Sanctuary are one incredible power metal band from Seattle, WA lead by the powerhouse vocals of Warrel Dane! They broke up after only releasing two studio albums and a rare live ep, but have reformed under the name Nevermore playing an even more intense brand of technical power metal.

Refuge Denied Sanctuary - Refuge Denied (Epic) 1988

1. Battle Angels (4:52)
2. Termination Force (3:38)
3. Die for My Sins (3:40)
4. Soldiers of Steel (5:30)
5. Sanctuary (3:57)
6. White Rabbit (3:10)
7. Ascension to Destiny (4:57)
8. The Third War (3:52)
9. Veil of Disguise (5:55)
1. Battle Angels (4:30)
2. Die for My Sins (3:37)
3. Soldiers of Steel (5:24)
4. Veil of Disguise (5:43)
5. Sanctuary (3:54)
6. White Rabbit (3:07)
7. Termination Force" (3:49)
8. Ascension to Destiny (4:52)
9. The Third War (3:47)

I was in college when this record was released. Somehow my roommate managed to score a promo copy, split 12" record of Sanctuary and Fifth Angel. All I remember from that record was being completely blown away by the song "Battle Angels" by Sanctuary. That song became one of my all time favorite metal tunes ranking up there with the likes of "Queen of the Ryche" and "Fast as a Shark." "Fall on your knees, and hail to our dawn, Crawl on your knees, the slaughter is on!" It is a heavy metal song for the ages.

I can't really put a label on this band, as they incorporate bits of speed metal and thrash and are heavy as can be, but their music is much too melodic to be considered thrash. "Refuge Denied" is over-the-top, thunderous, heavy metal with extremely high vocals! Warrell Dane's unearthly wails shattering glass for miles around. His vocal performance here would never again be repeated in the future, making "Refuge Denied" a very unique album. "Termination Force", "Die for My Sins" and the eponymous "Sanctuary" are all standout cuts, though I find the entire album to be a solid listen from beginning to end. The album was produced by Dave Mustaine (Megadeth), who also makes a guest appearance performing the guitar solo on the band's cover of "White Rabbit".

I own both the vinyl and CD versions of "Refuge Denied". The track listing on the original CD and vinyl releases are different. Both share the same songs, but the songs are in a different order. I first owned the vinyl version and made myself a cassette copy to play in my car. I played that cassette over and over again. When I finally upgraded to a CD version, it sounded odd to me as the album didn't quite flow the way I had been accustomed to.

One last thing...this may be a rumor, but I had read that the name of this album was some sort of reaction to the Sanctuary Church in California who catered to metal fans and whose slogan was "The Rock 'n' Roll Refuge

Labyrinth has covered "Die for My Sins"

Into the Mirror Black Sanctuary - Into The Mirror Black (Epic) 1990

1."Future Tense" (5:07)
2."Taste Revenge" (5:03)
3."Long Since Dark" (5:05)
4."Epitaph" (6:03)
5."Eden Lies Obscured" (5:23)
6."The Mirror Black" (5:06)
7."Seasons of Destruction" (4:51)
8."One More Murder" (4:20)
9."Communion" (5:40)

"Into The Mirror Black" is a foreboding, dark, US power metal album. For Sanctuary's follow-up to the incredible "Refuge Denied", vocalist Warrel Dane toned down the helium fueled vocals just a bit, using more lower range vocals and mixing them with those unearthly high shrieks. As with the debut, the band weaves songs together using bits of speed metal and traditional heavy metal. However, the over all vibe of "Into the Mirror Black" is a more progressive than the debut.

"Future Tense" is an incredible song, and was the song chosen as a single for the album. I don't know that the single did much for the band, but they did record a video for the song. Epic also put out a very rare promotional CD for the song that also included five live cuts titled "Into the Mirror Live/Black Reflections". "Taste Revenge" is another standout cut. The song is a galloping, heavy, classic metal number with a double-bass led thrash vibe chorus and gang vocals. "Season of Destruction" is another dark, fast and furious song that could very well be my favorite track from the album. I've often heard people compare this album to Queensryche. If that be the case, this is the direction I wish Queensryche would have taken following their extraordinary EP. They were never quite this heavy or this dark. In a word, "Into the Mirror Black" is EXCELLENT! One of the greatest heavy metal albums ever released.

I was able to find this original Epic CD pressing in the bargain bins for under $10. Only a few years after I picked it up, it suddenly became one of those discs people were clamoring to collect and would consistently sell for premium prices on Ebay. In 2010 both "Refuge Denied" and "Into the Mirror Black" were re-released in a single package. I'll stick with my original CD and vinyl pressings.

After Sanctuary toured to support this record, the band broke up and the singer Warrell Dane, bassist Jim Sheppard and touring guitarist Jeff Loomis went to form Nevermore.

Into the Mirror Black Live Sanctuary - Into the Mirror Live/Black Reflections (Epic) 1990

1. "Future Tense" (5:07)
2. "Long Since Dark" [live] (5:20)
3. "Battle Angels" [live] (5:00)
4."One More Murder" [live] (3:47)
5."White Rabbit" [live] (5:30)
6."Taste Revenge" [live] (5:00)

Recorded live at Reseda's Country Club on May 12, 1990. This disc was originally released only as promotional disc in very limited quantities by Epic Records. It was highly sought after by collector's, including myself, and consistantly sold for $50 or mor on eBay. For years I had the crappy Reborn Classics bootleg of this CD that excluded the album track "Future Tense" and was split with the band Satan's Host. I finally secured a copy of the original Epic promo version of this CD thanks to a good friend in Germany. (thanks Olaf) Warrell Dane rules! He is absolutely one of the greatest metal voices ever.

The Year the Sun Died Sanctuary - The Year the Sun Died (Century Media) 2014

1. Arise And Purify (04:13)
2. Let The Serpent Follow Me (04:46)
3. Exitium (Anthem Of The Living) (04:53)
4. Question Existence Fading (04:20)
5. I Am Low (05:15)
6. Frozen (05:46)
7. One Final Day (Sworn To Believe) (03:31)
8. The World Is Wired (05:08)
9. The Dying Age (04:52)
10. Ad Vitam Aeternam (01:30)
11. The Year The Sun Died (05:33)

Forming in 1985, Seattle’s progressive thrashers Sanctuary released two landmark albums in the late ‘80s before imploding. Finally in 2014 we get a new release from Nevermore, er, I mean Sanctuary. Just as when the first Nevermore record came out back in 1995 it was impossible not to compare it to Sanctuary, so this new reformed Sanctuary release is impossible not to compare to Nevermore. The reunited Sanctuary feature four of the five original Sanctuary members including  Jim Sheppard / Bass, Dave Budbill / Drums.  Lenny Rutledge / Guitars and Warrel Dane / Vocals. The second guitarist is Brad Hull replacing Sean Blosl. The reason that the comparisons are inevitable is because both Jim Sheppard and Warrel Dane were the nucleus of Nevermore, along with guitarist Jeff Loomis. It was my opinion that the first Nevermore album was a natural progression from Sanctuary's last album "Into the Mirror Black". Likewise, "The Year the Sun Died" sounds like a natural progression from "This Godless Endeavor" and "The Obsidian Conspiracy".

Sanctuary 2014
Sanctuary 2014

The music on "The Year the Sun Died" is dark, depressive and mostly heavy. If anyone approaches this album expecting "Future Tense" or "Battle Angels" they will most likely be disappointed. That's not to say the music is completely foreign to the classic Sanctuary sound. The upbeat and heavy opening track "Arise and Purify", as well as the pummeling "Question Existence Fading" are all out power metal assaults. Other songs are much more depressive and more reminiscent of Nevermore such as "I Am Low" and the dynamic "One Final Day (Worn to Believe)" The biggest difference is, of course, that Jeff Loomis had a unique sound and was a charismatic guitarist. Lenny Rutglege and Brad Hull make it clear the can tear up a fretboard, but without Loomis in the fold this band could never truly be Nevermore, thus they are Sanctuary. In particular "Frozen" features some semi-thrash riffing and exceptional soloing combined with another outstanding melodic chorus. However, fans of albums such as Dead Heart in a Dead World and Dreaming Neon Black will most certainly also find much to like about "The Year the Sund Died". This album It features most of the characteristics of those two classic releases with Dane’s melodies being the driving force and focal point.

The biggest difference between what people will remember Sanctuary and this new release is in the vocals. On their seminal debut "Refuge Denied", Dane rivaled King Diamond and Rob Halford with his range and the high notes he was belting out. On this album there are some of those high vocals, but mostly mixed in with the more mid-range menacing vocals that Warrel had been known for with his seven albums with Nevermore

Rarely does a reunion record exceed expectations, especially one that is twenty-five years in the making. Apparently Dane and Sheppard had something to prove and with Sanctuary they deliver the goods.


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