Before US prog power metallers Symphony X return to London for their first live show in the capital in four years, eGigs gets 10 minutes with bassist Mike LePond to chat about the nostalgic new album 'Underworld' as well as the progress of the second album from his solo project Mike LePond's Silent Assassins.
How has your tour been so far?
The tour has been fantastic. So far, we've come to the UK only and next week, we'll head to mainland Europe. This is show number six here in London and the British fans have been incredible to us, going crazy, showing up to the shows and giving a lot of loyalty so we're having a great time here.
What's it like touring with Myrath?
Myrath is a band that I was really trying to get on this tour because I really love that band. They combine their native folk music with metal. It's fantastic music and I've always been a big fan so when I heard that they were interested in touring with us, I was really excited. The shows they've done with us, they've been destroying the audience. They're really doing a great job for us.
Your last album 'Underworld' combines a lot of melodic elements from your older days with the heaviness of your newer material. How have fans and critics been reacting to it?
This is the first album in a long time where our old fans and our new fans like it because, like you said, it has our older elements for our older prog fans. It has also a lot of the newer heavy riffing that our newer fans like. When we were finishing this album up, we knew he had something really special and we wanted to really get it out there. What we decided to do when coming to Europe, we wanted to try and play the whole thing live. We're really looking forward to playing London. It's gonna be great.
And the downstairs area is already sold out.
You've said in interviews that when writing, you're always conscious of what the fans want. Did you think after 'Iconoclast' it would be great to bring back these old features - lower the heaviness, bring Russell Allen's higher pitched vocals back - in response to certain fans' demands?
I think when we did 'Iconoclast', we thought maybe this is as heavy as we should go. Maybe we should just dial it back a little bit and get right in the right zone so that's what we were trying to do, just trying to make our old fans and our new fans happy. We wanted to come back with a really classic Symphony X style story.
Yes, with the mythology theme and the album cover has masks on it again.
Yeah, we really wanted to create iconic Symphony X stuff. That's exactly what we were going for.
The lyrics return to a mythological theme; why did you decide to visit going to Hell with 'Dante's Inferno' and the story of Orpheus?
We wanted to combine them and try and make it our own so we came up with this tragic love story where the hero has to go through hell to save his loved one, kind of like the Odyssey but in Hell instead of water.
It's quite a 'metal' story and ties in well with the heavier musical elements on the album.
On the song 'Nevermore', it has been stated that you guys were playing around with patterns of three as three is an important number in 'Dante's Inferno'. So the song title has three syllables, the song has a three-note melodic phase and the lyrics make three references to 'The Divine Wings of Tragedy'. Why did you pick this album to reference?
We always have a soft spot in heart for 'Divine Wings'. We think it's probably one of our best albums absolutely. We always follow that model and [Michael] Romeo wanted to do this three everything, which is hard but he wanted to do it and we did it as best we could.
It turned out well. I like the tribute and it's a lot of fans' favourite Symphony X album.
Yeah, it's mine too.
Symphony X are an American band but if someone into this kind of music heard you for the first time and had no idea where you came from, they'd probably think you were from somewhere in Europe because you have a melodic, orchestral 'European metal' sound. Symphony X have been going a while now so how did this sound come about? You were doing it before most European bands were.
The band was very influenced by Yngwie Malmsteen but also Michael Romeo was very influenced by Kansas. If you listen to a lot of Symphony X stuff and you listen to Kansas, you can tell it's a huge influence. We kind of combined Kansas with Yngwie Malmsteen with Pantera and it all mixed into one and you have our sound.
It's a unique sound. You have this very technical work with these atmospheric keyboards and a lot of bands now have obviously been influenced by you.
Yeah, it's incredible. It's amazing how many bands we spawned. It's great.
Speaking of spawning bands, your solo project Mike LePond's Silent Assassins is releasing a second album. Is it going to be the same line up?
It's definitely going to be Alan Tecchio. Michael Romeo will do the orchestrations and electronic programming. I'm not sure about the guitar. I may go with someone else just to keep it interesting but I'm definitely going to put it out. It's still in the middle of being worked on so hopefully maybe the end of this year or early next year.
How does it sound compared to the first album?
It's kind of the same straight-ahead heavy metal sound but I'm taking some chances. There's going to be song on there that's twenty minutes long [laughs] so I'm taking some chances, having some fun. I'm excited. It's a great outlet for me.
Yes, more creative control for you. It sounds very different from Symphony X.
Right because I always loved classic heavy metal so it's a great outlet for me.
How do you find time in between Symphony X activity?
It's not a lot of time so I do a little here, a little there, we go on the road, we come off, I do some more, you know.
Have you been working on this release as soon as you finished your debut in 2014?
Right. So far, the drums are done and the rhythm guitars are done so that's the meat and potatoes. I love doing that stuff. Hopefully, we'll even play live at some point.
That's the end of the questions. Thanks for the interview.