Reviewed: February 2019
Released: 2019, Steel Cartel Records
“Three times louder than a sonic boom. Three fingers on the hand of doom!”
This is the description used on the press release to describe the brand new collaboration from three of heavy metal’s more formidable vocalists: Tim “Ripper” Owens, Sean Peck and Harry Conklin.
For those who might feel a degree of familiarity about the project, I’ll remind you that The Three Tremors was originally an idea created by Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson. His plan had been to record an album of original material with Rob Halford and Ronnie James Dio.
Ronnie’s inclusion was eventually negotiated to one side by management in favour of the younger, Geoff Tate; formally of Queensryche.
Ultimately, Dickinson’s reluctance to proceed without the former Black Sabbath frontman put an end to it all, save for a single live performance with Tate and Dickinson as guests of Rob Halford at one of his solo shows.
The huge potential of this collaboration left its mark on Cage/Death Dealer vocalist Sean Peck, who explains; “It was about 5 years ago, I was camping and thinking about the whole Three Tremors urban legend and what a shame it was that it never happened. Then I started thinking about if there was a resurrected 2018 version of it, who would I get.”
Sean was already familiar with Tim Owens from the time his band had supported a “Ripper” fronted Judas Priest on their Jugulator tour. Tim jumped on board straight away, acknowledging that he thought, “it sounded really cool! – the fans deserved to have a thing like this actually exist.”
Harry Conklin (from Jag Panzer, Satan’s Host and Titan Force) was the other name at the top of Sean’s list and it appears no persuasion was needed to encourage him on board.
“Sean and I ended up at a party together in Germany, where we were both playing the same festival. He told me about The Three Tremors album he was putting together and asked if I would be into it. He described the concept and how he wanted to bring this old idea to actual life and I said I was in.”
Sean takes up the story; “It took a long time to put it together, create the right songs, and get it properly arranged, but the results are beyond my wildest expectations. I think the fans are really going to freak out on what we have done with this record.”
Harry adds, “when I got sent the final mixes with all three of us on it, my jaw hit the floor on how well it all came together. For heavy metal fans, this is the ultimate.”
Collectively, The Three Tremors promise, “the most thrilling heavy metal record to date!”
The enthusiasm held by each of the vocalists certainly carries over into the opening tracks. To kick off the album, Invaders From The Sky and Bullets For The Damned are two rampant speed metal tunes that pull absolutely no punches.
Both are propelled along by the powerful thrust of Sean Elg on drums. His machine gun rhythms underpin a frantic, melodic thrash performed by Dave Garcia (guitars), Casey Trask (guitars) and Alex Pickard (bass).
Clearly inspired by the intensity of the music, the three frontmen come ripping out of the traps at their most stratospheric.
Those familiar with the extensive, combined output from Peck, Owens and Conklin will understand exactly where this album is pitched. True to their chosen genre, there is no shortage of the ear piercing timbre that has rightly earned the vocalists their nicknames: The Hell Destroyer, Ripper and The Tyrant.
It does take a while for things to settle. Initially, The Three Tremors appear to be tripping over themselves to holler out the fanatical verses. It isn’t until we reach the Iommi-esque intro to When The Last Scream Fades that there is a dynamic shift, followed by the powerful stomp of Wrath Of Asgard, that sees things clicking into a solid, stomping pulse. This song is an early highlight.
From here, the album dives back inside the hurricane. The Cause has a whisper of Maiden’s Aces High about the chorus and King Of The Monsters demonstrates the fun the band are having with the lyrics.
Fans of traditional and power metal will be no strangers to having their tongues jammed firmly into their cheeks as they go along with an aural fantasy ride that incorporates “demonic hyper-wolves”, monsters and interplanetary invaders.
Such foes are illustrated in dramatic style (by Marc Sasso) on the album cover – which the band proudly describe as an depiction of them marching into “an underworld overshadowed by evil forces. Only armed with bullets powered by heavy metal sorcery to reclaim the dystopian lands!”
Actually, an armed battle isn’t a bad metaphor for the music on this release. Guitar solos dazzle like the flash of a blade and there is a melodic urgency that creates a feeling of flak and debris flying from the centre of a raucous fight. The three voices ricochet off the rattling riffs in a maelstrom of heavy metal. It’s thrilling stuff, but not without a few niggles.
In this case, all three vocalist are powering with such uniform velocity, by the middle of the album I’m still waiting to hear something that showcases the potential of having three talented and versatile singers. The emerging frustration is that Peck, Owens and Conklin actually sound very similar. They generally occupy the same dynamic range and use their voices in identical (albeit very powerful) ways. Despite the robust delivery, I rarely feel like I’m listening to three different vocalists.
What I wanted from this release was a textured set of performances, with the voices contrasting, creating drama and bringing characters to life. I wanted three distinct personalities to come through. What I really wanted… was Dickinson, Halford and Dio.
And that is the elephant in the room. By naming this project The Three Tremors, the singers have invited correlation with the mythical, breath-taking proposition originally touted by the Iron Maiden frontman.
If that comparison wasn’t implied, I’d be inclined to score this a touch higher; but I can’t quite shake the niggling feeling that this is a “B team” version of what the metal community could have had. I’ll hastily add that no-one is putting in a bad performance. Far from it. The singers are all on point and there is much to enjoy here. It’s just for a heavy metal fan, surely no alternative could really live up to the tantalising prospect of a Sabbath/Maiden/Priest supergroup?
This distraction is a shame, because without placing such such lofty expectations on it, The Three Tremors maintains an effectively triumphant level of enthusiasm.
The Pit Shows No Mercy slams hard and provides enough snap to evoke some serious headbanging. Just as worthy of volume is Sonic Suicide – a rousing highlight that demonstrates how the album is at its strongest when the songs take a less frantic pace and are given some space to breathe.
The Three Tremors sticks to its established template throughout the second half.
Fly Or Die and Lust Of The Blade are as melodic as they are majestic. Speed To Burn is built on a sinister progression that shifts into a pounding gallop. Across all of this, the singers soar and call, pitching their delivery at the top of their range. It’s an impressive display of lung power that will please any fan of the genre.
Peck, Owens and Conklin have delivered an album of credible and enjoyable heavy metal music.
It’s not a subtle album. Each song is hammered out at maximum velocity and seems specifically written to whip up a chest beating, fist clenching frenzy in the mosh pit. This is an exciting prospect given the upcoming tour beginning immediately after this album’s release.
This project has clearly been a labour of love for all involved. Ultimately, it’s a lot of fun that deserves to be listened to loud and proud.