Ross The Boss @ The Forge, Joliet (US)

ROSS THE BOSS / DARK TRILOGY / PROFESSOR EMERITUS

Date: 02nd February, 2020
Venue: The Forge
Ticket: $18 (€16.5)
Promoter: n/a


It was Sunday and Super Bowl night, so not quite a convincing setup to get one off the couch. Well, yes and no; I mean, you have to get your priorities right, and in case you have Metal running in your veins, then simple Bowl or Super Bowl or superduper fantastic Bowl should not worth a dime, especially if ROSS THE BOSS is on the menu with a special focus on “Hail To England”. Yeah, some MANOWAR songs will never be on a concert setlist – keep in mind that the band is entering retirement – and therefore getting the chance to hear them live by the hands of Ross The Boss is not to be missed.

The truth is that less metalheads than what I was expecting left the comfort of their house (and huge TVs), leaving The Forge being sparsely occupied almost half an hour before PROFESSOR EMERITUS would hit the stage. That was a shame because this five-piece band was a perfect fit to the headliners with their MAIDEN-influenced traditional Heavy Metal with strong True Metal roots. Anyways, the show must go on no matter what, and right on the schedule PROFESSOR EMERITUS greeted those who had literally turned their back to Super Bowl (there were TVs at the back showing the game). Even though it felt quite awkward with a single line of people in the front row, singer Albert Rybka did not hold back during the setlist opener “Burning Grave”. Yeah, the nice mid-tempo with the Epic Metal undertones (feel free to think of ATLANTEAN KODEX) was exactly what we needed to get off the Sunday slumber. ?hank you everybody for coming early and we are honored to open up for the original MANOWAR guitarist Ross The Boss said Albert and I could not agree more. “Rosamund” was one of the songs that got stuck the first time I saw PROFESSOR EMERITUS on stage, and getting the chance to hear it again in this larger setting was awesome. This one hits all the check points when it comes to the type of Metal some metalheads like to call ‘True’. This was the first time Albert got off the stage like he is usually doing with every band I’ve seen him live (I think the first time was with BAVMORDA some 10 years ago). After the galloping “Chaos Bearer” and the solid performance by the Smith / Antram guitar duo, it was time to slow things down with “Take Me To The Gallows” (there is a bit of ICED EARTH in the clean guitar parts with the nice basslines). The last song for PROFESSOR EMERITUS was the Lovecraft-ian “Rats In The Walls” with the catchy guitar riffs that reached more set of ears as more people had entered the venue.

PROFESSOR EMERITUS setlist:

01. “Burning Grave”
02. “Rosemund”
03. “Chaos Bearer”
04. “Take Me To The Gallows”
05. “Rats In The Walls”

PROFESSOR EMERITUS

Professor Emeritus @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Professor Emeritus @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Professor Emeritus @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Professor Emeritus @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Professor Emeritus @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

(click to enlarge)


I don’t think I had crossed paths with DARK TRILOGY in the past, but hearing that this would be an instrumental Progressive Metal band made questioned how did they fit into the billing. Of course, it is a good idea to mix the billing a bit but the general consensus is (or should be) to keep the bands somewhat related in music style terms. Be that as it may the three-piece band delivered an impressive set with solid songs that were not focused on super complicated playing. What I am saying is that for me, Progressive Metal becomes extremely boring when the band onstage is so laser-focused on not missing a single note or drum-hit that it loses the connection with the audience. To my eyes, this does not look like a Metal concert but a performance which is still good, but not my cup of tea. The reason for mentioning this is to underline the powerful performance by DARK TRILOGY. Without missing a beat (at least I couldn’t tell if they had), the trio really hit the stage hard. I loved the heaviness of “Chasing The Terror” and how the catchy melodies snuck out from the finger-tip melting riffs. Bassist Clint Pagel did his part torturing the strings but with lots of onstage posing that made the whole performance really interesting to watch. I mean, it is a bit challenging to connect with instrumental music in a live setting, so the band has to go some extra miles to get the audience going. And this is exactly what DARK TRILOGY did with the DREAM THEATHER-esque “Lugosi’s Mirror”. Even though Progressive Metal is definitely not my strongest point, I would say that Satriani came to mind during “Telekinenis” and that’s also cool according to my book. For the drum solo, Keith Kuhns spiced things up with his lit drum sticks that triggered additional excitement to the still growing in numbers audience.

Even though the music styles between DARK TRILOGY and the headlining band was a bit of strangers, I was left with the best of impressions, especially when considering the instrumental aspect of the performance.

DARK TRILOGY setlist:

01. Intro / “Truth Itself”
02. “Chasing The Terror”
03. “Deception Island”
04. “Lugosi’s Mirror”
05. “Telekinesis”
06. “Phantomania”
07. Drum Solo
08. “Draining Rage”

DARK TRILOGY

Dark Trilogy @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Dark Trilogy @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Dark Trilogy @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Dark Trilogy @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Dark Trilogy @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Dark Trilogy @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Dark Trilogy @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Dark Trilogy @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Dark Trilogy @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Dark Trilogy @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

(click to enlarge)


I would be a terrible liar if I’d say that I was not excited for ROSS THE BOSS (RTB) and this was not only because of the “Hail To England” set. Ross changed the band’s lineup some years ago and with the guys he chose, he hit the mother lode. Well, he is not going to become filthy rich (I don’t think anyone in Metal can do this in this day and age), but he added a power set of cylinders in his Metal-producing engine to deliver the MANOWAR goods in the best possible way, and on top of that, keep releasing great music. The beauty on the latter part is that the ROSS THE BOSS albums are not an attempt to walk down the MANOWAR path, but to create a distinguishable music style. Speaking of new music, you should keep your radar working because “Born Of Fire” will not knock your socks off...

Without useless bells and whistles, the entire band showed up right on time and after a short “What’s up, people?” by Marc Lopes, RTB hit us straight to the heart with “Blood Of The Kings” and its over the top demanding screams in the beginning. The characteristic groove of this classic one threw me back to my teenage days and that is an amazing feat. It is amazing to watch Ross bringing that enthusiasm delivering such an energetic song no matter how many heads he would count looking towards the audience. No, this is not his mentality and the same goes for the rest of the lineup. Marc was pushing his singing to reach those high pitches, Mike looked shockingly cool delivering those fast basslines and last (but not least) Steve was torturing the drum skins as it was appropriate for this song. Speaking of bass action, Mike kept it going with the intro for the faster “The Oath” and it was awesome to hear the non-stop singing-along. Please note that Mr. LePond is not using a pick and plays everything with his steel fingers. There is no point standing in the front rows and not challenge your vocal chords trying to match Marc’s singing endurance and power. “How are you doing tonight, people?” asked Marc before reliving me from my photo-taking duty after the challenging “Sign Of The Hammer”... I mean, you have to sing along, right?

I have to admit “Wheels Of Fire” was the least favorite from “Kings Of Metal” bunt since it had been ages since the last time I had heard this, I joined in singing and fist-pumping in the air. But I was rewarded starting with “Violence And Bloodshed” and the earth shaking... “Dark Avenger”. Purposely I had not checked the setlist prior the show, and the moment Mike walked towards the center of the stage and started the bass intro... Oh my goodness, we are talking about massive shivers down my spine. Of course, the appropriate credits are in order to Marc for capturing the energy stemming from the hunger for revenge (come on, check the lyrics) and for delivering the scream before the tempo break. It was also cool seeing Ross taking his spot behind the keyboard, reviving memories from a long gone time.

That was the right time for a breather and also for a sneak peek from the upcoming RTB album. In hindsight, I think they should have added another one from “Born Of Fire” because it does deserve the extra attention and to underline the fact that this lineup is not some sort of a covers band (not even close). Anyways, “Denied By The Cross” broke the MANOWAR suite and prove with actions the energy this lineup brings onto the Metal-playing table. And yes, the RTB songs do sound better live, simply because they are meant to be played in a concert setting.

It was time to hit the memory lane right between the eyes; “We are gonna hear a bunch of familiar ones” said Marc and I believe everyone inside The Forge understood what he meant. That’s right; it was time to enter the “Hail To England” part of the set, with “Blood Enemies” being the first of the bunch. Right there, the show became a blur for me since that album carries a boatload of memories and all the emotions that go along with a rather awkward period of my life during which music was never a disappointing companion. By the way, this is one of the many reasons why you’ll hear lots of ‘80s raised metalheads speaking highly of that era. Music was not in this abundance and in this availability, so one had to be super-picky of what he/she would spend his/her limited budget on.

The first of the two instances we would get to sing “hail” came with “Hail To England” but for me the ultimate highlight of the night and the one I was excited to hear live was “Bridge Of Death”. You see, living in Greece, I got to see MANOWAR live all the way back in 1992 without Ross The Boss and without such gems on the set. Mike got his 8-string bass on because this evil-as(s)-hell song that I believe is the only instance that MANOWAR had named Satan in the lyrics. Anyhoo, LePond nailed the bass intro without – once again – flinching (not even close), with Marc sending massive goosebumps laying down the climaxing lyrics. Damn, the “for he awaits me reaching for my soul” part did challenge my poor vocal chords that know nothing about singing. Oh yeah, I was in heaven singing along for a guy who was going straight to Hell – quite an antithesis, huh?

It was an amazing set that ended with three crowd-pleasers starting off with the Metal anthem “Battle Hymn”. Yeah, no matter the simplicity of “Fighting The World”, it is always fun in concert and then to drop the curtain with the last chance to sing-along “hail” with “Hail And Kill” gave us the proper send-off underlining that for metalheads there is no choice between a Metal concert and anything else. By the way, Ross did not go backstage but headed towards the merch table and spent time talking to fans and signing autographs. Keep this in mind the next time you’ll wonder what the definition of being True is... Hail, brothers!

ROSS THE BOSS setlist:

01. “Blood Of The Kings”
02. “The Oath”
03. “Sign Of The Hammer”
04. “Wheels Of Fire”
05. “Violence And Bloodshed”
06. “Dark Avenger”
07. “Denied By The Cross”
08. “Blood Of Enemies”
09. “Kill With Power”
10. “Hail To England”
11. “The Bridge Of Death”
12. “Battle Hymn”
13. “Fighting The World”
14. “Hail And Kill”

ROSS THE BOSS

Ross The Boss @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Ross The Boss @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Ross The Boss @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Ross The Boss @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Ross The Boss @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Ross The Boss @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Ross The Boss @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Ross The Boss @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Ross The Boss @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Ross The Boss @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Ross The Boss @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Ross The Boss @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Ross The Boss @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Ross The Boss @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Ross The Boss @ The Forge (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

(click to enlarge)