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Sign of the Meh - 70%

Twisted_Psychology, April 26th, 2018

Seeing how Ross the Boss spent the last couple years devoting his live shows to performing entire sets of Manowar songs, new studio material seemed to be the last thing that one would expect from the guitarist. But now eight years after Hailstorm and a full decade after declaring himself the New Metal Leader, Ross the Boss is back with a completely new lineup that includes bass giant Mike Lepond among others.

All those Manowar covers had to have shaped the way that By Blood Sworn was written. It’s inevitable for anything recorded by Ross the Boss to sound like anything but everybody’s favorite soldiers of steel, but this album is somehow even more blatant about this influence than its predecessors had been. The tempos are a little faster than Hail to England or Sign of the Hammer, but moments like the opening title track essentially rewriting “Blood of My Enemies,” and tracks like “Devil’s Day” repurposing the upbeat rhythm on “Army of the Immortals” make the album’s intent perfectly clear.

The sandpaper production and band dynamic fall right in line with this influence, though there are a few noticeable tweaks. Ross’s twangy shredding drives the songs more than it was ever allowed to in Manowar, which results in the bass taking a backseat outside of a few intros – a move that is especially ironic when you consider Lepond’s devout DeMaio influence. Marc Lopes’ vocal performance also aims for Eric Adams-style savagery, but doesn’t quite reach the charisma to be anything more than serviceable.

Additional irony comes with the middle of the road songwriting. By Blood Sworn comes out more consistent than most of Manowar’s discography, thanks to a lack of any obvious fillers or self-indulgent failures. It’s also worth noting that the album’s best songs like “Lilith” and “Fistful of Hate” seem to be the ones where Lepond is most prominent, leading me to wonder how much of this could’ve been repurposed Silent Assassins material…

By Blood Sworn is a decent album that should appeal to classic metal junkies itching for a Manowar fix, but the odds of these songs becoming live fixtures are slim to none. The writing and musicianship are solid, but there’s not much keeping one around once the root impulse is fulfilled. Wimps and posers are guaranteed to leave the hall, but even the metal faithful will find themselves eyeing the new Silent Assassins album that’s playing next door.

“Fistful of Hate”

Originally published at