The aural acrobatics of Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins features some of the best examples of daring riffing and acrobatic melody the metal genre has had to offer since the 80’s; even what you may consider the album’s weakest track, thrusts, dodges, lunges, and parries with proud cunning. Every composition on this self-titled album as a whole could not have been written in any other way. Mike LePond, the bassist for Symphony X set out to make a metal record that captured the sounds he was nurtured on while growing up. With Silent Assassins, he has not only succeeded, but totally exceeded all expectations in recreating what classic metal was all about in the 80s.
We’re not talking about just any album here. We’re talking about a ‘tour de force’, a ‘magnum opus’ or any other cliche that denotes sheer perfection. The core Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins sound finds its influence in a diverse blend of rock idioms, from the expertly performed classic metal circles to the edgy and incisive sounds of progressive metal rebellion. Blend in a pinch of theatrical power metal and the listener has transcended the run of the mill, stagnant musical forms that occupy a good deal of current playlists. Yet Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins manages to defy the conveniences of category, presenting an arsenal of sounds and moods that frankly put many of their contemporaries to shame.
The vocals of Alan Tecchio (Hades / Watchtower / Seven Witches) are inspired and sincere, unlocking the deepest emotional meaning in the passionate lyrics. Tecchio employs his stunningly melodic vocal gift to inspire the fiery insurgency on each track. Tecchio’s limitless vocal range has the keen ability to locate the melodic heart of a lyric. Suffice it to say that Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins features brilliance not only in the vocals, but also in the guitarists extraordinaire Michael Romeo (Symphony X) and “Metal” Mike Chlasciak (Halford / Testament / Sebastian Bach).
Virtuosos Romeo and Chlasciak unleash pummeling power chords, lilting arpeggios, and soaring solos as if their very lives depended on it, forging a sound that grips the listener and fits like a silken hand inside the velvet glove of Tecchio’s vocals. The fullness and clarity of the sound and the mastering reveals the excellent rhythm guitar tracks that form the bedrock for technically and melodically gifted solos. A sound legendary eighties metal bands could only dream about.
The depth of the layers of melody here are cemented by a persistently rumbling bass courtesy of none other than the man himself, Mike LePond (brilliantly exemplified across the album’s nine tracks), an ever-audible bass that adds more than just a rhythmic foundation to the symphony of guitars – how many 80’s metal albums do you remember being marred by a nearly invisible bass? Today, Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins turns that theme right around. Rounding out the rhythm section is the drumming, featuring cymbal crashes and fiery snare work, a combined assault that not only provides a rhythmic pulse but also a melodic compliment with a fine employment of the ride and hi-hat cymbals.
Countless metal trends have come and gone, but art in its most sincere form is able to defy the fickle tastes of those who listen merely for the latest fashion trend shrewdly marketed through the vehicle of a musical group. Mike LePond worked on this album for two years, while on tour with Symphony X, setting lyrics to music, for which he did all the writing. The result is a cohesive work that delights on many levels of lyrical, melodic, technical and emotional resonance.
And its brilliance is immediately apparent from the opening track, “Apocalypse Rider” which lets you know that you are going to be in for one of the most emotional, energizing and eye-opening metal experiences you’ve ever had. Now slot in “The Quest” with its nuanced acoustic guitar and string intro and wait until all hell breaks loose, then move onto “The Outsider” and the power ballad “Masada”. The final 3 tracks, “Ragnarok”, “The Progeney” and “Oath of Honor” are probably the pick of the bunch for me.
If you pride yourself as being one who appreciates good music regardless of its airtime or popularity, this is the album to get. To truly recognize the magnitude of Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins, you must examine the current state of metal music. This entirely blows everything else around it out of the water. Musically, it can’t get much better than this!
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