After three years and some change MIKE LEPOND’S SILENT ASSASSINS return with sophomore disc Pawn and Prophecy. Picking up right where the self-titled debut left off, prepare yourself for eight tracks of Old School Heavy Metal that will have heads banging and horns flying! Alan Tecchio is once again on the vocals and the job he does is fucking insane. LePond himself handles bass (DUH!), rhythm guitar, and backing vocals, and there’s some killer axemen handling lead duties. Like who? Glad you asked. LePond’s SYMPHONY X bandmate Michael Romeo (who also plays keyboards and does the drum programming) lays it down on the title track, while Lance Barnewold and Rod Rivera take the reins on the others.
Right from jump the chorus of opener “Masters of the Hall” is guaranteed to stick with you for hours, maybe even days after you hear it. It’s a rather majestic song, and a fitting way to begin. “Black Legend” features an excellent riff and hellacious solo from Barnewold, while the start of “I Am the Bull” is a showcase for LePond’s majestic talents with his bass before the rest of the music comes crashing in on one of the album’s best cuts. That slow, stalking, deliberate riff is highly menacing, and Tecchio gives arguably his best performance vocally. Oh, and can we DISCUSS LePond’s bass solo in the middle of it all?!? Pretty sure this one’s my favorite.
“Avengers of Eden” is a fast-paced track that takes off like an F-16’s missile, and there are some fantastic lead breaks from Rivera and Barnewold that call to mind the best of JUDAS PRIEST. Great fucking song! “Antichrist” should get your attention with its infectious hook and “Where’d that come from?” time changes. Then comes “Hordes of Fire”, another speedy tune that sounds like it should be played to a crowd of 20,000 headbangers at Nassau Coliseum on a Saturday night. Yet another winner for me, with yet another ripping guitar solo from Rivera. An acoustic medieval tale shows up next in the form of “Mulberry Tree” and it’s a nice, folksy number. Totally not what I was expecting, but it fits within the framework of the album perfectly.
But the pièce de résistance is the aforementioned title track and album closer “Pawn and Prophecy”, a 21 minute and 37 second epic that will have many heads spinning. So much is going on with this one. You’ve got guest vocals from powerhouse singers Phyllis Rutter, Veronica Freeman, Andry Lagiou, and Noa Gruman, plus piano and organ from Michael Pinella. And that’s not to mention the many different twists and turns it takes. Deep, dark bass intros, then all-out rocker into quiet break with just piano, then we’re off, running, and rocking again. All that in only the first seven minutes! I’m not giving anything else away. You’ll have to experience this song yourself because quite frankly I can’t to it proper justice.
When all is said and done MIKE LEPOND’S SILENT ASSASSINS have put forth another outstanding effort. There is an ebb and flow to the music and vocals that instantly grabs you and demands you sit and listen intently. Each time I play the record I find something new to love about it, especially the grandiose title track. Pawn and Prophecy is out now on Frontiers Music, and if you love classic Heavy Metal that sounds right at home in this day and age, then I suggest you pick it up.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Pawn and Prophecy”, “I Am the Bull”, “Avengers of Eden”, “Hordes of Fire”, “Masters of the Hall”