Vera : Obviously we know Mike LePond as masterly bass player in the progressive metal band Symphony X, but just like many of his colleagues, he writes his own songs that do not always fit into the policy of the main band. Since 2014 he decided to release solo albums and soon ’Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins’ saw the light of day; a meritorious album brimming with epic, classic heavy metal. No LePond has found the time to take his second step on this solo adventure, with ‘Pawn And Prophecy’ as result and it pleases us even way much more than the debut.
Again LePond got some help from his colleagues in Symphony X. Michael Romeo plays keyboards and programmed the drums, in the lengthy title track we hear Michael Pinella on Hammond organ and piano. Mike himself plays bass of course, but also rhythm guitar. The magnificent guitar solos were done by Lance Barnewold and Rod Rivera (in the title track Michael Romeo), while lead vocals are crafted by Alan Tecchio (Hades, Watchtower), same as on the debut. He uses his voice more than ever in diverse ways on this album, but we mainly know him of his excited powerful vocals and high-pitched shrieks. That’s why we more than once think of Judas Priest and Iced Earth in vigorous tracks like ‘Antichrist’ and ‘Hordes Of Fire’.
The material is fetching and right from the very outset with ‘Masters Of The Hall’ and the firm rocking ‘Black Legend’ we are convinced by strong choruses. The fervent guitar solos are of top notch quality and during the song ‘Avengers Of Eden’ we also think of the epic way of singing of Dio and Tony Martin. More Black Sabbath reminiscences in the by bass and dark atmosphere dominated ‘I Am The Bull’ with creepy, occult vocals and loads of gloomy vibes. Another song that instantly leaps to the eye is the brilliant, folky ‘The Mulberry Tree’, which is acoustic for the greatest part, compelling and melancholic, but on the other side it has a kind of lightness and it surely is catchy. LePond is influenced by Blackmore’s Night here and that gives us a captivating song with solemn spoken passage and even a Latin vibe and flutes. This is really a very fine surprise! This time the long epic occluding track is a true stunner as well. Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ is regaled with a metallic soundtrack in this 21 minutes long title track. It has an opulence of twists and turns and female guest vocals of Veronica Freeman (Benedictum), Andry Lagiou, Noa Gruman and Phyllis Rutter, but also Alan puts down a vocal performance that really makes him rise in my opinion. It would lead us too far to describe all these different moods, but even blues and folk are inserted and of course there are eminent solos on bass (Joey DeMaio inspired beginning by the way), piano/organ and guitar. The theatrical character of this composition gets a Celtic touch by any bagpipes and this is really ear-candy, also for those who are more progressive oriented metal aficionados. Thus this happens to be a classical heavy metal record that will appeal to a broad audience. Well done!