Nima : Ex-Manowar guitarist Ross "The Boss" Friedman has been very active in recent years. After his departure from Manowar in 1988 we heard relatively little from the man. In the new millennium, he regularly appeared as a guest musician with newer generation epic heavy metal bands. In 2006 he founded his own Ross The Boss band, with which he released two strong albums, and which were very much in line with Manowar. Later on he also released two brilliant US speed/power metal records with Death Dealer, and I'm eagerly waiting for the third LP.
Since 2016 the man is back on the front with his Ross The Boss band, performing exclusively Manowar classics live. With his new line-up consisting of bassist Mike LePond (a.o. Symphony X, Heathen's Rage), vocalist Marc Lopes (ex-Meliah Rage) and drummer Lance Barnewold, the third album under the Ross The Boss banner has just been released. The latter has already been replaced by Friedman's Death Dealer-mate Steve Bolognese, but that aside.
In general 'By Blood Sworn' is not a surprising record and (obviously) bears the Ross The Boss stamp. The opener and also the title track immediately sounds familiar and is a pounding heavy metaller that indeed reminds of old Manowar. The following 'Among The Bones' starts out beautifully old-fashioned but soon turns into a more modern heavy rocker, which reminds me of Black Label Society at times. Although this is certainly not a bad song, it does not have the persuasiveness that I am used to from Friedman. The mood then drops immediately. 'This Is Vengeance' on the other hand is a typical up-tempo heavy metaller and with that we immediately have one of the better songs on the album. On 'We Are The Night' the tempo drops again and we get an epic, threatening mid-tempo song. The epic ballad 'Faith Of The Fallen' unfortunately collapses the mood and even starts to bore in the long run. 'Devil's Day' makes it better and has the same rocking character as the Manowar debut. In terms of atmosphere and structure 'Lilith' is similar to Manowar-classic 'Dark Avenger'. However, the song simply doesn’t ignite and starts to bore. With 'Play Among The Godz' the speed goes up again, but here too I miss the aforementioned persuasiveness. 'Circle Of Damnation' is more punk/rock inspired (which is not really surprising given Friedman's past in The Dictators among others) but is completely misplaced in my opinion. Closer 'Fistful Of Hate' is fortunately a fast heavy metaller, but unfortunately it also doesn’t have that necessary kick in the face.
'By Blood Sworn' has in any case become a very versatile album. However, I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand the album rocks and is good for three quarters of listening pleasure. On the other hand, the album suffers from the lack of real outliers. Apart from the title track and 'This Is Vengeance' the magic that I'm used to from Friedman is just not there. Most songs struggle to hold the attention and don’t really leave a lasting impression even after several listens. That’s a pity, because Friedman has already proven the opposite over and over. Given the quality of the previous two Ross The Boss albums, the great Death Dealer albums and the fact that I know that the gentlemen have a lot more in them, I had definitely expected more from it.