Ross the Boss – Born of Fire Review

Ross the Boss is one of those bands I can’t help rooting for, being as it’s the outfit of Ross Friedman, the man behind the guitar on all the classic Manowar albums. Those platters were a huge part of my early metal education and I still cherish them dearly, as all trve metal fans should. Ross’ post-Manowar projects have been somewhat hit or miss, and 2018s By Blood Sworn was very disappointing despite some major league talent coming on board to help out. Because of this, I majorly tempered expectations coming into their 4th album, Born of Fire. Well, it seems the Boss is back in town and everyone is looking busy. This is a vast improvement over its predecessor in every way. Instead of the scattershot and painfully generic writing heard on By Blood Sworn, Born of Fire delivers aggressive, in-your-face, mega-macho metal with tons of balls and an ugly attitude. It’s certainly not reinventing the steel, nor striving for subtly, and that’s just fine with me when the metal goods are delivered properly, promptly and with chrome pizzazz.

You know something got into the mayo and mustard at Camp Boss when opener “Glory to the Slain” kicks off by planting a size 13 boot in your arse. It’s fast, furious and nasty, sounding like the bastard love child of Iced Earth, Savatage, Helstar and Overkill. Heavy, punchy and more than a little manic, it’s a big piece of pugnacious metal fun and it flies by in an angry flash. Better still is the wild and woolly “I Am the Sword” where front man Marc Lopes runs absolutely amok with rabid barks, shouts and Halford-esque wailing that could wake up coma patients and get them rocking. If you want music that’s both mosh pit and gym friendly, here it is. Both “Fight the Fight” and “Shotgun Evolution” are big, dumb metal anthems that make you want to lift cars and push bulls, and though the lyrics are eye-crossingly silly at times, they’re annoyingly catchy and the testosterone will not be denied.

But wait, there’s Thor! “Denied by the Cross” introduces fat, meatheaded Pantera grooves alongside thrash riffs and your lats will spread several inches involuntarily before the first minute is over. “Maiden of the Shadows” switches it up, going for something more melodic and epic, approximating a heavier version of Tad Morose, and it works shockingly well. The title track is balls to the wall thrash aggression with a vicious vocal performance by Lopes and a very effective chorus, and “Waking the Moon” is like a Savatage song with Dimebag playing lead. No track feels unnecessary, and while none rise to the level of great, you can be assured of a series of good and very good metal anthems with energy to spare and more than a little musical panache. The 45:30 runtime is just about ideal too.

As Born of Fire assaulted my senses, the thought kept occurring to me that Ross and Sons might have taken some inspiration from what former vocalist Mike Cotoia is doing with Fate Breaks Dawn. This has the same hyper, foot to the floor blend of classic, thrash and groove metal, and it’s not something we’ve really heard from Ross before. Wherever the inspiration came from and whoever is doing the writing here, kudos. It’s a big step forward. The star of the show is Marc Lopes. He was more than solid on By Blood Sworn, but he’s stepped up his game several notches here, showing the full range of his considerable pipes, and at times reminding me of both a young Jon Oliva (Savatage) and the late great Keith Deen (Holy Terror). His fierce delivery drives the songs and keeps the energy level set to “Liquefy.” Naturally, Mr. Ross the Boss showcases impressive guitar-work, and it’s wild to hear him dabbling in thrash and beefy groove riffs with good results. Some of the leads even hint at black metal like on “Shotgun Evolution.” His solo-work is fluid and spirited and his playing really shines bright overall. He’s joined by the well-traveled Mike LePond (Symphony X), who lays down some excellent bass and rounds out the sound nicely. This is a highly talented band, and this time the material reflects that.

I was dreading having to give Ross the Boss consecutive bad reviews, but Born of Fire pulled my fat out of the black flames of critical judgment. Though hardly perfect or end of year list worthy, this is a fun, adrenaline-soaked dose of metal that’s easy to like and hard to sit still for. If you want something to get your head moving and blood flowing, you could do a lot worse than this. Sample and get ready for a Boss fight.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: AFM
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: March 6th, 2020

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