If you're a fan of pure, classic Metal, you'll be no stranger to the name Ross Friedman. From the blues laced solos, to the memorable, mighty lyrics, Ross played a major and leading role in the formation of legendary band, Manowar, which carved an everlasting mark on the scene with its original sound and direction, and ultimately has paved the way for generations of Power Metal bands to follow.
Though departed from Manowar, Ross is back to gracing international stages as he has brought “The Discipline of Steel Tour" to EU shores and beyond. This tour has been focused on reviving timeless Manowar classics, and is backed by a revised powerhouse line-up including; Mike LePond (ML’s Silent Assassins, Symphony X) - Bass, Kenny ”Rhino” Earl (Ex-Manowar, Angels of Babylon) - Drums and Marc Lopes (Let Us Pray) - Vocals. To this point, the Ross The Boss Band has conquered Czech Republic, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, and now, British fans have the pleasure.
Having missed the initial wave of Manowar, but being a committed fan of those early releases, I had to take up the opportunity to witness these songs being played live, in the way that they should be again (opportunity like this doesn't come around very often, so I was taking it for all that it was worth). High expectations? For sure!
Kicking off the UK leg of the tour in Camden, Underworld, the RTB band take to the stage, still managing to generate masses of energy as they roar into ‘Blood of the Kings’ from the ‘Kings of Metal’ album, with passion flooding the venue, despite this being the final week of this demanding tour. Even at this early point in the set, night after night, it's evident that this is exactly what fans have been craving, as fists fly into the air, and every note Marc Lopes impressively soars to is supported by the crowds, which is constantly encouraged by the band. The relatively new line-up handle this song with ease, maintaining the true essence in which this song was originally written - a reassuring sign to the fans that this would be a night to remember. Following on with that riff, and a long-time favourite of mine, ‘Death Tone’ gets everyone moving, and there's no need to wonder why. Ross plays this with serious attitude and pride, and visibly feels every note, much like the fans. Whilst this song allows the band to lay slightly lower, it allows the man himself to explore the fretboard in the way only he can, and in the way it should be done!
Straight into the next song, stepping up the pace and demanding response, 'The Oath' pulls everyone to the forefront of the stage to witness an incredible take on a song that clearly gets these Londoners fired up; blood, sweat, tears and all. The performance makes it evident that every member of this band are on top of their game. As Marc urges the masses on and reaches all time highs, Ross The Boss and Mike LePond move across the strings and fretboard in a technically impressive display, and it perfectly contrasts with the thunderous rhythms that Rhino aggressively creates throughout - isn't this what it's all about?!
Anyone that has been following the progress of The Ross The Boss Band over the past few months know that they have recently released a new version of 'Blood of My Enemies' on AFM Records. I can't speak for everyone on this matter, but I've played this version to the extreme since its release, and I find this to be as impacting as the original. I love that vocalist Marc Lopes has been given stylistic freedom with this particular track. It's definitely deviated this song away from the original sound, but that's why this band will see further success. Not only are they dedicated, respected musicians playing music that has stood the test of time, they're doing it in a way that only they can and completely understand what it takes. Make no mistake, the Ross The Boss band are no replica - a different time, a different set-list, a different goal. This band will have a story of its own.
The band smash through further favourites, including; ‘Thor (The Powerhead)’, ‘Each Dawn I Die’ and ‘Gloves of Metal’ before charging into ‘Sign Of The Hammer’. Again, Marc Lopes engages the crowd, making it look effortless. It's second nature to this guy and he relishes every second of it and everyone in that crowd is sold and completely believes it and reacts in a true metal manner. ‘Hail To England’; not a staple to the set, but a special addition to this show, the band prove that they are as dedicated to their fans astheir fans are to them as each individual in the venue sing along, often with hand on heart and fist in the air. A reaction that was very well deserved. Though the band is fronted by a dynamic personality and holds Ross and his legacy as a key element to the ethos of the band, the rhythm section can not be ignored and are brought to the forefront of the speakers a number of times. Bassist Mike LePond steps front and centre and hammers the crowd with a relentless attack on the fretboard, truly awing the onlookers, as he lowers to his knees, shredding through the intro of 'Dark Avenger' and Kenny ”Rhino" Earl attacks a leading drum solo which follows 'Dark Avenger', cutting no corners and not holding back. Both musicians proving that they were an ideal choice for this latest RTB formation.
A surprising addition to the night came with Rhino and Mike LePond edging in a contrasting blues style jam with Ross Friedman. Though known for his heavy, cranked sound, Ross is very much in charge of that SG, whatever he chooses to play, working through some stunning, tasteful riffs and licks while displaying elements of the old school greats - certainly that of B.B King and Lucille... which somehow lead perfectly into the raging might that is next up... With an eight string bass in the hands of LePond, and an impenetrable atmosphere in the room, there could only be one anthem that the devotees were awaiting... Enter 'Rhino' and the pounding of the snare... ‘Battle Hymns’ was the only anthem that the RTB devotees could have been waiting for and it was issued in ferocious habitude. It will be hard to forget Marc Lopes singing "By moonlight, we ride, ten thousand side by side" whilst every single person in that room sang along with just as much love and pride for this band as the members themselves.
I'm not convinced I've ever witnessed a band play a song that moved the crowd quite as much as this particular version of 'Battle Hymns' achieved. As cliche as it may be, the true metal brotherhood vibe was more than alive and it was very special to witness and be a part of.
It's very refreshing to see a band enjoy what they do just as much as the paying fans, and night after night, the Ross The Boss Band gave it nothing short of everything, to either send the fans into a nostalgic trip, or offer a classic metal set to younger fans, played as it would have been played many moons ago. Either way, no one walked away disappointed. This tour will be ingrained in my mind for a very long time.
For me, this has definitely reignited my passion for live heavy metal concerts, and honestly, I'd rather see this repetitively, over a current Manowar set... Some would find this slightly controversial, but only if you didn't make it to a "The Discipline Of Steel" show.