Pawn and Prophecy  – Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

As much as it is good to talk about how music moves on, evolves, finds new pastures to wander, there are times when you just want something familiar. After all, exploring exciting new fusion cuisine can be a lot of fun but sometimes you just can’t beat mom’s pot roast with all the trimmings. Honest, dependable and associated with fond memories. And the same is true of heavy metal.

Things have moved on a lot since those seventies bands defined what the genre was all about and since a wave of eighties acolytes created that classic sound. As things have got heavier, faster, harder, more technical, as vocal and groove have been traded for screaming deliveries and overdriven riffing, many hanker for those heady days again when melody and power where still on equal musical terms. And it is this ethic that is at the core of Mile LePond’s Silent Assassins.

Here in the UK we had The New Wave of British Heavy Metal, a scene which threw up such iconic bands as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Saxon and which in turn paved the way for a US response that gave rise to the likes of Megadeth, Metallica and Slayer and it is to this era that Pawn and Prophecy tips its sonic hat. Taking imagery from mythology and literature, history and fantasy, this is an hour of classic sounds rewired for the modern audience, familiar enough to be an instant hit with the genre’s established fanbase but offering plenty that is new and fresh to keep people interested.

And within the broad scope of what rock and metal can cover we are given slow burning, low-end groovers such as I am the Bull, a song mixing arabesque vibes, intricate bass runs and choirs of fallen angels, foot on the monitor, fist in the air rock anthems such as Black Legend and there is even room for The Mulberry Tree’s deft and delicate acoustic led folk atmospheres. The titular finale is the perfect swan song for such a intricate and exquisite album, twenty-two minutes of prog-infused, technical metal that runs from the symphonic and the cinematic to the dark and dystopian, from the hard and heavy to the bleak and brooding. The perfect summation of everything that the band has to offer all based around the story of MacBeth.

Those who clamour for the lost sound of metal will love this album, as will classic rockers. Progressive fans will admire its intricacies and fluid nature, modern metallers will dig its more bombastic moments and even the alt-rockers will love the sleek power of the piece. In fact it is hard to think of a sub-genre of the broad metal church and rock ’n’ roll fraternity who won’t find plenty to love in these masterclass tracks. Classic rock, it would seem, is back on the menu.

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