SEAN PECK “Screaming Metal Messiah” 

By Dr. Abner Mality

By the time you read this, the month of Peck-tober has already passed. That’s the month when the most active singer in heavy metal, Mr. Sean Peck, unleashes not one, not two, but three monumental slabs of metal mayhem bearing his name. 

Cage is the project that this leather-lunged madman has been associated with the longest. If you like aggressive metal with screaming clean vocals, this is your band. The new Cage album is “Ancient Evil”, an ambitious concept album that tells the story of a scientist haunted by the specter of aeons-old malevolence. It even features former Iron Maiden vocalist Blaze Bayley in a speaking role.

Sean is also the singer of the relatively new supergroup Death Dealer which features members of Manowar, Halford and Into Eternity. Their second album “Hallowed Ground” has also been  let loose on mankind during the month of Peck-tober 2015.

And finally there is Mr Peck’s newest and most surprising venture, a collaboration with the legendary guitarists of Mercyful Fate, Hank Shermann and Michael Denner., simply called Denner/Shermann. The first offering from this collaboration is an EP called “Satan’s Tomb” that should please any fan of Fate or King Diamond and which sees Peck stretching his vocal talents to the utmost.

And that’s not even all, the man is working on another secret project you will learn more about in the following interview. How can one man have so much metal in him? I’m still not exactly sure but Sean Peck is emerging as the voice of true metal in the 21st century. I’ve spoken to him before but the following chat finds him more jacked up and informative than ever. Read on and hear metal’s voice…

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Is it fair to say that you’re the busiest man in heavy metal today?

SEAN PECK: (laughs) The month of Peck-tober! Right now, it’s funny how all three of these releases came out in the same month, but I’m currently working on two other releases right now.

WC: With different bands than the ones we already know about?

SP: One I’m working with Cage, but there’s going to be additional vocalists, so it’s kind of a different thing. The other one is the full length release for Denner/Shermann.

WC: Let me ask about each band individually. Let me ask about Cage first. I just finished listening to the new album “Ancient Evil”…

SP: I’m curious to hear how you liked it.

WC: It’s my favorite Cage record since “Hell Destroyer”. The concept flowed well through it and was easy to follow…

SP: Really?

WC: I thought so. It seemed like it was split into two discrete stories. There was a Gothic mad scientist story and then more of a cosmic Lovecraftian thing. Is that how you envisioned it?

SP: When he goes into his flashback sequence…how it all started, back with all the Egyptian stuff…we’re filming a video right now for “Across the Sea of Madness” and it’s got all of that in it, with all of these different actors playing characters. I’m really looking forward to a visual presentation of a significant part of the story. It’s good that you say that, because we didn’t want to make a concept album that was too complicated, where no one could figure out what was going on. Yet I still wanted the story to be interesting enough and creepy enough to get across the desired effect.

WC: When did you first get the idea for the “Ancient Evil” story? Is it something relatively recent or has that been floating around in your mind for a while?

SP: Well, I got approached by some old King Diamond members to sing with them on a side project. I began crafting the story for that, but that project fell apart. I was sitting here with a 150 page novel after I kept filling in the blanks and filling in the blanks. It was so cool because I presented it to the other members of Cage and asked if it was OK to do a King Diamond vibe kind of horror story. Everyone read the actual manuscript itself and jumped fully onboard. So it started a long time ago but only in the last couple of years did we get really serious about putting the album together.

WC: Would you ever entertain the idea of making an actual book out of the story or maybe doing a graphic novel ?

SP: The book is actually done. It’s in audiobook form, E-book form and paperback. We had a pre-order for it which started over a year ago. Several hundred people ordered it and are actually getting a copy of the paperback book. On Amazon, you can punch in “Ancient Evil” and the E-book is for sale right now.

WC: I could envision this as a comic book miniseries or graphic novel. Any thought of that?

SP: Well, there’s a series of 10 or 11 drawings in the actual book itself. To do a full graphic novel is a lot of work and a lot of time with an artists. I was able to at least add some images to the text so it’s kind of half and half.

WC: I know you’re quite the comic book fan. In a perfect world, is there any artist you prefer to draw the story?

SP: I’ve definitely got my favorite guys. Let’s take Alex Ross and have him do it. Or some of the old school guys like George Perez or John Byrne…they’re two of my favorites.

WC: Because of the horror angle, I think Berni Wrightson might be a good choice.

SP: I’ll have to take your word for it. I’ll have to look him up.

WC: He was famous for doing the 70’s run on “Swamp Thing”… 

SP: Oh yeah, now I know him! Very cool! Yes, he would be good on it!

WC: What was it like working with Blaze Bayley on the “Ancient Evil” project?

SP: To make this as authentic as possible, I knew I didn’t want to do any of the character voices, I wanted it to be completely third party. I needed someone to do the main character Elliot Worthington and do the English guy. I asked Blaze and he did it for a great price and did just a fantastic job on it. I think the way he did those interlude pieces added to the creepiness and authenticity of what we were trying to do.

WC: Did you meet him personally or was this done long distance through the Internet?

SP: Well, I met him personally. Cage opened for Blaze and I sang “Man on the Edge” with Blaze on stage. We became friends after spending a lot of time together talking about our past. Now we’re good friends, I hit him up on that and yeah, it was no problem. He did such a great job.

WC: Do you have any live plans for Cage at the moment?

SP: Yeah, we’re headlining a thing called the Throwback Festival in Las Vegas this Friday and then we’re heading out to the East Coast this Friday to do five or six shows in the New York area in mid-November. And then we’ll be doing a full tour in Europe in March, it looks like.

WC: Do you put yourself mentally into a different place for each band you work with or is it the same Sean Peck all the way across the line?

SP: I haven’t performed with Hank Sherman and Michael Denner yet. The first time I’ll be doing that will be in Tel Aviv, Israel for something called Titans of Metal, which is kind of an all-star thing. That’s really exciting, that will be in December. I don’t have any experience with them, but I think I’m the same guy for all bands. I’m really theatrical and I want to captivate the audience just like a Halford or a Dickinson did. You never looked away when they were performing, you were captivated. I think I’ve been a pretty captivating performer no matter what the band was. Vocally, I don’t take that different of an approach either. We’ll see what happens when I get more into the Denner/Shermann stuff, but basically I’m the same guy.

WC: Let me switch now to Death Dealer who also have a new album out. To my ears, “Hallowed Ground” sounds more intense than the debut. Was that your intention?

SP: Well, the debut “War Master” CD was written and recorded in two months. We were on a roll and we just slammed that thing out. I still love that record. The “Hallowed Ground” CD is more mature, I guess, because it’s more complicated. You’ve got more orchestration and a lot more interludes and more tricks of the trade like acoustical parts. But yeah, I could see how it’s a little more intense, a little more serious.

WC: Was it an easier process, did you have more of an idea what to expect from everybody?

SP: Stu and I and Ross pretty much composed everything. It came out real quick, man. We’re in a real good flow of writing together. There’s no real arguments. Basically when there’s any kind of conflict and one guy wants his way, we’ll say “OK, you’ll get your way on this one, but the next time something comes up, I get my way.” We had a couple of spots like that, like on “Skull and Crossbones”, which was pretty much all my song. Stu wanted me to put the verse in later. I let him have his way on that one. But it’s been a real easy flow and the songs have been coming out real naturally.It’s not been a struggle at all to come up with these killer metal songs with these guys.

WC: Looking at the lyrics for “Hallowed Ground”, you’ve got a little bit of everything. Cowboy gunslingers, pirates, haunted submarines, anthems. Do you at these lyrics in a cinematic way…what the story would be like if it was actually a movie?

SP: I’m glad you’re saying that! I’m getting a pretty good reputation for coming up with great lyrics and that’s very satisfying for me. Yeah, “U-666” was really Ross’s idea and I just ran with the whole concept and threw in a little bit of “Philadelphia Experiment” with it. “Gunslinger” and “Way of the Gun” had that Western feel, then there’s some rebellious principles in “I Am the Revolution” and “Break the Silence” and then some haunted, occult stuff in “Séance”. There’s a little bit of a different story to each one, lyrically. With “Séance”, I was watching one of the episodes of “Penny Dreadful” where Eva Green was in a séance and she just went wild in that episode.I almost started singing the chorus on the spot. We wrote that one in about two minutes. “Gunslinger” was a bit of a different approach. It’s been cool to cover all the bases on this record and touch on typical metal themes but I think I’m doing it at a very, very high level.

WC: Each one is like its own miniature movie, almost.

SP: Yeah, “Gunslinger” I can see as a movie…”Total Devastation”, “Séance”, “U-666”, “Skull and Crossbones”…I can see that with all of those. Even “Corruption of Blood”, which is a little more obscure but kind of a “Lord of the Rings” type thing. We’re getting a lot of good feedback on the lyrical content.

WC: How about the live front for Death Dealer?

SP: Well, we just returned from the Motorhead “Motorboat” cruise, which was amazing.  We were there with Slayer and Anthrax and Motorhead and Suicidal Tendencies. That got us a lot of exposure. A lot of people didn’t know who we were. We were really the only classic metal type of band on that boat and when we got up there and did our thing, the people got really jacked up about it. That was really cool. Now we might do a little bit on the West Coast during the NAMM show.  But we’re looking more towards next summer in Europe and eventually we’re going to do some United States dates. We just got done with a European tour for three weeks and then did the Motorhead cruise. It will be a little bit of  downtime now for us but we’ll be back in the summer of 2016.

WC: This might be an absurd question but could you ever see yourself doing a “doubleheader” show with Cage and Death Dealer on the same stage?

SP: I don’t think I could do it. These songs are so challenging to sing. I’d say about 15, 16 songs is my limit. I don’t think the human vocal cords can perform these things for any longer. There’s a lot of clean metal singers that can go on and on, but I put a lot of torque and distortion into the tone. That definitely takes its toll. But that’s what makes it sound cooler to me, like how Halford  had that grit in his voice. That can only be done for certain periods of time.

WC: Your high pitched stuff practically sterilizes me when I listen to it. (laughter) 

SP: I definitely have some shrill screams on the Death Dealer, but I also did a lot of lows. I’m really proud of the great lows like on “Skull and Crossbones”, where I come in with that refrain “Life on the sea…” There’s some really cool low octaves in there.

WC: Would you ever consider doing a concept album with Death Dealer?

SP: It’s funny you mention that because “U-666{ was put at the end as kind of a prelude to something we may do, which is called “The Devil’s Reich”.  It’s kind of a co-concept between us and the artist who drew the first Death Dealer cover named Mark Sasso. We have kind of an outline of an EP, an occult World War 2 story. That still may happen, so it’s kind of funny you mentioned that.

WC: Sounds a little like the movie “Shock Waves” about underwater Nazi zombies…

SP: The “U-666” is basically like the end of what the “Devil’s Reich” story would be. You just got an exclusive! We might do one other album and then hit that thing.

WC: Let me move to your work with Mr. Sherman and Mr. Denner. How’d you get involved with those fellows?

SP: Well, I saw a news article that they announced they were going to get together and do an album. In the news article, it said they would be doing it with various different singers. I immediately searched “Hank Sherman” on Facebook and sent him a message that said “My name is Sean Peck, I sing in a band called Cage. I’m a big fan, I’d love to sing on a song. Let me know if there’s any possibility.” He hit me back immediately and said, hey, yeah, I know who you are, I really like your style and I was thinking of you. I’ll let you know when we have something. Several months later, he came back and asked if I was still interested in doing a song. I said, yeah, man, absolutely!  So he sent me a song and then sent me a second one. I instantly came up with this chorus, which wound up being the chorus to the title track of the EP, “Satan’s Tomb”. I asked him “how do you like this?” and was totally holding my breath, because these guys are a big deal. I really hope they like it. Anyway, he came back and said, how would you like to do all four songs on the EP? Yeah, absolutely! I was so excited. Hank and I have never looked back. We wrote the four songs on the EP and then we’ve written six or seven songs for the upcoming full-length. We wound up becoming a pretty good writing team.

WC: It sounds like you’ve got a fair amount of creative input with these guys.

SP:  Normally I take the other guy’s idea and chop them up and move them around. Hank has taken my ideas and chopped them up the moved them around, so that’s a new experience for me. I’ve got some input into the arrangement, but all the vocal melodies and lyrics are mine. It’s definitely a collaboration. Typically with Cage and Death Dealer, I’ll come up with guitar riffs just by humming them to the guys and giving them a little direction. I’m not humming any riffs to Hank Sherman, though. (laughs) It’s not necessary. I’m full of metal ideas. I’ve got a lot of ideas for the full length which have gelled into songs and Hank’s really excited about it. I don’t know how the writing went with him and King Diamond, but I think it’s kind of refreshing the way I work with him. I’ll send a straight chorus on a click track to him and he’ll just lay down the music. The reaction to this EP has been absolutely phenomenal. In the last few days since it came out, I’ve been reading all the fan reaction and it’s been amazing.

WC: Well, the only guitar duo that I might put above Sherman and Denner is Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing.

SP: Yeah! And Hank is a huge Priest fan, that’s like his #1 band. The other thing is, I did some shows with Warrior and they weren’t really liking my lyrical direction.I’ve been sitting right at home with Hank and Michael and the lyrical direction. What I’m doing is just perfect with them. All the lyrics and the title track are from the mind of Sean Peck. Hank and Michael and Snowy and Marc have been really supportive on these concepts I’ve come up with.

WC: Any tidbits about the full length that you can leak out?

SP: You know, I don’t have as free reign when I talk about Denner/Shermann as I do with my own bands so I’ve got to make fully sure I stay in my lane. (laughs) It’s definitely going to be in the same vein as “Satan’s Tomb”. The songs we’re working on now are even superior to what’s on the EP.We have six songs, maybe even as many as eight, that are about 75% done. Every day I listen to the four or five rough tracks we have, just because they’re rockin’ me so hard. It’s just a verse, a pre-chorus and a chorus and I’ll hit repeat and play it like 50 times in a row. I come from the Priest/Maiden/King Diamond/Metal Church/WASP school and if I get goosebumps listening to a track and I want to play it over and over, I know that’s going to be a good barometer for other people liking it as well.

WC: You mentioned something about a Cage record with other vocalists on it. Any other projects you’re involved in that you’d like to toss out there?

SP: It’s kind of getting out there that Cage is working on an album that will have myself, one other singer that hasn’t been named yet and then Ripper Owens doing the vocals. (I let out a long whistle) We’ve been working on this concept for two or three years now. There’s a special title on it that has had a bit of legend in the past. We’re calling it “Project #1” right now and it will be out summer or fall of next year. When the full details of this come out, it’s going to be huge, huge news.

WC: I’d hate to be a wine glass around that recording session.

SP: (laughs) That’s for sure. The artwork is being done now, I just love the logo we’ve got for the project. I was just with Ripper on the Motorboat cruise talking about it. He’s really excited about it. We have a third singer who’s going to be just as exciting as having Ripper in it. The Cage band is writing all the music to it. With heavy metal, you don’t want to innovate the sound too much because it will lose the vibe of what it is, but I like to be innovative in the idea department, like what you see with “Ancient Evil” and the book and that whole concept. This will be another innovation in the idea department. The full-length of the Denner/Shermann band is being worked on right now, that’s looking like it will be out in May of next year. And then eventually we’ll have to get into the next Death Dealer record. Stu and Ross already have six or seven compositions, we’ve got a lot of leftovers from the “Hallowed Ground” sessions.

WC: Sounds like a very full plate. Is there any one you’d like to collaborate with that you haven’t so far?

SP: All I would say is Judas Priest. That would be a dream come true. Now I can scratch Hank Sherman and Michael Denner off my list. That probably would have been my answer if you had asked me before.It’s so surreal that I’m working with those guys. I thought there would be a lot of haters since I’m not King Diamond, but so far the comments and the reviews have been great. I can’t wait to take it out on the road because I think fans are just gonna shit their pants.

WC: I don’t think there’s going to be a Mercyful Fate record anytime too soon. I think people are happy to see a quality vocalist working with Sherman and Denner. 

SP: I think the cover art and the name “Satan’s Tomb” hit the right vibe, too. I can’t wait to finish the full length because I think people are gonna lose their minds when that comes out. The EP is just a teaser.

WC: Any last words for fans of any and all of your projects?

SP: All I can say is please go out and purchase the items because that keeps the label going, it keeps them supporting us. For Death Dealer and Cage, we have an incredible new label called SMG, Sweden Music Group, and I can’t say enough good things about them. They are doing things like I never thought I’d see from any label, even 20 years ago. It’s just so refreshing after all these years to land with a label that’s willing to put you on tour, willing to pay for maybe TWO music videos. They’re looking at the long term relationship and not short-term gain. They’ve got a lot of confidence in the bands and me. It’s like the rocketship has finally taken off. I’ve got a lot of fans out there I owe a lot to. Thanks for everybody listening and I’m glad you like all the crazy scary stories I’m screaming out of my lungs.