Mike Lepond’s Silent Assassins – Pawn and Prophecy (Frontiers Records)

Friday, 2nd February 2018
Rating: 8.5/10

Beyond the experience present, Symphony X bassist Mike Lepond knows the metal genre inside and out. So much so he assembles all the right musicians to carry out his songwriting visions, as Pawn and Prophecy continues his solo love for the classic heavy metal framework as a follow up to the Mike Lepond’s Silent Assassins self-titled debut from 2014. Symphony X cohort Michael Romeo joins on guitar, keyboards, and drum programming, while singer Alan Tecchio (Hades, Watchtower) returns to man the microphone duties – while there are guests for lead guitar and supplemental vocal parts to flesh out this eight-track, almost hour-long odyssey.

Tying together historical, mythological, and literary themes with heads down traditional riffing and masterful, gritty/powerhouse melodies on the vocal front – it’s not surprising that the material gravitates to those who yearn for that blazing 80’s scene. Speedy riffs that recall Exciter go head long into Dio meets Iron Maiden-oriented mid-tempo switch-ups for opener “Masters of the Hall”, while you get a bit of that bluesy side-shuffle against Priest-like power riffs for “Antichrist” – the choir-oriented background elements sending darker textures to the fierce Alan Tecchio delivery along with Mike’s fluid bass acrobatics in spots. Insuring diversity, the final two tracks see the band stretch their collective wings. “The Mulberry Tree” is a folk song with a Blackmore’s Night feel, the simpler, laid back tempo inviting clap-a-long action as the acoustic guitars, soothing keyboard strains and adventurous melodies make it one of this scribe’s favorites (the shredding acoustic solo from Rod Rivera a stunner), while the twenty-minute plus title cut features multiple bass solos, a 50’s blues send up section, and four female vocal supplements to keep the ears engaged as the story of MacBeth plays out in this epic arrangement. Not like Mike is unfamiliar with longer cuts through the Symphony X back catalog, the attention to detail and versatility make this another winner, theatrical and entertaining while not forsaking circular, recurring thoughts and themes when called for.

In an era where musicians can stretch their horizons, Mike Lepond’s Silent Assassins grips the inherent heavy metal fan in us all. This should satisfy those hordes as we await a third offering down the line.

Mike Lepond’s Silent Assassins on Facebook