MIKE LEPOND’S SILENT ASSASSINS
PAWN AND PROPHECY
Sometimes switching between bands and genres is a good way to let the creative juices flow. And in recent years I have seen many artists doing side-projects that don’t sound anything like their main band. Some examples include Daniel Lioneye (HIM guitarist Linde Lindstöm’s band), Auri (which features Nightwish’s Tuomas Holopainen and Troy Donockley), My Indigo (Within Temptation Sharon den Adel’s solo project) and Sault (Kamelot bassist Sean Tibbetts’ project). This review however is about “Pawn and Prophecy” from Symphony X bassist Mike LePond and his Silent Assassins.
Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins was created in 2014 by bassist Mike Lepond (Symphony X) and vocalist Alan Tecchio (Hades, Watchtower) and released its self-titled debut album in the same year. And now Mike LePond and Alan Tecchio together with guitarists Lance Barnewold, Rod Rivera and Michael Romeo (also keyboards, drum programming) are back with the long awaited sophomore effort titled “Pawn and Prophecy”, out on January 26th via Frontiers Records.
Masters of the Hall
I Am the Bull
Avengers of Eden
Hordes of Fire
The Mulberry Tree
Pawn and Prophecy
Mike LePond described the album as being “a collection of epic tales told with the power of heavy metal music. The classic headbanging riffs and kick-ass vocals will get your horns and fists in the air. It is an album made FOR metalheads, BY metalheads."
And one can feel the passion behind the music from the first listen to the album. Nothing on this album seems forced or stale, as I have heard in other cases, everything flowing together neatly and smoothly. The album delivers a full hour of elegant heavy metal riffs intertwined with vocals reminiscent of classic Judas Priest or Iron Maiden, as for instance on “Black Legend” and “Hordes of Fire”, but also some power metal elements here and there for extra kicks. The groovy bass riff opening and subsequent lines, lengthy solo and powerful delivery on “I Am the Bull” make it an instant highlight of the album, while the single “Avengers of Eden” is a fast-paced track with a Van Halen inspired riff and well-executed solo. I must admit I love the bass lines throughout this album, as they give the music a darker sound. The Spanish guitar lines coupled with soulful vocal delivery from Alan Tecchio, and up-beat melody make the folky, borderline acoustic “The Mulberry Tree” another definite highlight. Warning: it will make you foolishly dance around the house (or the office) to its infectious rhythm, or, if you are a bit more sensible, it will make you feel sad about the tragic love-story that makes the subject of song.
However, the centerpiece of the album is the 22 minutes long cinematic title track “Pawn and Prophecy”, which was written as a metal soundtrack to Shakespeare classic historical drama “Macbeth”. Usually with tracks this long, my attention may wander if there’s nothing in the music to keep me engaged. Fortunately, this is not the case, as I was hooked from the get-go by the beautiful intro, with its Scottish vibe, through the ups and downs of the storyline. Also, there is a wide range of styles employed to tell Macbeth’s story and I much appreciate way they all blend together to create all the different moods necessary and bring this tale to life in an epic manner. It also helps a lot that the vocals have been divided between Andry Lagiou, Noa Gruman, Veronica Freeman, and Phyllis Rutter, which just adds tons to the dynamic of the song. This song is a true progressive metal masterpiece and can stand proudly alongside “The Great Escape” (Seventh Wonder), “The Greatest Show on Earth” (Nightwish) or any Dream Theater songs for that matter.
I must admit I am not a big fan of heavy metal, being more drawn to other, more theatrical genres of metal, but every now and again an album becomes the exception to the rule. Last year it was Kobra and the Lotus’s “Prevail I” and this year I am adding “Pawn and Prophecy” to the list (and also probably “Prevail II”). This album is celebration of the power and glory of heavy metal, being as heavy as it is melodic, and as varied as it is epic.
It is indeed a stand-out album in this genre and I am most impressed with it. I rate “Pawn and Prophecy” with a solid 8.5 / 10.
Follow the band online:
Mike LePond – Bass, rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Alan Tecchio – Vocals
Lance Barnewold – Guitar
Rod Rivera – Guitar
Michael Romeo – Lead guitar, keyboards, drum programming