Concert Review: Ross The Boss with Forsaken Age – Whammy Bar, November 15, 2019

Ross The Boss Band performed their first-ever NZ set at Auckland’s Whammy Bar last night, delivering an onslaught of ferocious black-magic energy and crushing melodic metal, with phenomenal support by local heavy-metal dark-fantasy monsters, Forsaken Age.

‘Why in all unholy hell did I dive headfirst into covering a metal gig?’ I thought, as Forsaken Age bassist, Lee Scarfe, addressed the patched-denim and leather-clad crowd at Whammy Bar last night, his chasmic voice snarling about how the band hates poseurs and $100 Metallica t-shirts, while an invisible neon sign above my head with the word ‘FRAUD’ began to flash with strobe-light intensity.

Forsaken Age saturated the stage with dark-fantasy metal in their opening number, Iron Overlord, with each succeeding number announced by Lee Scarfe through guttural vocal transitionary introductions. Running In The Dark and Death Terror saw vocalist, Chrissy Scarfe, matching the sickening solo guitar bends of Brad Ion with her stunning powerful growl, as blinding-white and vivid-carmine strobe lights flickered against the remarkably timed drumming of Tam Cramer.

Cramer’s skull-rattling, thumping drums shook the floor of Whammy Bar before the band eased back from the Iron Maiden intensity of their previous number into Guardians of The Damned, with Scarfe’s phenomenal bass carrying the song through a slight drop in tempo and a screeching, tearing guitar solo I haven’t heard combined so well since Mercyful Fate’s Evil and Curse of the Pharaohs.

Precise and emotionally charged guitar by Billy Freeman led the group into a cover of Christy Moore’s Ride On, dialling up the ferocity shown in its cover by Irish folk-metal band, Cruachan, while closing numbers, Pedal to the Metal and Heavy Metal Nightmare, brought wave after wave of grimy, filthy, nasty metal – visceral guitar and a closing bass solo by Scarfe visually tied together through Freeman’s vortex-swirling hair and a perfect unison between every member on stage.

Ross The Boss Band took to the stage shortly after, consisting of Ross ‘The Boss’ Friedman on lead electric guitar, alongside drummer Steve Bolognese, Mike LePond of Symphony X on bass, and Let Us Prey’s Marc Lopes taking on the dual role of vocalist and crowd-control wizard, as the band relentlessly smashed through one Manowar song after another.

Opening with Blood of the Kings and Lopes’ shrieking, piercing vocals, these four heavy-metal masters were wasting no time in flooding the screaming crowd with dense, furious riffs and earth-shaking drums. Unfortunately, amp issues for Mike LePond during The Oath and Sign of The Hammer left Ross The Boss with the lone duty of holding both songs together.

Lopes ate up the fix-time with a welcome address and details of his time in New Zealand – ‘Visiting Hobbiton because I’m a nerd at heart,’ he mentioned, as that invisible neon sign above my head gently flickered into blackness – before the band tried to recapture their initial energy through the bass-heavy Fistful of Hate and into the introduction of the Hail to England set.

Blood Enemies and Each Dawn I Die were a flawless execution of perfectly paced metal riffs which saw the increasingly energetic crowd thrashing in front of the stage and chanting along with Lopes, whose jaw-dropping vocal pitch and precision carried the crowd’s enthusiasm for screaming ‘DIE DIE DIE’ during Kill With Power. Finally, the group had reached a peak in their fully engaged performance – only to suddenly drop down into silence following a false start of Hail To England.

‘At least you know we’re playing and it’s not some tape bullshit!’ Lopes shot back at the crowd, before a moment’s silence gave way to pure, metal madness.

Gloriously heavy in its sound, littered with darkly magical guitar solos that spun between sharp bends and lightning-bolt gouging of the strings, Hail To England’s restart was well worth the momentary wait. An ethereal, otherworldly solo in Army of the Immortals didn’t feel trapped within the confines of Whammy Bar; the intensity and energy of both the band and the crowd demanding a stadium-sized space to fill with the endless walls of sound.

Lopes displayed his vocal command in Bridge of Death, as Ross The Boss bled beautifully restrained guitar throughout the number into an epic, rolling climax. Encore numbers included the thrash riffs and duelling guitars of Ross The Boss and LePond during Violence and Bloodshed, before the rolling thunder drums of Fighting The World became drenched beneath brain-melting distorted feedback.

The penultimate Battle Hymns – filled with a simply orgasmic guitar solo amidst the forget-everything-else-in-the-universe vocals eliciting Mötley Crüe’s Home Sweet Home – saw every attendee singing their souls out, before the epic, brutal mosh-pit intensity of Hail and Kill packed an entire gig’s worth of energy, intensity and technical precision into the closing number. The crowd flung themselves against each other, bottles crashed to the floor of Whammy, the floor beneath my feet began to vibrate, and Ross The Boss rinsed the final tears of pure, heavy-metal rage from his guitar against Lopes’ closing screams.

Granted, I wouldn’t be seen dead in a Metallica t-shirt, but I’ll be damned if last night’s gig by Ross The Boss Band and Forsaken Age didn’t stir in me a beautifully terrifying mix of awe, admiration, and intimidation. After two-and-half hours of soul-shattering melodic metal, I realised I was there for the same reason as almost everyone else; because I absolutely love music, and I love watching bands tear open their chests and pour every drop of passion from their hearts onto both the stage and the crowd chanting in front of them.

In that sense, this was, as both a performance and a spectacle of layered, condensed, and concentrated metal music, a pure hellish joy to witness. Perhaps those aren’t the best words to use, but you’ll have to trust that they’re the ones that come from the heart – exactly the same place we saw over two hours of metal pour from the bands on stage last night. As for the question I asked myself at the start of the evening, the answer is simple: I fucking love metal.

~Oxford Lamoureaux

Ross the Boss Setlist
Blood of the Kings
The Oath
Sign of the Hammer
Wheels of Fire
Fistful of Hate

Hail to England Set
Blood Enemies
Each Dawn I Die
Kill With Power
Hail to England
Army of the Immortals
Bridge of Death

Violence and Bloodshed
Fighting the World
Battle Hymns
Hail and Kill

Forsaken Age Setlist
Iron Overlord
Running in the Dark
Death Terror
Fire in our Hearts (FA)
Guardians of the Damned
Ride On (Christy Moore Cover)
Raven’s Cry
Pedal to the Metal
Heavy Metal Nightmare