Friday, April 20, 2018

Album Review: Ross The Boss - By Blood Sworn

I don't know if this is controversial or not anymore, but here goes; I hate Manowar. I hate their early stuff, I hate their later stuff. In general, I think they're one of the biggest reasons why metal is a world I will never fully inhabit. Between their lousy songs, obsession with dick-swinging (sorry, I mean sword swinging), and their penchant for thinking loin-cloths are 'metal', Manowar deserves to die in the relative obscurity their farewell is garnering. That makes it a little hard to judge a new album from their original guitarist, Ross The Boss, since it's hard to shake the connotations his former life has imbued. Once Manowar, always Manowar?

His solo outings are still traditional heavy metal in that general mold, but they lack the self-righteous snobbery that was never deserved in the first place. As the title track opens the album, it sounds more like early Savatage than anything Manowar has done. Marc Lopes can throw more grit into his voice, a bit like Jon Oliva, as well as shrieking to the high heavens. He certainly gives Ross' band more colors to paint with, all of which get thrown together at times.

That initial track is a bit of a mess, really. We get the gruff vocals in the verses, punctuated by ear-splitting highs, and then a brief chorus that cleans things up for a melody. The pieces don't all fit together, which makes it an odd choice to open the record. You want to put your best foot forward, and this song doesn't have enough of a structure to be that.

The biggest problem I have with the album is that Ross is writing traditional metal, but Lopes' vocals veer towards venom so often that I find myself turned off. "This Is Vengeance" has a thrashing riff and a decent hook, but between his snarl through the verses, and some awful shrieks, it winds up like being clubbed over the head. Some people might like that, but I'm not one of them.

"By Blood Sworn" is the kind of album that lives in a world that thinks metal has to prove itself heavy every second of every song, otherwise it be thought false. There are breaks in the action in the form of a ballad, and a slower doom number, but even then the attitude still bends towards anger. I'm sorry, but I'm not interested in that approach anymore. Not that I ever was, but the tolerance I used to have for it has withered with age.

Ross The Boss will satisfy the metal lifers, the people who still use the word 'heavy' as an adjective denoting quality. For those of us with tastes that aren't as hell-bent for leather, this album is a reminder of why metal can be hard to take seriously.

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