First off, it must be noted that Ross The Boss, who last month turned a very appropriate sixty six, is in absolutely scorching form as a guitarist on Born of Fire. His energy levels are phenomenal, and for this alone he deserves only the highest praise.
Likewise, vocalist Marc Lopes outdoes even his own work on the band’s last album, 2018’s By Blood Sworn. His work on Denied By The Cross will surely go down as one of the best all-round metal vocal performances of 2020 when the end-of-year gongs are handed out.
However, these two MVP performances aside, there’s not an awful lot to get excited about by this record. There are no outright stinkers present, of course – RTB simply doesn’t deal in them – but too much of the album is just serviceable heavy metal rather than the sort of music that Mr Friedman once wrote; you know, the sort of music that made grown men want to don loincloths and leather and get out and fight the world…
Hence the first three tracks fly past in a headbanging blur without making much impact on the senses, and it’s not until that performance on Denied By The Cross that you find yourself able to focus on hooks or memorable passages. Maiden of Shadows is superb, coming on like a cross between Gary Moore and Primal Fear, whilst the title track is a little less metal, a little more rocky (well, on the chorus, at least), and all the more effective for this small but important point of difference.
Demon Holiday adds some keyboards from Lopes and some interesting, melodic guitar work to the mix, whilst Godkiller is underpinned by some nice four string work from Symphony X man Mike LePond and is perhaps the most Manowarish track on offer.
So there it is. These days an album is just something a band puts out in order to get out on the road, where the real money lies, and it’s easy to see tracks like Godkiller fitting into Manowar-dominated setlists quite easily in future RTB shows. But the future of most of the tracks here would appear to be as mere makeweights in the Ross The Boss canon, such is their workaday nature. Boss completists will of course want this, but it’s hard to see too many of the non-committed getting too worked up about Born of Fire.
Born Of Fire is out on March 6th.