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Mike Lepond’s Silent Assassins

Label: Knife Fight Media/Mike Lepond
Format: CD
Released: 2014
Reviewed By: Rich Catino
Rating: 8.5/ 10


New Jersey native Mike Lepond takes a break from the progressive technicality (it still comes through a bit on ‘The Outsider’) of his day job playing bass in Symphony X to explore his roots and have a go at writing lyrics and music for his solo debut. Like just about everyone that’s a heavy metal musician, lepond’s influences also come from the 70s and 80s and the obvious like Iron Maiden, Priest in the riff and leads for ‘Ragnorak’, Sabbath, Dio, Kiss, etc. But what makes these songs on his debut a bit different is that Mike also wears on his sleeve a love for the European Power Metal powerhouses that emerged in the 90s, like Blind Guardian (folkish acoustic guitars, vocal harmonies)whom I hear at the start of ‘The Quest’ and more so ‘Masada’, Rhapsody (of Fire), and Gamma Ray. Bands who sadly never gained much more than an underground following here in America??

 

Joining Mike on this journey are Alan Tecchio (Hades, Non Fiction) on vocals, Symphony X bandmate Mike Romeo handling the keyboards and doing solos for six tunes, and guitarist Metal Mike Chlasciak (Halford) providing six solos as well. Drums are uncredited. ‘Apocalypse Rider’ opens the album with a charge and speed, effortlessly embracing a Gamma Ray/Kai Hansen riff and bounce complete with a fast double bass chorus. It’s a nice mix of 80s and 90s traditional metal and Alan’s scream for the (concert closing) ride out of ‘Apocalypse Rider’ brings down the house. What makes Lepond’s songs a bit different in texture though is having Tecchio on vocals, his unique voice allows these tunes to be themselves. Also, Romeo and Metal Mike have such distinct styles, good choices to give these songs each their own identity.

A little Middle Eastern feel and build transitions into the punch of the mid paced chunker ‘Red Death’, and the switch to the faster tempo/Iced Earth type riff works. ‘The Progeny’ is one of (my favs) the strongest on the album; there is this dark Grave Digger opening with those acoustic guitars and haunting chant vocals, followed by a heavy riffing that sets the tone. When the tempo starts to pick up half way through I can hear 80s Omen in the riff, before a quick switch to Annihilator style thrash given the drums and Chlasciak’s choice in frantic soloing. Curious if Manowar is an influence?, one can clearly hear how much of a fan Mike is from the bass beginning and keyboards to ‘Oath And Honor’. Very well done and would make Joey DeMaio proud, classic 80s galloping triumphant metal.

All around a solid effort.

 
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