And who do you think they are...The Ripper, The Tyrant, The Hell Destroyer, on tour throughout North America. Subtlety, they name is not Sean Peck (just ask former NFL quarterback prospect Ryan Leaf, as Peck's relentless on-air, sports radio diatribes nearly single-handedly ran the QB out of San Diego). This is hypersonic fast, bombastic, over-the-top and most importantly, fun. The guys are serious, but first and foremost, this is about having a good time (which comes across onstage) and bringing a smile to the fans. Assembling a solo project around some of the greatest high-ranged singers of his generation, Peck then included himself in the mix, while keeping his day-job (Cage) bandmates employed, as back-up. Masterstroke!
Start-to-finish, the foot rarely comes off the accelerator, let alone touch the brakes. Plenty of gaping mouth singing and more high notes than an orchestra atop Mt. Everest, the occasional respite is offered by the non-Tremors tracks, typically one from each of the guy's most prominent act, although the likes of "Burn In Hell" (Judas Priest) and "Hell Destroyer" (Cage) are anything but laidback, rocking chair timeouts. With just twenty shows under their belt (segmented between a European tour last fall, five West coast warm-up dates and just one East coast show, prior to seeing them at Bar XIII, in Wilmington, Delaware), the vocal trio is still coordinating their space, both in terms of where to situate/interact, on tiny stages like tonight, as well as within the music, which (as mentioned early) is packed to the gills. However, each brings something to the table. Tim 'Ripper' Owens is definitely the calling card, using a variety of voices throughout the set. Peck wrote all the music and orchestrated the whole project. In fact, he edited the album, as each vocalist sang every song, separately, only to have the Cage mastermind subdivide the final version, featuring all three voices. Plans call for a future release, three discs, one each of Owens, Peck and Harry 'The Tyrant' Conklin singing the debut, on their own. The long haired Jag Panzer frontman is animated, with expressive use of hands/arms and, to these ears, produced the longest, sustained highs of the night.
Patrons were shoehorned into the standing room only venue, as it's virtually impossible to see the band, from the adjoining bar. "Wrath of Asgard" opens, Ripper in black leather coat and Monster Energy drink baseball cap, the brim pulled down almost to his eyes (already obscured by sunglasses). To his left is ringmaster Sean Peck, also sporting shades (to start). When interacting with the other singers, as well as the Cage musicians, his expressive eyes, and stage antics (seemingly gleaned from professional wrestling) come to the fore. On stage right, is Conklin, alongside beefy guitarist Dave Garcia, nicknamed Conan, for his bodybuilder physique. Hair in a ponytail, walking through the club, his guitar bag slung like a backpack, fretboard pointed skyward, he DID resemble Schwarzenegger, in said movie(s). Tyrant Conklin repeatedly paws the air, like a playful Serengeti big cat, toying with its prey. "Invaders From The Sky" follows, with band members (and Harry) doing synchronized stage moves (even within these postage stamp sized confines), as Peck films the crowd and proceedings, with his cellphone. "Bullets For The Damned" one of several songs available online, in video form, continues the relentless assault. As Sean told our Carl Begai (in interview) and me in-person, prior to the show, "Some people have said it's too much, it's exhausting, and those people are a bunch of pussies. I was raised with the idea that there's no such thing as too much in heavy metal."
Fourth song in, so the intro to "When The Last Scream Fades" teases that the band will back-off, for the moment. No! It soon jumps right back into the gear whining overdrive that's characterized its predecessors. This one showcases the impressive, Flying V guitarwork of Casey Trask. Not only can he play, but the kid eats up scenery. Peck, hold on to this talent! As the six strings singe, Owens has his back to the crowd, throwing his imitation punches at the cymbals. Come the first Priest cover, the aforementioned "Burn in Hell", Ripper removes his cap (sunglasses having been dispensed with sometime during the first song or two). "The Cause" is backed by "King Of The Monsters", which Peck claimed is about Ronnie James Dio. There's a moment of crowd participation adding their voices with the "oh oh" chant. Conklin's hands mime antlers, inverted grips and the like, as he sings. Speaking of Dio, when they launch into Black Sabbath's "Heaven & Hell", the cellphones come out in earnest. Even some of the bar stool sitters are motivated to get up, venture next door, to capture a keepsake moment..The singers alternate, beginning with Tim, then Sean and finally (between cat clawing antics) Harry. Inspired by moshing (although Peck mentioned they didn't necessarily encourage it tonight), there's "The Pit Shows No Mercy", which ends with an elongated Conklin death growl.
The mid-tempo 80s rocker "Sonic Suicide" kicks off with a scream from Ripper. For "Hell Destroyer", Peck called up a friend (who did an amazing job, both with lyrics, as well as piercing screams). "Lust Of The Blade", Peck explained, "When we got Tim in the band, I wanted to do something about Jack The Ripper." Get it? Lots of high singing (near falsetto) as Ripper reappears with baseball cap, from earlier. The lyrics have Owens reciting the line, "I am the Ripper. They call me by name.". Alone, Conklin gets to sing the Jags' "Black", violently headbanging throughout the entire first verse. What a display of sustain! It's all hands on deck for "Painkiller". While Ripper is the lead voice, Harry shows a penchant as a convincing Halford doppelganger. Somehow, in the midst off all the acrobatics around him, during the frenetic guitar solo Peck loses, finds and replaces his contact lens. Wild! The finale is their signature tune, begun by Harry. They alternate lines, enumerating, "One of us lights the fire. Two of us takes it higher. Three of us rule the night." Sort of an NBA slam dunk contest. While not trying to out due or embarrass, have to believe there are times when they surprise/impress one another.
Beware, this three-headed dog has a lot of bite!