Sunday Old School: Sanctuary
It’s interesting to see how some bands formed by ex members of another successful group can over shadow their predecessors. Type O Negative became unquestionably bigger than Carnivore, Machine Head are more popular than Forbidden and whilst Nevermore became a hugely successful act, many will remember Warrel Dane (and to an extent, Jeff Loomis) for their work with a band before Nevermore formed. A band named, Sanctuary. Sanctuary formed in the city of Seattle, Washington, a place which would become famous a few years later for producing the grunge wave and acts such as Alice In Chains and Soundgarden, in 1985. Whilst they are now associated with the thrash scene of the 1980s, their music was a solid blend of thrash, power and traditional heavy metal, which showcased impressively on their first demo, which was recorded in 1986. The demo circulated around the tape trading scene and found its way to a number of record companies, including major label Epic, who offered the band a deal, which was unsurprisingly snapped up.
The band entered into the studio with Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine, who would produce their debut full length, as well as performing a guest guitar solo on the band’s cover of the Jefferson Airplane classic, "White Rabbit." Sanctuary spent the remainder of 1986 and the beginning of the next year working on the album, which eventually surfaced later that year under the title, "Refuge Denied." The record was notable for featuring a high pitched vocal style from Dane, one which he has not used since, with speculation stating that the vocal technique injured his voice, leaving him unable to replicate the style he utilised on Sanctuary’s debut.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, they were helped in promoting the record by being brought on to the road by Megadeth, who had another band in tow from Germany named Warlock, who for those of you who don’t know, was fronted by Doro Pesch. The trek helped increase their profile and in 1989, the group were back in the studio to record their sophomore full length album, "Into the Mirror Black." The album featured less of a thrash sound than their debut and was considerably more successful, selling well over thirty thousand copies in its first week of release. Their stature was increased further when they recorded a music video for the song, "Future Tense," which garnered the band some airplay on MTV, particularly on the show, "Headbanger's Ball," as well as another big name tour which saw Sanctuary teaming up with the likes of Forbidden, Death Angel and Fates Warning for a tour of North America. Whilst on this tour, guitarist and songwriter Sean Blosl decided that he wanted to leave the band and so was replaced by Jeff Loomis.
By the time the band were preparing to record their third album however, the aforementioned grunge scene had exploded and metal suddenly found itself in a very difficult position, with some bands adapting their style to attempt to stay relevant in the age of alternative rock and others, finding that their craft had become almost completely unappreciated overnight, deciding to break up. Pressure from Epic Records for Sanctuary to change into the former type of band led to infighting and a lack of clear direction and so in 1992, having released only two albums, Sanctuary called it a day.
As has been stated, Dane and Loomis kept themselves very busy the next eighteen years when they formed a new band called Nevermore, who released their first album in 1995 and have since forged six more works of solid metal. Perhaps somewhat ironically, the future of Nevermore began to come into question in 2010, when Dane announced that he had decided to bring back, Sanctuary, a reunion which featured previous members Lenny Rutledge, Jim Sheppard and Dave Budbill, as well as Loomis.
In 2011, Nevermore cancelled a tour with Symphony X and ten days later, Jeff Loomis and another founding member, Van Williams, announced that they were leaving the band, with Loomis also taking leave from Sanctuary, being replaced by former Forced Entry guitarist, Brad Hull. The reunited act are currently working on their third full length album, tentatively entitled, "The Year the Sun Died," though no release date has been confirmed for the record as of yet. Many are curious to see what Sanctuary will sound like having not released an album in over twenty years, but one thing’s for sure, it’s great to have the old boys back.
Sanctuary - "Termination Force"
Sanctuary - "White Rabbit"
Sanctuary - "Future Tense"
Sanctuary - "Taste Revenge"
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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