Review Summary: Past tense to future tense.
Sanctuary’s dissolution in the early ‘90s can be seen as an event analogous to the sudden and untimely passing of a human being. The band begun touring the world for Into The Mirror Black
as another prominent ambassador of thinking man’s metal, only to suddenly find out that it (and in extent, the whole early ‘90s Seattle metal scene) had been assessed as a relic by fans, labels and the music press. “Overnight”, Sanctuary found themselves in the middle of a really unsettling situation, as apart from the unfortunate turn of events in the music industry with the rise of grunge, internal conflicts arose due to personal differences as well.
The only alternatives for Sanctuary were to continue existing in the underground or to disband for good. The latter option was chosen, while Dane and Sheppard went on and formed Nevermore. When the latter were put on an indefinite hiatus sometime in 2011, Sanctuary started socializing and jamming (without guitarist Sean Blosl) anew, and all of them thought that there were enough reasons to re-introduce the band to the world. If anything, Sanctuary’s come back album The Year The Sun Died
has come to speak in favor of the band’s disposition.
The new album comes as a custom mix of the previous Sanctuary full lengths and beefs things up, firstly by exploiting all the really
useful perks modern sound recording technology has to offer. The album’s sound is extremely intense, atmospheric and “deep”. Admittedly, producer Chris Harris did an excellent job, although the other bands he has worked with (Suicide Silence, Hatebreed, Chimaira) are far from Sanctuary’s kind of metal. Regarding the musical part, The Year The Sun Died
carries the band’s heavy/power metal legacy alone, while adopting a more dystopic character than its predecessor. The arrangements refrain from being convoluted or decorated with shredder level musicianship (save for some lead guitars by Rutledge/Hull and Budbill’s moderately technical drumming). That’s in contrast to those who expected Sanctuary to plagiarize old Sanctuary or take a serious loan from the legitimate “metal know-how” Dane and Sheppard accumulated as part of Nevermore.
Apart from the thrashy heavy/power metal elements, the album has a few other intricacies at display. The few doomy passages evident in Into The Mirror Black
, have grown into complete songs, not too far from the ethics of the respective metal genre. The most representative examples are “I Am Low” and the self-titled song, with the latter lying easily among the album’s best material. Moreover, Sanctuary throw in songs like “The Dying Age” and the Doors cover “Waiting For The Sun”, which hint at that laid back/atmospheric/transcendental heavy rock that Warrior Soul brought with their debut album. The diversity of The Year The Sun Died
is noteworthy; however the rather abrupt ups and lows from song to song and some less effective or even “incomplete” (“One Final Day”) arrangements, somewhat lower the album’s merit. The said adversities are compensated by Dane’s fantastic low end/stentorian vocal performance (the author of this review can’t help wondering why people are asking him to take his pitch to the sky all the time), the intense rhythm section of Budbill/Sheppard, and the excellent guitars of Rutledge/Hull.
The best way to summarize Sanctuary’s reunion is the chorus of the Doors cover that concludes the album:
Waiting for you to come along
Waiting for you to hear my song
Waiting for you to come along
Waiting for you to tell me what went wrong
All this time, long time die-hard fans waited for Sanctuary to come back, Sanctuary members waited each other to make things right, and a great new album is waiting to be discovered by the new breed of metal enthusiasts. And, unlike the album’s loose concept, where the death of the sun is foreseen and preached by the dark female figure of Lenore, it is sincerely hoped that no other “prophet” than life or the band members themselves, will come to set the limits on Sanctuary's life span.