross ‘The Boss’ Friedman is legitimate rock ‘n’ roll royalty. In the seventies, he was a founding member of legendary New York City punk pioneers The Dictators and when he got that out of his system, he moved on to help found equally legendary metal act Manowar. After recording the first six Manowar albums he bounced around between a few different projects, playing again with a reformed Dictators and then, in in 2008, releasing his first ‘solo’ album under the Ross The Boss banner, New Metal Leader on AFM Records. Hailstorm followed in 2010, and a few years later after much touring and some lineup changes, 2018 brought us By Blood Sworn, an album Ross recorded with vocalist Marc Lopes, bass player Mike Lepond (of Symphony-X) and drummer Lance Barnewold. That album did quite well and again saw the band touring extensively behind it, and playing plenty of Manowar classics for those lucky enough to be in attendance. Two years later, 2020 sees the release of the Ross The Boss band’s fourth album, Born Of Fire.

    Glory To The Slain opens the album up with a serious bang – it’s fast, intense and just pure metal right from the opening riff. Marc Lopes’ vocals are 100% on point here, he belts out the lyrics with a devout intensity, hitting those falsettos when the music calls for it and giving guys like Rob Halford a run for their money when it comes to hitting the high pitch! Ross’ solo here is fast and slick and the rhythm section really nails down the tempo.

    The second track, I Am The Sword, is an even faster track, with a fantastic, hard hitting barrage of riffage pummeling you from start to finish. Again, Lopes’ vocals are perfect, snarling the darker parts and then shattering glass when it’s time to hit the highs. The drums here are also impressive – really fast, but never missing a beat. Ross’ contribution is, of course, equally solid and in addition to the fast, chunky rhythm playing there’s another absolutely blistering solo here. Fight The Fight doesn’t dial back the intensity, but it has less of classic power metal sound of the first two tracks and sounds a bit different, more punctuated and paced with a more predictable structure. It’s a solid addition to the album and it features some impressive Maiden-esque gallop playing from Friedman and Lepond in the middle stretch.

    The fourth track, Shotgun Evolution, opens with some epic guitar work and some seriously pounding drums before Lopes’ truly wicked vocals slither into the mix and again, that falsetto… keep the volume on this at a reasonable level of you’re going to shatter the windows when you listen to it. Like everything else on the album, it’s a heavy mix of riffs, wailing solo work and super tight drum and bass holding everything down. These guys are pros!

    Denied By The Cross ups the anger and intensity level back to eleven, thematically the darkest track on the album. Again, Lopes’ vocals lead the charge and are just all over in terms of range and delivery. Ross’ playing is fast, tight and polished, putting heaviness front and center. There’s an eerie, sinister spoken word bit that then leads straight into a shrieking barrage of wails from Lopes that… damn. The pipes on this guy are phenomenal. Maiden Of Shadows has an interesting keyboard-centric intro that gives the track a bit more of an epic scope to it, the backing vocals accentuate this and the playing is a little proggier but make no mistake, this is power metal through and through even if they are mixing different influences into this one.

    The title track, Born Of Fire, is three-minutes’ of insanely punchy, pissed off power metal, fast enough to border on thrash at times, that features all four band members at the height of their powers. The oddly melodic chorus, which details ‘spilling your blood on the wall,’ contrasts with the thrashier verses. This track segues very nicely into Demon Holiday, a catchy track that shows a Priest influence without borrowing too heavily and still sounding very much like an RTB number. It’s possibly the most subdued track on the album and mid-tempo compared to some of the faster numbers, but again the playing is top notch.

    Godkiller brings things back into heavier, more epic-sounding territory, with Lopes snarling his way through the track, really getting quite dramatic in his delivery, wailing and howling his way up and down the scale in a way that few could hope to match. Lepond’s bass playing, the band’s secret weapon in many ways, is ridiculously precise while Ross holds court over everything else, laying down some sweet licks with surgical precision.

    Waking The Moon slows things down a bit, another mid-tempo track with some keyboards courtesy of Ross building some interesting atmosphere. This track gives Lepond an opportunity to show off a bit more than the other tracks do, and he makes the most of it, while Ross’ guitar bows out for a bit, only to take center stage back when the time comes. The instrumental stretches are longer here than the other songs, but it’s really well done.

    The opening solo that pulls the pin on the grenade that is Undying sets the stage for another superb blast of traditional, old school power metal. That gallop is there again, the riffs are strong and the vocals hit their mark. This track isn’t as dense as the other ones, though it’s hardly minimalist. It gives the drums a chance to really shine, they stand out more here than the other tracks on the record. It slows down for a stretch towards the end, kind of like how Battle Hymns is structured (though this doesn’t sound like that song at all), only to then ramp things back up for a big finish.

    Bringing things to a close is The Blackest Heart, the final track. It opens with some keyboard playing, some calmer drum and bass underneath, but that doesn’t last long – Ross’ guitar kicks down the door, playing slowly but with a serious weight behind it. Lopes’ vocals slide into the mix and the sound feels complete, a wailing guitar solo a third of the way through the five-and-a-half-minute track reminding us who’s in charge here. It’s the slowest and spookiest sounding track on the record but it’s a great way to finish thing off.

    On a side note, Ross The Boss – the band and the man – recently played a show a short walk from where this review was written. It was a mix of classic Manowar numbers (in fact, they played Hail To England in its entirety!) and tracks from the new album and while you’d expect the classic tracks to be pulled off perfectly, given how often they’ve been played live by these guys at this point, the new material sounded just as good and was played with a very obvious passion that went a long way to getting every head banging and every fist pumping in the venue. It was a fantastic show – an hour and forty minutes of pure, unadulterated metal in its truest sense performed at maximum intensity by a band clearly committed to the cause.

    Here’s some pictures from that night at Elmhurst, Queens’ Blackthorn 51, January 25th, 2020.

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Andrew Monroe's Avatar
      Andrew Monroe -
      He also played on a couple of Shakin' Street albums. The studio one remains a fav since I bought it in high school. Really, really needs a reissue, sells for stupid money on Amazon.
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      I have the self titled one he played on, it's pretty killer.

      They played here last year, he was with them. I didn't see them but I did get to meet Fabienne Shine at a friend's show that she was in attendance for, which was pretty cool.

    1. Andrew Monroe's Avatar
      Andrew Monroe -
      Very cool you got to meet her! Yeah, I have the s/t one too. Ross played on a live album as well, never heard it. Great live pictures by the way.