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Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins – Pawn and Prophecy (Album Review)

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SILENT ASSASSINS is a side project that SYMPHONY X‘s illustrious bass player Mike LePond put together in 2014, joining forces with his SYMPHONY X bandmate Michael Romeo, prominent session guitarist “Metal Mike” Chlasciak, and Alan Tecchio renowned vocalist of HADES, WATCHTOWER, and SEVEN WITCHES (formerly). Their self-titled debut was a full-on, badass traditional power-metal album and an excellent debut on its own right, and now LePond, Romeo, and Tecchio are back as a trio with multiple guests in a sophomore effort, another slab of old-school metal led by arguably the genre’s most prolific yet underrated players.

“Pawn and Prophecy” brings to the table an avalanche of typical forthright heavy metal riffs adorned with fantasy lyrics that would immediately please the ears of those craving an untainted metal fix. Not only is the music composed in the fashion of classic metal bands of the 80’s, but also the production has that almost raw, in your face, sound that old school heavy metal fans know and love. The overall sound conveys the sensation of meticulous attention to detail, with a prominent presence of the bass guitar in the mix – it is common for the bass to get buried underneath the drums and rhythm guitars in most of today’s metal albums, but that is not the case here. Mike Lepond’s creative, dominant yet never self-indulgent four-strings lines are clearly heard throughout the entire recording (he even throws a couple of bass solos here and there), definitely a breath of fresh air which once again illustrates the musical capabilities for an often times underrated instrument. Now, while the bass gets a lot more attention than usual, that doesn’t mean any of the other instruments take the back seat to compromise. There’s some outstanding rhythm guitar work in full display here, also courtesy of Lepond – he may be known first and foremost as a bass player; however, he is also capable of effortlessly serving a tasty riffing recipe – while Rod Rivera and Lance Barnewald handle the lead guitars department.

“Pawn And Prophecy” Album Cover

Alan Tecchio is undoubtedly a picture-perfect singer for this album. His raw and aggressive vocals fit the style of this record like a glove. Probably tackling his best ever performance, he delivers the goods whether when singing the hard-hitting metal anthems or nailing the slower, more down-tempo songs; which is apparent in the acoustic ballad “The Mulberry Tree.” Flourish of classic metal elements in the vein of NWOBHM bands like IRON MAIDEN, SAXON, JUDAS PRIEST, and DIAMOND HEAD abound, but there are also classical elements, and most notedly in “The Quest”, a Middle Eastern flourish that allows Mike to deftly showcase his formidable bass playing ability. There are also foundations that evoke the folk-metal sound of BLACKMORE’S NIGHT which is noted in “Oath of Honor” that harkens to Madrigals that you would encounter during the Renaissance.

There is one especially noteworthy track on this album, the 22 minutes long title – and closing track – based on William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”, a theme that keeps the several parts of this magnum opus together. “Pawn and Prophecy” is a multi-layered composition with different singers and guest musicians, containing elements from various genres including power-metal, celtic music, and even some blues rock, sprinkled with speed metal outbursts, and cinematic swells. Each musical element pertains to certain part of the story and the sum of them all truly captures the listener’s attention, masterfully adding equal doses of bombastic fashion, blistering guitars, thunderous drums, and soaring vocals.  Sporting keyboards by Michael Pinella alongside with lead guitars by Michael Romeo, this songs is perhaps the closest thing you will get to a non-progressive-metal version of SYMPHONY X.

Although stripped from the progressive-metal flavor SYMPHONY X fans might expect, there should still be something in here that virtually please any metalhead. Excellent harmonies paired with well-crafted lyrics, rounded with powerful school heavy metal guitar riffs and upfront longwinded bass guitar made this album of the most exciting metal releases of the year and a one very worthy to be added to your ever-growing collection.

TRACKLISTING:

  1. Masters Of The Hall
  2. Black Legend
  3. Antichrist
  4. I Am The Bull
  5. Avengers Of Eden
  6. Hordes Of Fire
  7. The Mulberry Tree
  8. Pawn And Prophecy

BAND MEMBERS:

  • Mike LePond / Bass, Rhythm Guitar, Backing Vocals
  • Alan Tecchio / Lead Vocals
  • Michael Romeo / Drum Programming, Keyboards, Lead Guitar on “Pawn and Prophecy”
  • Michael Pinella / Backing Vocals, Piano & Organ on “Pawn and Prophecy”
  • Lance Barnewold / Lead Guitars
  • Rod Rivera / Lead Guitars
  • Andry Lagiou / Lead Vocals on “Pawn and Prophecy”
  • Noa Gruman / Lead Vocals on “Pawn and Prophecy”
  • Veronica Freeman / Lead Vocals on “Pawn and Prophecy”
  • Phyllis Rutter / Lead Vocals on “Pawn and Prophecy”
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