Review Summary: Refuge Denied stands as a worthy achievement of a cult heavy metal band that sowed the seeds of Nevermore.
I discovered Sanctuary accidentally in a local record shop. I was 14 years old, a newcomer in the world of metal, who used to listen to Dead Heart in a Dead World 5 times a day ,and thought that The Sound of Silence was Dane’s most impressive lyrical achievement. See, there was no room for Paul Simon in that weary, little head. So, after recognizing Warrel’s froglike face in the backsleeve of the album, I was truly amazed by my discovery. An hour later, Refuge denied became an everyday-before-school listen, and paved the way for the coming of the undoubtedly monumental Into the Mirror Black.
Refuge Denied stands as the first album for Sanctuary, whose band members Warrel Dane and Jim Sheppard would later became recognized as the spinal chord of Nevermore. Sanctuary also had great guitarists and composers, like Rutledge, whose songwriting ability was pretty impressive. Dane was once more the lyricist, but this time, one can witness the more clichéd heavy metal approach on his lines. Dane had the potential to write good enough, and this would later be seen by the prophetic “Future Tense”. Another interesting aspect of the album is the production by Dave Mustaine who discovered the bandand recognized its abilities. He also plays a solo at the cover of White rabbit.
As for the songs ,Refuge Denied contains some classic, pure heavy metal tracks, that may not be anything so special as for the standards of their time, but the whole work is at a very high level. There are some truly great riffs(Battle Angels) and the vocals of Dane shine on every track .He is hitting godly high notes, and sings every lyric with anger. His extremely wide range is wondrously depicted in every track. Songs like the homonymous and Battle Angels keeps the standards high, having both great riffs and vocal lines.
However, there are some specific things that keep the album from being a memorable work. The similarity of the songs is a common complaint. I have to agree, but also to state that this was(and still is in many situations) a common flaw of the most heavy metal bands with the speed/power metal label on them. To put it simply, there is a lack of variety in the music spectrum of Sanctuary. Thankfully, this possible”narrow-mindedness” would later be cured with their masterpiece” Into the Mirror Black” .Complaints are also heard for the weak production of Dave Mustaine, who stood as their mentor at that time. This slightly muffled production, maybe isn’t a positive aspect of the album, but it’s also a point to the record's unique ambience.
Refuge Denied can be summarised as a good and fast heavy metal record that every metalhead will enjoy. The others may find it boring and repetitive. It would also be a shame to credit Sanctuary only as the band which nurtured Warrel. They had skills, songwriting abilities and potentials for being even bigger. Refuge Denied will stand as a fresh heavy metal album, and a great beginning of an amazing singer who will catch many people’s attention some years later…