It has been several years since I've really given much of a shit about MANOWAR. Not that I don't appreciate what they do; I just kind of lost interest some years back, but still cherish golden 80s albums like "Fighting the World", "Hail to England", and "Kings of Metal". As such, I was marginally intrigued at the prospect of an album from an '80s MANOWAR alum, Ross "The Boss" Friedman, even if I didn't exactly have high hopes for "New Metal Leader". I've not used "pleasant surprise" in a review for a while now, so I will use it here, as it is quite fitting to the melodic heavy (or "power" if used post-1980s) metal of Friedman's return to glory.After years spent out of the limelight, The Boss (not to be confused with Bruce Springsteen or IMMOLATION's Ross Dolan) joined forces with members of German power metal band IVORY KNIGHT to assemble "New Metal Leader". The metal spirit and triumphant hubris of these 11 tracks — including majestic, MANOWAR-esque intro "I.L.H" — is certainly felt at several points on the album, but this is no aping of that patented sound. It shows up more in the trad-metal anthems of speedster "Blood of Knives" (owing just as much to JUDAS PRIEST) and the light-to-heavy build and epic atmosphere of tracks like "God of Dying" and most definitely on "Immortal Son", the album's pinnacle of majesty with a magnetic, multi-tiered arrangement with choral effects and a few licks and crescendos straight out of the Brian May (QUEEN) playbook. But for every nod to the warrior foursome (e.g. the gang shouts of "We Will Kill, etc"), there are just as many moments that conglomerate the best of traditional heavy metal in general, whether it is the SAXON and ACCEPT elements of "Matador" (featuring a shining flamenco guitar closeout) and "Plague of Lies" or the melodic metal might of "I Got the Right". The one track that distances itself the most from the trad-HM pack is "May the Gods be with You". It is also one of the album's best cuts, featuring an upbeat approach and an infectious chorus that features the kind of harmony accents that are tried, true, and not heard nearly enough these days. There was a day or two there when I couldn't get enough of the tune. The band as a whole brings a thick guitar sound and meaty solos played in service to the song, while never veering far from a basic songwriting approach. Vocalist Patrick Fuchs (go ahead, get it out of your system now) possesses a relatively unique vocal style that is suitably melodic, yet brawny. "New Metal Leader" is loud, proud, and energetic, even if it brings nothing new to a table that was set years ago.
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