Review Summary: An excellent slab of prog-power metal by one of the genre’s most prolific yet underrated players
It seems like the line has gotten rather blurred between bassist Mike Lepond’s Silent Assassins and his parent band Symphony X. Both projects are deeply rooted in prog-tinged power metal and feature some of the same faces in different roles. But while Symphony X has spent the 2010s digging deeper into modern influences, Pawn and Prophecy seems to be filling the void as it expands its prog influence while still adhering to its old school metal aspirations.
As with the Silent Assassins’ 2014 debut, the core of Pawn and Prophecy is a somewhat technical take on classic metal inspired by Manowar, Helloween, and Jag Panzer among others. Ironically, Lepond seems to have reined himself in as his bass work continues to lead the charge, though with fewer moments of DeMaio-inspired shredding than the debut’s near constant wankery. Fellow Symphony X colleague Michael Romeo continues providing solid backing instrumentation and Watchtower/Hades vocalist Alan Tecchio keeps laying down what may be the best vocals of his career.
The songs themselves mostly consist of upbeat rockers like “Black Legend” and “Avengers of Eden” that offer plenty of catchy choruses and occasional lapses into thrash influence. Of course, there are some outliers that turn out strong. “I Am the Bull” shows off some of that Sign of the Hammer-era Manowar influence with its dramatic bass intro and ominous mid-tempo pacing. The folk balladry of “The Mulberry Tree” makes it seem like a token successor to the debut’s “Masada,” but ends up surpassing it due to the more upbeat troubadour aesthetic.
One also can’t go without referencing the title track, which ends up being a twenty-one minute epic based on Macbeth. Much like the classic Symphony X epics of old, there are distinct movements at play that range from folk jigs, speed metal outbursts, and cinematic swells with plenty of bass noodling and contributing guest vocal/guitarist spots in between. The extended blues breakdown is sure to a contention point and I put it in the enjoyably cheesy department myself, but it certainly helps make things stand out.
Overall, the second outing by Mike Lepond’s Silent Assassins is an excellent slab of prog-power metal by one of the genre’s most prolific yet underrated players. I think I may prefer their debut’s unhinged style, but it is great to see the band expand their sound while continuing to release enjoyable material. It would be excellent to see this project to get some momentum; if Symphony X is unable to return from their hiatus anytime soon, it may be enough to fill the void.
“I Am the Bull”
“Avengers of Eden”
“The Mulberry Tree”
Originally published at http://indymetalvault.com