There is an indescribable feeling that comes with discovering a band, inhaling their entire discography in a week or two, seeing them live, and going through the post-gig withdrawal, only to find out that some members are involved in a side project. It’s a mix of anticipation, elation, and apprehension that is truly unique. Last week, I went through that exact emotional roller coaster when I was asked to review Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins, the self-titled album released in 2014 featuring Symphony X bass slayer Mike LePond, and including his bandmate Michael Romeo, Halford’s Mike Chlasciak, and Hades’ vocal powerhouse Alan Tecchio.
The key to listening and enjoying this album is to remember that although it is the brainchild of Mike LePond, it is not a Symphony X album. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you can appreciate Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins for what it is; a pure metal album that is excellent in its own right. Silent Assassins is rawer and less symphonic than anything Symphony X has released, which is perfect to showcase the talent of the stellar lineup that was put together for this unique project.
To say that the record starts in an epic fashion would be an understatement. The moment you press play and start listening to the nine-song release, a fuzzy guitar riff fills the room, swiftly followed by LePond’s signature bass sound, which is present throughout the entire record, but doesn’t overpower the rest of the instruments.
The first song, “Apocalypse Rider,” is my favourite on the album. Tecchio’s voice is one in a million, and it shows on this track. When he sings the line, “Get to your horses and ride,” you can’t help but want to hop on your noble steed and unleash hell. “Apocalypse Rider” is a battle anthem through and through. Little did I know this was going to be a reoccurring theme on this album.
In pure power-metal fashion, the lyrics throughout the album offer a theme of war, mythology, and history. “Ragnarok” is a powerful canticle about the Norse apocalypse with chanting that will make your heart palpitate, while “Silent Assassins” is a vicious, cold-blooded, murderous hymn with a finger-shredding solo at the halfway mark and a barbaric war chant throughout: “Hey! We are! Silent Assassins!” Tecchio’s voice is better than anything featured in any Hades songs and, when I first heard him yell “Death to the harlot of Troy” on the sixth track, I wanted to warn the famed beauty myself.
Though you have to make a point to remember that this is not a Symphony X album, Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins’ self-titled album is not completely devoid of those elements that have made the New Jersey band so popular for the past decade. Silent Assassins is mostly power metal, but “The Quest” and “The Progeny” have fantastic progressive elements, while the orchestrations on the slower but no less majestic “Masada” will bring you to your knees.
I have to admit, despite everything good on the album, what really, truly sold me on the dark brotherhood’s album is “all about that bass.” The masterful playing of LePond throughout the album, especially at the beginning of “The Outsider” and the epic closing track “Oath of Honor,” won my heart over and over again.
LePond assembled a heroic bunch of metal minstrels that accomplished something truly remarkable, timeless, and memorable that is worth every second of your time.
Written by Kai Robidas
*edited by Kate Erickson