Sit down children, it’s time to explore myth and legend galore in the brand new collection of tales from eclectic prog bassist Mike LePond of Symphony X. Silent Assassins, the outfit usually linked with LePond’s name releases their sophomore full length album, Pawn And Prophecy, to follow up the immense self titled debut that came in 2014. One might call the outfit a supergroup, consisting of four talented veterans to semi-veterans within the American heavy metal scene. Aside from LePond, there is fellow Symphony X alumni Michael Romeo on guitars and keys, vocalist Alan Tecchio of Hades and Watchtower fame and guitarist “Metal” Mike Chlasciak known for his time with Halford and his own band Metal Mike. Obviously with two quarters of the band stemming from Symphony X, including the dominant sounding LePond himself, the sound will be reminiscent, yet still different in approach. Perhaps not as prone to progressive elements, the music rather sticks to the Manowar school of heavy power metal, with progressive touches strewn as icing on the already formidable power cake.
The album basically picks up where its predecessor left off, but also cranks everything up the scale in terms of intensity, power and songwriting. Everything just feels like more, and in an entirely good sense. The heavy riff style turned up a notch, Tecchio’s vocal lines and delivery turned up a notch, and the pummeling bass? Forget about it. LePond bulldozers right over everything in his path, delivering heaviness with precise marksmanship in tracks like massive opener Masters Of The Hall, and tender emotion with great passion in surprisingly potent ballad The Mulberry Tree, which with a few listens rises to the top of the litter in terms of favorite tracks, with its slight folky tunes and rhythmic flow to go with the innate power of the vocals. Tecchio carries great power in his vocal chords, and a very American style to his singing, and manages to sound completely his own and highly versatile to fit the various moods and styles present on Pawn And Prophecy as he belts out high pitched screams to contrast the rhythmic mid range vocals that span the album.
Unlike the previous album, not a track on here feels like filler; everything holds a high standard and every minute is justified. The only ‘perhaps’ to that would be the epic title track, closing the album off. Don’t get me wrong, the song is epic in every sense of the word, blending everything decent on the rest of the album and making it great; the prog elements, the intricate riffs and the heavy bass presence, along with lyrics evoking misty dawn on the highlands. With a length spanning 20 minutes it sets the tone to beat for the next album, and the expectations high, as it marks the same kind of versatility that has spanned the entire album; I Am The Bull begins with a lengthy bass solo that just screams of Joey DeMaio (Manowar), and the song picks up into something like Manowar meets Black Sabbath, straight out of the eighties. Then there are speedier numbers in Avengers Of Eden and Hordes Of Fire that shatter all resistance with simple, yet massive guitar licks and intricate bass lines. With Pawn And Prophecy, Silent Assassins have released an unexpectedly strong and varied album, one that is sure to be remembered, and for the foreseeable future, is likely to set the tone for American power metal.
Standout tracks: Hordes Of Fire, The Mulberry Tree, Pawn And Prophecy