Is this new Manowar? No, that it ain’t. So it’s Rossowar? Closer, but still no. What we actually have before us is Hailstorm, the second album by Ross the Boss. Mr. The Boss was of course the original fret master for the legendary Manowar and he played on all their classic, seminal albums before riding off to seek glory on his own (yes AMG, there really are classic Manowar albums [I resent that statement. - AMG]). So what type of music would one of the founding fathers of sword and furry loincloth metal create in this day and age? Well, those hoping Ross assembled a merry band of Manowar imitators will be disappointed. While there are several unsubtle stylistic nods to his original band (the most unsubtle band of all time), this is way less Mano-thematic than 2008’s New Metal Leader and focuses more on early 80’s style metal and straight ahead power metal. In some ways this departure from his musical comfort zone works, in others it falls just a bit short.
Hailstorm kicks off with a guitar intro very reminiscent of Manowar classic “Bridge of Death” and opening track “Kingdom Arise” is clearly Manowar influenced (especially the chorus and gallop of the drums). However, the bulk of Hailstorm refrains from following in the sandals of the self proclaimed Kings of Metal. What follows is an odd amalgam of modern power metal (“Hailstorm”), really old school early 80’s metal (“Dead Man’s Curve”), more takes on pseudo-Manowar style epic metal (“Crom” and “Empire’s Anthem”) and some Hammerfallesque power ballads (“Among the Ruins”). While all the styles are decently done, it makes Hailstorm feel disjointed, like it suffers from multiple personalities. Regardless of identity issues, Hailstorm fires on all cylinders when Ross and Company zero in on the old school metal as with “Dead Man’s Curve” and “Burn Alive.” Both are simple, rocking and fun nods to the early days of Krokus and Saxon and work very well. If the entire album pursued this style it might have been a tad more successful. Unfortunately, their attempts at traditional power metal and power ballads come across as fairly generic and leaves me cold.
Another element holding Hailstorm back from true metal glory is vocalist Patrick Fuchs. While not a bad vocalist, he is a little nondescript and he doesn’t always fit in with what Ross the Boss is trying to do here. His high pitched voice fits the old school tracks perfectly, but he’s a little out of his depth when they strive for the epic Mano-moods like on “Crom” or “Empire’s Anthem.” In those cases, someone with a more powerful, commanding voice would suit the material betterÂ(someone like Eric Adams for example). One big positive throughout the album is the fret work displayed by Mr. Boss. Regardless of song style, his riffing and soloing are pure heavy metal gold (or should I say steel). In fact, the standout moment to me is the instrumental track “Great Gods Glorious” where Ross gets to show why he’s the boss.
Although Ross the Boss will always live in the mighty shadow of Manowar, I’m happy he decided to forgo the obvious tribute band route and it’s cool to see him dabbling in other styles. It’s also satisfying to see the old dog teach the “retro” young guns like Enforcer and Wolf a new trick or two when it comes to old school metal. Overall, there are more hits than misses on Hailstorm despite it’s scatter-shot nature and its simple, fun metal. It isn’t a must have but it’s plenty solid and dependable.